Stephen Wolfram Q&A

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Some collected questions and answers by Stephen Wolfram

Questions may be edited for brevity; see links for full questions.

December 18, 2019

From: Interview by Guy Kawasaki, Remarkable People Podcast

What do you want your legacy to be?

I don’t know. It’s an interesting question. Now that I’m getting old, I’m supposed to think about questions like that.

There are things that I’ve done… particularly, understanding the computational universe, building this computational language. These are things that, if nothing dreadfully derails, I think I can confidently say that both of these things will end up being of long-term importance. I think it’s a good question for me. For example, there are things on this side of science and thinking about the computational universe that inexorably will happen and that I can jump up and down and tell people how important it is and so on, and maybe that will make it happen some number of years earlier, but these are things which inevitably, inexorably, this is the direction that science will go in. I’ve already seen that over the last couple of decades.

I have to sort of deconstruct what the concept of a legacy really is. That’s terrible. That’s not what one is supposed to say. There’s the genetic legacy; I’ve got four kids. Hopefully, they’ll do interesting things. Then there’s the intellectual legacy of things I’ve figured out that might not have been figured out for a lot longer in our history, although it might eventually have been figured out. Then there are things where I created things where they were created the way they were created because I happened to do them.

When you do science, in some sense, there’s never anything you can uniquely contribute. All you can do is accelerate the process because the world is the way the world is, and eventually it’s going to be found out. When you do things like writing or creating computational language, there are things which are more creative acts, where there’s an infinite number of possibilities and the one that you happen to choose, if it ends up being something that survives, that’s something that’s more of a personal imprint on the world than something which inevitably gets discovered at some point.

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