2 posts • joined Tuesday 17th March 2009 22:05 GMT
Ego business aside...
It appears that Wolfram has not made too many friends due to a perception that he is an egomaniac. Well, egos happen. For an example in the tech world, consider: does anyone actually "like" Larry Ellison? The question seems irrelevant to me, especially when one considers that many important and/or influential thinkers have boasted notably unpleasant egos (e.g. Nietzsche, B. Russell, and almost any 20th century philosopher). One can forgive or hate, or better yet, laugh that aspect off, and then move on.
I appreciated Greg Fawcett's perceptive comments, but would like to suggest that Wolfram may have suggested metaphysical, or maybe even mystical, properties to the results of his testing, but "supernatural" is stretching a bit what I think he was up to. Rather, I think that he was trying to demonstrate through lots of visual examples the interesting philosophical implications of a primitive concept: tremendous complexity can be generated from a remarkably simple algorithm. This may of course be second nature for a mathematician (not me) to understand, but it's a concept that I think is little appreciated in typical thinking about our universe; that is, a teleological view is completely unnecessary, and that the idea of a grand goal or a complex design as the foundation of our everyday reality is not only unnecessary but superfluous. I'm willing to accept that maybe this is an obvious, banal observation, but if so, I would greatly appreciate that someone spread the word to the billions of people who seem to think that an omniscient sky-god has set everything in motion to fulfill his mysterious purpose, or that we're all part of some amazing fuzzy universal-consciousness grand plan that will be revealed in all of its crystal clarity one day.
Concluding thoughts, if Wolfram at least managed to introduce some interesting ways of looking at things from a different perspective, NKS was successful. A great thinker and guru for the ages? Probably not. Creepy guy? Arguably yes. But I still think he has made a worthwhile contribution to modern thought.
Let's all write comments on books we've never read
I continue to be astonished at the number of comments and remarks about NKS, all fashionably negative, by writers (very likely including Ted Dziuba), who have never in fact actually read the book! Instead we learn from Mr. Dziuba that it has been "quickly forgotten", employing a bit of passive voice to include some unknown community of readers.
I can assure you that anyone who has actually read the book with any attention has not forgotten it.
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