Message Boards Message Boards

the Wolframian methodology (philosophy) of science

Posted 10 years ago
as everyone in the wolfram community is aware, SW's NKS (or is it NKOS?) book has been controversial.i recently came across a wikipedia article which i think is the BEST presentation of the methodology of science (philosophy of science) that SW is proposing and which IMO FULLY justifies the tite of the book (there are other NKS related matters discussed in the article but i am referring here only to the methodology issue discussed in the article).

i wanted to post a reference to this wiki article to the community but the only version i can now find is an revised version which is neither as clear or as good as the original version (apparently, changes were made in response to comments (criticisms) made by people who read the original version - i don't know how wikipedia works in regards to articles and revisions of articles). 

luckily, i had an unmarked printed copy of the the original version and i was just able to get it converted to a pdf and i am attaching it here so that you can read it (note: you might also read the sections of NKS specifically dealing with theoretical modeling on pp. 363-369 and 991-992). 

i do want to note that if you read a review of NKS or any other article that deals with NKS or SW's views that states that SW believes the universe is a cellular automaton, then you should be wary becuase that statement is simply incorrect as indicated on the top of the last page of the attachment. 

moreover, SW has not to my knowledge ever claimed that the universe IS a CA or IS a causal net or IS a mathematical structure or IS anything else. he has said that  CA's (or some other types of simple programs can be 'useful for modeling nature' which is not at all the same thing as using the word 'is' (and there's no point in getting into the clintonian question of what the meaning of is, is).

i'm limited to sending this post to 10 groups but i think that everyone working with or interested in Mathematica or WL (of course, WL is not simply (merely) the programming language of Mathematica but that's another subject) so i hope that somehow this posting and attachment will become available to others outside the 10 groups i am posting them to.
POSTED BY: Richard Gaylord
3 Replies
Posted 10 years ago
i just came across the original source of the wolfram philosophy of science on on CA. it can be found at at attached is a pdf of the article. note: for waht it's worth, IMO, regardless of the eventual evaluation of his scientific work, SW will one day be regarded as one of the major and original philosophers of science and the creator of the coolest general programming language. 
POSTED BY: Richard Gaylord
Posted 10 years ago
excellent point. SW is actually putting forth two things in NKS:
(1) a new field of science (the study of the properties of simple systems - systems of simple rules - per se)
(2) a new way of doing conventional science (modeling them with the use of simple systems) .  
POSTED BY: Richard Gaylord
Exactly.  CA's in NKS (NKOS was an early acronym that was quickly and thankfully quashed) serve two roles.  First is their intrinsic interest in and of themselves as one category (amongst many that are explored in NKS-- one just has to look at the table of contents) of systems of simple rules that allow one to explore the space of simple programs. The other, similarly, is a pedagogical playground where properties of simple programs can be explored and categorized in a variety of ways (limits of universiality, for example). But nowhere in NKS does SW state that CAs are the model of choice for a model of the universe.  A good test of whether a reviewer of NKS has bothered to read the book, *and* think about it, is whether they say that CAs are what SW is proposing for this.  And, in a way, the whole book is about an approach to modeling across disciplines, using simple programs of a variety of sorts.
POSTED BY: David Reiss
Reply to this discussion
Community posts can be styled and formatted using the Markdown syntax.
Reply Preview
or Discard

Group Abstract Group Abstract