This is one of the most thought-provoking books I have read. Wolfram was a child prodigy and is clearly a genius: the ideas in this book seem to me to be a completely new way to look at how the world works. Although very long at 1200 pages, the book is not technically difficult to read, in fact it is primarily pictorial. Wolfram shows over and over again that many (most) things could be created by running a simple program with simple rules, over and over again thousands of times. An easy example is a single cell dividing (running the program) according to set rules over and over again to form a leaf. Or a cow. Or a person. The most straightforward way to think of this is in biology, but he also applies the same principle to physics, engineering, and the universe.
Wolfram is a physicist, having been at Caltech with Feynman and written Mathematica.
The frustrating thing about the book is that Wolfram does not discuss “what’s next”. It seems to me “what’s next” is that someone needs to find these simple rules necessary to grow a leaf from a single cell by running the simulation on Mathematica. Then, the next step is to find out how to program a real cell (or a nanobot, or something small and simple) to divide (run the program) following the simple rules necessary to create a leaf. And, then create a real leaf. Then a cow. Then a person.
Wolfram’s idea parallels the Pythagorean idea that to know mathematics is to know God. The book came out in 2002 and actually not much has happened since. This seems odd. I think Wolfram is onto something very fundamental. But I wonder why he didn’t take the idea to the next step.
One of the most interesting books I've ever read
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