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June 15, 2011

"You have to ask, what's the point of universities today?" he wonders. "Technology has usurped many of their previous roles, such as access to knowledge, and the social aspects."

The Economist:

"THERE is no dramatic distinction between the processes of the weather and the workings of the human brain," says Stephen Wolfram, a physicist and the founder of Wolfram Research, a software company. "There isn't anything incredibly special about intelligence, it's just sophisticated computational work that has grown up throughout human history." Dr Wolfram is hardly the first scientist to compare the human brain to a computer. Alan Turing, who helped develop the precursors of today's programmable computers during the second world war, began considering the possibility of thinking machines in the 1940s. The difference is that Dr Wolfram claims to have succeeded in codifying vast areas of human knowledge and even replicating supposedly uniquely human attributes such as creativity.

"One of my realisations, or maybe it's just a piece of arrogance, is that the amount of knowledge and data in the world is big, but it's not that big," he says. "In astronomy, there's a petabyte--a million gigabytes--of data about what's out there in the universe. There are also swathes of data from digital cameras, Twitter feeds and even road-traffic movements. It's a bit daunting, but I soon realised that the bigger challenge is not the underlying data but the computations that get done on them."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at June 15, 2011 5:17 AM
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