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May 19, 2002

Return of the Nerds

For a period at the end of the 1990s, "geek" became a term of power with technology and money making the dot-com engineers the new masters of the universe. If there is any sign of the fall of the new economy, it is the new redesign of this month's issue of Wired Magazine. Instead of the old mix of venture capitalists and cybermoguls, you have Steven Spielberg on the cover. And he's talking about the courage to make darker art that may not be as popular or even make money-- heresy for years at Wired where making money was proof of technical prowess. And the magazine has returned to interest in the fun of technology- the games, the science, the gee-whiz stuff that originally was the hallmark of nerds before they became geek masters of the universe. Analysts like Steven Levy argue the dotcom bust has made Silicon Valley fun again, since it's technology getting the respect once more.

......And speaking of Levy, he has an article about a book and author who some people (including the author of the book with little modesty) argue is the most important science book since Isaac Newton wrote almost four centuries ago..

The article is The Man Who Cracked the Code to Everything.. profiles Stephen Wolfram and his book A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE. Whether the book lives up the the hype, it's billed as a wholesale paradigm replacement of the Newtonian approach to science. In a nutshell, Wolfram argues that old science saw the world as alegebra and he's sees it as alogorithms. Algebra implies that when you know "x", equations can tell you what "y" will result, even if the equations get fiendishly complicated. But Wolfram is playing off new developments in complexity theory, themselves based on computer experiments, which see the key not in complicated relationships, but in simple rules of processing information that produce complex and in some ways inherently unpredictable complexity. We'll see if the book lives up to the hype, but if the metaphor of unpredictability moves over to social science and economics, we may escape public policy telling us that if we'll just emulate the microeconomics equations of their textbooks, everything will be peachy and simple

Posted by Nathan at May 19, 2002 08:08 PM


Think simple. Learn different. Macinstruct.net

Posted by: Walter at July 6, 2004 09:14 AM

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