All Videos

A GOLDEN AGE OF COSMOLOGY

Conversation:
[12.2.01]
Topic:

"Even though cosmology doesn't have that much to do with information It certainly does have to do with revolution and phase transitions, in fact phase transitions in both the literal and the figurative sense of the word."
 

 

THE CENTRAL METAPHOR OF EVERYTHING?

Conversation:
[12.2.01]
Topic:

"One of the striking things about being a computer scientist in this age is that all sorts of other people are happy to tell us that what we do is the central metaphor of everything, which is very ego gratifying. We hear from various quarters that our work can serve as the best understanding - if not in the present but any minute now because of Moore's law - of everything from biology to the economy to aesthetics, child-rearing, sex, you name it. I have found myself being critical of what I view as this overuse as the computational metaphor. My initial motivation was because I thought there was naive and poorly constructed philosophy at work. It's as if these people had never read philosophy at all and there was no sense of epistemological or other problems."

 

SOFTWARE, PROPERTY & HUMAN CIVILIZATION

Conversation:
[12.2.01]
Topic:

"It seems to me that what we're seeing in the software area, and this is the scary part for human society, is the beginning of a kind of dispossession. People are talking about this as dispossession that only comes from piracy, like Napster and Gnutella where the rights of artists are being violated by people sharing their work. But there's another kind of dispossession, which is the inability to actually buy a product. The idea is here: you couldn't buy this piece of software, you could only licence it on a day by day, month by month, year by year basis; As this idea spreads from software to music, films, books, human civilization based on property fundamentally changes."

 

HOW DOES THE BRAIN GENERATE COMPUTATION?

Conversation:
[12.2.01]
Topic:

"For humans, Chomsky's insights into the computational mechanisms underlying language really revolutionized the field, even though not all would agree with the approach he has taken. Nonetheless, the fact that he pointed to the universality of many linguistic features, and the poverty of the input for the child acquiring language, suggested that an innate computational mechanism must be at play. This insight revolutionized the field of linguistics, and set much of the cognitive sciences in motion. That's a verbal claim, and as Chomsky himself would quickly recognize, we really don't know how the brain generates such computation."

 

A DAY IN THE COUNTRY

Conversation:
[11.18.01]
Topic:

"Physics and everything we know in the world around us may really be tied to processes whose fundamental existence is not here around us, but rather exists in some distant bounding surface like some thin hologram, which by virtue of illuminating it in the right way can reproduce what looks like a 3-dimensional world. Perhaps our three dimensional world is really just a holographic illumination of laws that exist on some thin bounding slice, like that thin little piece of plastic, that thin hologram. It's an amazing idea, and I think is likely to be where physics goes in the next few years or in the next decade, at least when one's talking about quantum gravity or quantum string theory."

 

THE COMPUTATIONAL PERSPECTIVE

Conversation:
[11.17.01]
Topic:

"There are going to be things that meet those conditions that are not interestingly computational by anybody's standards, and there are things that are going to fail to meet the standards, which nevertheless you see are significantly like the things that you want to consider computational. So how do you deal with that? By ignoring it, by ignoring the issue of definition, that's my suggestion. Same as with life! You don't want to argue about whether viruses are alive or not; in some ways they're alive, in some ways they're not. Some processes are obviously computational. Others are obviously not computational. Where does the computational perspective illuminate? Well, that depends on who's looking at the illumination."

 

INFORMATION AND COMPUTATION

Conversation:
[9.18.01]
Topic:

"As a theoretical physicist, my main concern is space, time and cosmology. The metaphor about information and computation is interesting. There are some people in physics who have begun to talk as if we all know that what's really behind physics is computation and information, who find it very natural to say things like anything that's happening in the world is a computation, and all of physics can be understood in terms of information. There's another set of physicists who have no idea what those people are talking about. And there's a third set — and I'm among them — who begin by saying we have no idea what you're talking about, but we have reasons why it would be nice if it was useful to talk about physics in terms of information."

 

HOW FAST, HOW SMALL, AND HOW POWERFUL?

Conversation:
[7.22.01]
Topic:

"Something else has happened with computers. What's happened with society is that we have created these devices, computers, which already can register and process huge amounts of information, which is a significant fraction of the amount of information that human beings themselves, as a species, can process. When I think of all the information being processed there, all the information being communicated back and forth over the Internet, or even just all the information that you and I can communicate back and forth by talking, I start to look at the total amount of information being processed by human beings — and their artifacts — we are at a very interesting point of human history, which is at the stage where our artifacts will soon be processing more information than we physically will be able to process."

 

SOFTWARE IS A CULTURAL SOLVENT

Conversation:
[4.10.01]
Topic:

"I work on developing an understanding of biological complexity and how we can create it, because the limits of software engineering have been clear now for two decades. The biggest programs anyone can build are about ten million lines of code. A real biological object — a creature, an ecosystem, a brain — is something with the same complexity as ten billion lines of code. And how do we get there?"

 

SEX AND PHYSICS

Conversation:
[3.31.01]
Topic:

"What else is there? Sex and physics." 

 

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