Posts from 2010

Making the World’s Data Computable

Stephen Wolfram at the Wolfram Data Summit

Keynote talk given at the Wolfram Data Summit in Washington, DC on Thursday, September 9, 2010.

Well, I should start off by admitting one thing.

This Data Summit was my idea.

And I have to say that the #1 reason I wanted to have it was so I could have a chance to meet you all.

So… thanks for coming, and I hope I will have a chance to meet you-all!

Well, I’ve been a collector and an enthusiast of systematic data for about as long as I can remember.

But in the last few years, I’ve launched into what one might think of as the ultimate extreme data project.

It’s actually something I’ve been thinking about since I was a kid.

The idea is: take all the systematic knowledge—and data—that our civilization has accumulated, and somehow make it computable.

Make it so that given any specific question one wants to ask, one can just compute the answer on the basis of that knowledge and data.

Well, every so often I’d think about this again. And it’d always just seem too big and too difficult. And like it was at least decades in the future.

But two things happened in my life. Continue reading

A New Kind of Science is on the iPad!

I spent a decade of my life writing A New Kind of Science. Most of that time was devoted to discovering the science in the book. But another part was spent figuring out how to present the science in the best possible way—using words and pictures.

It took a lot of technology to do that presentation. On the software side, the biggest part was using Mathematica to create elaborate algorithmic diagrams—thousands of them. But then came the question of how to actually deliver everything. And back in 2002 when A New Kind of Science was published, the only real possibility was to print a book on paper, using the very best printing technology of the time.

The actual print production process was quite an adventure—going right to the edge of what was possible. But in the end we got many compliments on the object we produced. And from that time to this, that 5.5 lb (2.5 kg) lump of paper has been the definitive representation of my decade-plus of intellectual work.

But today I’m excited to be able to say that there’s something new and in some ways even better: a full version on the iPad.
NKS book and its iPad version

Continue reading

Welcome to the Blog

I like to write.  And most days I actually do write a lot.  But most of it is not visible to the world at large.  Hundreds of internal emails and documents.  Pieces of content inside Wolfram|Alpha or Mathematica.  The occasional unsigned public webpage or other document.

My purpose in this blog is to have a visible outlet for a little more of what I do, and what I think about.

I’m constantly thinking about new things.  Coming up with new ideas. Getting new perspectives.  Thinking of new possible projects to do.

Usually I don’t talk much about things until or unless I’ve actually done something real with them.  Which can take years, and sometimes decades—if it happens at all.

But I’ve decided it’s time I started writing a little more about what I’m thinking about—rather than always waiting to have a complete, finished, project or product.

I’d also like to write about some of the things that happen in my life.  In some ways my life is delightfully simple and ordinary.  But in others I’ve chosen to make it pretty far out on the curve.

Some of the wildest and juiciest things that happen I won’t be able to write publicly about, typically because they’re someone’s corporate or personal secrets.  Or because, frankly, I don’t want to tell the world about some things I’m doing before I’m ready.

I’m a great believer in the value of history, not least because I think it’s the best way to have an informed view about the future.  I’ve also been a collector of stories—often as a participant.  Sometimes the stories aren’t appropriate for public consumption, at least at the time.  But I’ve now been around long enough that it’s beginning to be OK to tell pretty much any of the earlier ones.  So I hope to have a chance to do that on this blog.

There’s a lot that I could write—about all sorts of topics.  Some of it is timely; some of it I just think I should write down sometime.

I’ll enjoy writing whatever I end up writing.  But if people want to request particular topics, please contact me. I suspect there are a lot of things where I might have something interesting to say, but I’ve never realized it.  So ask me!