Stephen Wolfram, the genius behind Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha, announced a few weeks ago his latest, and according to him, most significant project yet: the Wolfram Language. Today, Venture Beat features an in-depth look at what they speculate might one day result in ‘Sentient Code.’
In Wolfram’s own words,
“Mathematica is this perfect precise computation engine, and WolframAlpha is general information about the world,” Wolfram told me. “Now we can combine the two.”
Now before you even think of comparing this technology to something as primitive as Google’s ‘Knowledge Graph’, think again. Wolfram:
“The knowledge graph is a vastly less ambitious project than what we’ve been doing at Wolfram Alpha,” Wolfram says quickly when I bring it up. “It’s just Wikipedia and other data.” […]
“Making the world computable is a much higher bar than being able to generate Wikipedia-style information … a very different thing. What we’ve tried to do is insanely more ambitious.”
Hyperboles: check. But seriously, even though Wolfram himself finds this project ‘the most horribly complicated to explain’ of all he’s ever done, he is able to give us a high-level description of purpose of Wolfram Language:
“In general, what we’re trying to do is so that as long as a person can describe what they want, our goal is to get that done. A human defines what the goal should be, and a computer does its best to figure out what that means, and does its best to do it,” Wolfram says.
This is only possible because the new Wolfram computational framework includes the complex and precise algorithms developed in over 20 years of Mathematica development, plus the knowledge engine built up inside WolframAlpha.
What particularly fascinated me were Wolfram’s reflections towards the end of the article.
“Today, there are probably 10-50 billion computers in the world today, depending on how you define them, and lots of devices have computers in them,” he told me. “In the near future, almost everything will be made of computers — even small objects. At that point, computation becomes even more important that it is today, and things are adaptable and modifiable at all levels.”
Then he started to slow down, thinking as he spoke. Wolfram is talking, perhaps, about the singularity, the point at which intelligence is the single defining factor of everything, and development accelerates at a pace we can’t currently begin to comprehend, and the world changes much more rapidly and much more profoundly than we can imagine.
The future he predicts is not too far-fetched:
- Within the 2010s, projections indicate there will be up to 50 Billion devices connected to the Internet;
- Within the 2010s, projections also indicate up to 5 Billion people, a majority of humanity, will become connected to the Internet;
- Chips keep shrinking, making computing possible on an ever smaller scale and thereby more pervasive.
Technological components such as Wolfram Language and corresponding Cloud services strongly suggest Wolfram intends to have an impact on accelerating machine intelligence, and ultimately perhaps a ‘Singularity’.
Naturally, it is now inevitable that Wolfram, similar to other geniuses contemplating Artificial Intelligence, will use it to create some kind of alternative persona.
Fun detail: Wolfram Language apparently already has 11,000 pages of documentation.
Post Scriptum: it turns out the reference documentation for the Wolfram Language is available at http://reference.wolfram.com/language.