Re: Algorithmic Revolution?

From: Russell Standish <>
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2002 14:11:27 +1100 (EST) wrote:
> RS reformulates/reduces the term "algorithmic revolution" as:
> >1. A social revolution..
> >2. A scientific revolution..
> >3. An epistemological revolution..
> >4. A mathematical revolution..
> all true. however, wolfram-fredkin-zuse et al are not merely proposing a
> mere "epistemological revolution" as you state with (3). they're
> saying, the "next state" of the universe _really_is_ a
> computation, that we really are (and all reality is)
> built out of cells in a very large 3D or 4D cellular automaton. its
> not merely a metaphor. in this sense it probably cannot be seen on
> the same level as the clockwork mechanism for the universe, or
> the "universe-as-energy" from the thermodynamic/industrial/steam
> engine perspective.

Where did the "mere" come from? Epistemological as in a revolution of
our understanding of the world.

Zoom back 150 years, and you will find that people believed that the
universe really did follow Newton's equations of motion exactly, and
that all you needed to know everything about the universe at all times
was the positions and velocities of all constituent particles _at one
moment in time_. This is what is described by the clockwork metaphor.

The Wolfram-Fredkin-Zuse thesis that the universe is a Turing machine
is described metaphorically as a "computer universe" - just as real
computers are only metaphors for Turing machines.

I'm afraid I don't appreciate the difference here. The clockwork
universe was shown to be wrong with Qunatum Mechanics. My gut feeling
is that the computer universe will also be shown to be wrong.

> this is a physical hypothesis about the universe. so far it
> is not yet testable or falsifiable. but I would argue there
> is very good circumstantial evidence.
> RS says (3) is "potentially as wrong as the clockwork model
> of the universe". but, I would argue the clockwork model
> is not really "wrong", only that it was a steppingstone that
> is now obsolete or incomplete relative to new data. it was an
> outstanding metaphor for reality & is arguably still a very strong
> element of all modern scientific thought.
> with 4, RS says this refers to "algorithmic information theory"
> and "the jury is still out" on it.
> technically this is the name for the field that is
> involved with compressibility, i.e. chaitin-kolmogorov ideas
> (is this what RS meant?). which
> is mostly seen as a specialized subfield of computational
> complexity theory. this is a strange reduction from my point of
> view & is definitely not the mathematical revolution associated
> with "the algorithmic revolution" I referred to earlier.

Yes - the usual name for it is algorithmic information theory, and
Greg Chaitin was probably the prolific contributer. Ming Li has
demonstrated some very interesting applications for the theory in
solving mathematical problems otherwise unsolvable. I wouldn't be
surprised if AIT turns out to be as important as differential
equations or Hilbert space theory, for example. As I said though, it
is still too early to say.


A/Prof Russell Standish Director
High Performance Computing Support Unit, Phone 9385 6967, 8308 3119 (mobile)
UNSW SYDNEY 2052 Fax 9385 6965, 0425 253119 (")
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Received on Wed Nov 20 2002 - 22:13:49 PST

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