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back to article Dr Wolfram touts coding language to revolutionise mankind ... just like Wolfram Alpha did

Number-crunching software biz Wolfram has bragged about its "most important technology project yet", aside from its Wolfram Alpha math search engine: a branded programming language. The creators of the new "symbolic" language gushed it "covers all forms of computing, in a new way". The Wolfram Language draws on the code which …

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Joke

May this time round it will get to Beta.

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Alpha is, by the way, used by Microsoft's Bing search engine and Apple's voice-controlled personal assistant Siri to look up information.

Neither of those is a promising example of what it can do. Just saying....

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They have their uses. I mean if you type in google you generally get on the first page of your results a link through which you will find what you were looking for.

And Siri is great at keeping a certain type of person entertained for hours and not talking to me.

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I just tried Wolfram Alpha on "Which city is farthest North?", and variations such as "most northerly city" and "northern city" etc... I liked the way it showed its 'thinking' (e.g it tells me that it assumes 'Northern' to be the name of a band), but it didn't give me the answer I was looking for.

I now know there is a city called North, South Carolina.

Oh well.

However, if there was a consistent and widely used synatx or language for phrasing search terms, I might be inclined to learn a bit of it.

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Like everyone else ..

.. I'd probably have more respect for Stephen if he wasn't such an arrogant prick.

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Re: Like everyone else ..

Not sure where he gets the cash for this, but disagreeable as he is the world needs antagonists against the hegemony of Google and ilk.

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It is never "trivial" to write the correct program, no matter how many SDL compilers or whatnot you throw at the problem, you still need to actually understand the problem you intend to solve, and the consequences of actions you take to solve it!

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I may well have a natural bias to believe this won't work; but most of the problems I see in our software relates to requirements that have not been adequately communicated. Even if this software works as written on the box, you don't get around this problem.

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@Ben Burch:

Re:/It is never "trivial" to write the correct program/

Agree. It never will be either.

No matter how powerful the languages and tools get, there will always be some higher level where the programming is actually taking place. You could have a system that made solutions to any problem available as a library call in advance of being asked. It would still be non-trivial to actually state the problem you are trying to solve so you could call the routine.

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>most of the problems I see in our software relates to requirements that have not been adequately communicated.

That was one of the points of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL wasn't 'evil', and 'he' hadn't malfunctioned (like many prior sci-fi computers and robots); 'he' had merely been given poorly communicated instructions by humans who hadn't fully simulated the scenario (because of very human political considerations).

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Anonymous Coward

I can hear the SQUEEEE from XKCD from here,

but I shudder in horror at the bugs that will arise from "natural Language" type definitions. I tried to get wolfram Alpha to tell me how much a Liter of dry air, room temperature air at sea level weighed once, and I had to wrestle with the units a bit. Now apply that to dates and currencies in a Financials report.

First thing I'm looking up is how to explicitly cast all units and data types.

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JLV
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Re: I can hear the SQUEEEE from XKCD from here,

>Liter of dry air, room temperature air at sea level weighed once

Phew you were asking for a lot. I asked Wolfram Alpha CO2 emissions per capita, Canada. No luck.

They do have C02 emissions, Canada. And population, Canada.

Bridging the 2 concepts, not so much.

Good luck with your quest, Stephen.

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Coffee/keyboard

Garbage in ...

He said: "So in a sense inside the Wolfram Language we have a whole computable model of the world."

Somewhere softly the background music is playing "Send in the Clowns" and in all the dark corners cockroaches wait and watch. Yet again, some arrogant fool promises to model the world on a computer. And somewhere a butterfly is hatching and will soon flutter its wings.

GIGO

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Language?

Seems to me like this thing translates hieroglyphics into a set of calls to an eclectic mountain of run time libraries, none of which are open to public inspection.

It would be interesting to see how many machine instructions result from a request to shift the bits in a variable left by one. My C compiler generates a single machine code instruction. I know that because the compiler will helpfully generate a mixed C/assembly language listing if i ask for it.

Sorry, but Wolfram Language requires more trust than I have available to give.

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Facepalm

Re: Language?

"It's a programming language, Jim, but not as we know it"...

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Vic
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Re: Language?

> Seems to me like this thing translates hieroglyphics into a set of calls

Such things are not new - the Z language, for example has been with us for nearly 40 years.

The problem that all proponents of such systems seem to forget is that the language is largely irrelevant; the job of coding a piece of software is predominantly a specification issue. You need to tie down the required behaviour accurately and completely, and although some languages make that harder, very few really make it much easier.

"Natural language" invariably makes the whole thing worse, because natural language is inherently imprecise unless you hang out with us "picky" geeks...

Vic.

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Facepalm

Live From The Parking Lot At The Silbury Hill Theatre

And we can even start to build up programs with nothing more than natural language.

Yeah not holding my breath on this one.

Well, it probably IS appropriate to these times where you encounter more and more people who are unable to even specify the problem they want to have someone else solve for them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Live From The Parking Lot At The Silbury Hill Theatre

> Well, it probably IS appropriate to these times where you encounter more and more people who are unable to even specify the problem they want to have someone else solve for them.

Actually, that's a good point.

It could be really useful for those times when you're gathering requirements and the culpr... stakeholder tells you "yeah, it's really simple: you just enter this and out comes that". To get a program generated strictly on the basis of the stakeholder's description could be a rather interesting experience.

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Re: Live From The Parking Lot At The Silbury Hill Theatre

No shit, Sherlock. Witness the Obamacare website...

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Re: Live From The Parking Lot At The Silbury Hill Theatre

It could be really useful for those times when you're gathering requirements and the culpr... stakeholder tells you "yeah, it's really simple: you just enter this and out comes that". To get a program generated strictly on the basis of the stakeholder's description could be a rather interesting experience.

