On Tuesday, November 19, 2002, at 05:12  PM, [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:
I would take all of TCMs own citations and turn them around in my
favor. I would classify all the following as occurring under
the heading "algorithmic revolution" (not the greatest moniker I admit..
a provisional one for me right now)

- advent of cyberspace, web, email, browsers etcetera
- advent of mass software
- PC revolution
- microsoft & intel from zero to billion dollar companies in short decades
- quantum computing is on the way
- fractals. could not be discovered without algorithms. a new metaphor
for not only nature but all reality.
- complexity theory. again, not possible before the algorithmic metaphor
and mass computational capabilities
- simulation, "in silico science"
- moore's law
- photorealistic rendering
- (relational) databases
- mass economic shift into information technology as driving force..
"bits versus atoms".. (negroponte)
- video games
- etcetera!!
I agree that these are all huge changes.

I interpreted your "algorithmic revolution," in the context of this list and the Kevin Kelly article and the Wolfram brouhaha, to be about a revolution in terms of thinking of the universe (or multiverse) as being primarily computational.

My point is that the verdict on the Zuse/Fredkin/Wheeler/Lloyd/Wolfram/Tegmark/Schmidhuber/etc. views of reality is still way, way out. I stand by this point.

If by "algorithmic revolution" you meant that computers are increasingly important, then of course I agree.
...

ahem!!! what is the relevance to a TOE??? well historically it is clear
our perception of reality is based on our favorite metaphor of the times.
in recent ages it was (a) the clock, "clockwork universe", (b) the
steam engine. and now it is (c) computer/algorithm/information. clearly
it is no coincidence whatsoever that new TOEs are essentially algorithmic.
its the human race's latest-and-greatest metaphor for reality.
Yes, and our past experience in going through all of these metaphors or "mathematical fictions" has made many of us wary of saying things like "The universe is like a hologram" or "The universe is about connection" or even "The universe is a gigantic Game of Life."

The issue of an ontology being a metaphor is an interesting one.

I currently have no view of any particular metaphor for what the universe "is." It may have computational aspects, and mathematics (superset of computer science, of course) may be woven throughout the structure of reality. It may even have "holographic" or "clockwork" or "cellular"-like aspects. But aspects are not the same thing as equivalence.

Greg Egan makes a good point in "Diaspora" about the limitation of the mathematical models we sometimes use as metaphors for reality. A mass falling through a borehole through the Earth acts exactly as if it's a mass on a spring tethered at one end. Same precise equation of motion. Yet a spring is not at all what the Earth is, and confusing the mathematical model with reality is dangerous.

Of course, at this point we have much, much less reason to speculate that the universe "is" a cellular automaton of some sort.


scientists have been slow to adopt to this shift, and I would argue they
are still underutilizing simulation to some extent. science & physics
is still yet to be influenced fully by the algorithmic revolution. one
striking example I think will happen-- I believe billion
dollar particle accelerators
may be downgraded in importance in favor of extremely effective simulations.
The reason experiments are still done is because they are the real proof of the pudding about what the universe really _is_.

(besides-- does anyone fully realize how much software plays already such a
crucial, foremost role in existing accelerators??)
Not sure what you mean. I did some coding of Monte Carlo simulations in my physics days, and I hired some of the coders from SLAC to work on some of the stuff we were doing at Intel. Software is used to design the accelerators, the detectors, the experiments, etc. As with the rest of the world, computers and software are undeniably important.

I'm not doubting the importance of computers. Nor the importance of clocks and wristwatches. But just as we know "the universe as a clockwork mechanism" was not the whole picture, I think "the universe as a computer" is not, without a lot more evidence, very compelling. To me, at least.

(I am interested in being convinced otherwise. And I have my own interests. Today I ordered the Peter Johnstone 2-volume set "Sketches of an Elephant: A Topos Theory Compendium." Not that I am saying "the universe is a topos.")


--Tim May



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