The ancient Chinese game of Go has fairly simple rules. In general, it is much easier to teach someone the rules of Go than those of poker, for example, or of chess. Nonetheless, popular wisdom says that in all the 2,500 years that Go has been in existence, no two games have ever been identical. It’s impossible to know whether this is actually true, but it’s statistically plausible; thus, the game of Go demonstrates that it’s possible for very complex systems to arise from a very simple set of rules.
Makes sense, right? At least, when I say it that way it seems pretty obvious. You probably had some inkling in your mind of the idea that “complex behavior can arise from simple sets of rules” even before I mentioned it to you — didn’t you?
Well, strangely enough, Stephen Wolfram — although a mathematical prodigy who published his first scientific paper at 15, went on to school at Eton, Oxford, and Caltech, and invented the mathematical computation software Mathematica, among other things — did not. » More... »Comments Off