10 INPUT "Enter this:", A$

20 IF A$ = "this" GOTO 50

30 PRINT "ERROR. INVALID INPUT."

40 GOTO 10

50 PRINT "that"

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From a guy

Who wrote an expensive yet worthless book about how he "discovered" recursion, and how his discovery (made many lifetimes before his birth) was going to revolutionize everything? Yeah, that guy. Sure, where do I sign up? NOT!

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"And we can even start to build up programs with nothing more than natural language."

Uh, kinda like Spock talking to Majel Barrett Rodenberry's disembodied voice on the bridge of the Enterprise, eh? Who would have thought that the twenty third century would have gotten here so quickly? Now if he can just figure out that warpspeed thingie for us, we'll be all set.

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Meh

Such a simple task

What could possibly go wrong?

And how many $1000s for this?

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You can fool most of the people (sheep) most of the time.....

Anyone remember the highly touted program called "The Last One"?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You can fool most of the people (sheep) most of the time.....

Anyone remember the highly touted program called "The Last One"?

Yep. And there was even a version 2!!

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Understandable contempt in the comments

After all, it's not like this hasn't been promised before, and if your job is programming you're hardly going to be enthusiastic about someone promising they can make you redundant, and yet, just a couple of articles away is a report from Google admitting that they a) don't really understand how their image/video search recognises objects, and b) feed it data and let it program itself because they don't know how to quantify the things they want it to do.

These sorts of systems are the future, systems that understand natural language as well as we do, that are easily corrected with further natural language when their assumptions are wrong, systems that can retrieve data they don't have when needed.

IBM's Watson, Wolfram Alpha and Google Now are all at the forefront of the next wave of computing, and when these systems mature they will replace the status quo in an avalanche.

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Re: Understandable contempt in the comments

IBM's Watson, Wolfram Alpha and Google Now are all at the forefront of the next wave of computing, and when these systems mature they will replace the status quo in an avalanche. .... jubtastic1 Posted Saturday 16th November 2013 13:47 GMT

Quite so, jubtastic1. And those waves are delivering a whole NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive See/new clearer astute active autonomous virtual reality for IT Boffinry in Inspired Cahoots with Aspiring Moguls and Cooperative Media to Present Futures and Derivatives of those Futures as Betas for Future Futures, Better Phormed Realities via Virtual Means courtesy of AIMemes. One of those Organised IntelAIgent Community Enterprises which no one gets to hear about until ages after the events because of the significance of what be uncovered and discovered not impossible.

Methinks though, jubtastic1, to understand the contempt in the comments one must realise the blinding ignorance that be must be present in beings not understanding or misunderstanding things which be freely shared and aired. But such is surely easily remedied with a clearer and simpler collection of words which paint an immaculate understanding with perfect pictures for all to see, for of course does IT take one on journeys of discovery and enlightenment and they can be constantly changed according to driver input/output.

PS .... Would that IT Boffinry thing be akin to a New Orderly World Order conspiring to make over the Status Quo from the Realms of their CyberSpace? And that question be directed to the Markets and Money Systems for due dutifully diligent consideration, for one imagines that they have the most to lose and/or gain in anything which brings such as is radically fundamental change and AIRevolutionary Evolution.

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So long as it's better and cheaper than Matlab...

...then maybe it'll find a niche. That's the obvious use for something coming from a place like Wolfram, and I've seen enough people complaining about Matlab.

After having to learn the basics of it for my degree, and after looking up licensing costs, I agree; Matlab is way overdue an alternative.

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Boffin

Re: So long as it's better and cheaper than Matlab...

"After having to learn the basics of it for my degree, and after looking up licensing costs, I agree; Matlab is way overdue an alternative."

You might like to look up "SciLab"

It's free, developed in Europe and (as far as I can tell) is very powerful (and yes it does have options for code generation).

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Anonymous Coward

The Bullshit is Strong With This One

Title line says it all.

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Natural language ...

Person: Go to the shops, get me a carton of milk. And if there are any avocados, get me five.

...

Robot: They did have avocados. Here are your six cartons of milk.

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Anonymous Coward

I don't hold out much hope if WolframAlpha is a guide

Try "closest star to the sun" as a Wolfram Alpha query. As I type it is giving me "standard computation time exceeded" - really on such a simple query?

Two weeks ago it was giving me a result page headed "Astronomical object within 10 miles" - yes 10 miles! At least it didn't list anything in that section!

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Re: I don't hold out much hope if WolframAlpha is a guide

It got there in the end for me... I had to click on the suggested link 'closest star to earth', and then it stalled for a minute, then gave me the answer 'The Sun'. However, a chart of the six closest stars was presented at the bottom of the page.

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It won't help at all

When a good chunk of the scientific community is STILL doing all its heavy lifting using IDL - which is basically a 21st century version of LOGO

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Anonymous Coward

Here's hoping Wolfram's New Kind of Programming Language is more successful than his New Kind of Science.

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Hubris

Indeed, he does seem to be a bit of an arrogant prick. I remember when his megalomaniac New Kind Of Science came out, in which he basically attributed a lot of cellular automaton theory to his own greatness. No references, no attributions, no shame.

It quickly turned out though that the only really new result in that huge book (the Turing completeness of one particular rule) was actually proved by one of his research assistants. He then tried to prevent this assistant from claiming this result with various nasty lawsuits.

So is Stephen Wolfram a brilliant man? Yes, no doubt. But his brilliance is basically eclipsed by his hubris, in my estimation.

Still, let's wait and see if this new language is actually interesting, independent of Wolfram's personal character flaws.

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