May 03, 2012

Ten Years of Monster Raving Egomania and Utter Batshit Insanity

Sometimes, all you can do is quote verbatim* from your inbox:

Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2012 09:31:57 -0400
From: Stephen Wolfram
To: Cosma Shalizi
Subject: 10-year followup on "A New Kind of Science"

Next month it'll be 10 years since I published "A New Kind of Science"
... and I'm planning to take stock of the decade of commentary, feedback and
follow-on work about the book that's appeared.

My archives show that you wrote an early review of the book:

At the time reviews like yours appeared, most of the modern web apparatus
for response and public discussion had not yet developed.  But now it has,
and there seems to be considerable interest in the community in me using
that venue to give my responses and comments to early reviews.

I'm writing to ask if there's more you'd like to add before I embark on my
analysis in the next week or so.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for the work you put into
writing a review of my book.  I know it was a challenge to review a book of
its size, especially quickly.  I plan to read all reviews with forbearance,
and hope that---especially leavened by the passage of a decade---useful
intellectual points can be derived from discussing them.

If you don't have anything to add to your early review, it'd be very helpful
to know that as soon as possible.

Thanks in advance for your help.

-- Stephen Wolfram

P.S. Nowadays you can find the whole book online at  If you'd like a new
physical copy, just let me know and I can have it shipped...

I wrote my my review in 2002 (though I didn't put it out until 2005). The idea that complex patterns can arise from simple rules was already old then, and has only become more commonplace since. A lot of interesting, substantive, specific science has been done on that theme in the ensuing decade. To this effort, neither Wolfram nor his book have contributed anything of any note. The one respect in which I was overly pessimistic is that I have not, in fact, had to spend much time "de-programming students [who] read A New Kind of Science before knowing any better" — but I get a rather different class of students these days than I did in 2002.

Otherwise, and for the record, I do indeed still stand behind the review.

Manual trackback: Hacker News; Wolfgang; Andrew Gelman

*: I removed our e-mail addresses, because no one deserves spam.

Self-Centered; Complexity; Psychoceramica

Posted at May 03, 2012 23:10 | permanent link

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