Episode 101 A Journey of Computational Complexity with Stephen Wolfram


Episode 101

A journey of Computational Complexity

An Interview with Stephen Wolfram

August 23, 2018

In this episode, Haley interviews Stephen Wolfram at the Ninth International Conference on Complex Systems. Wolfram is the creator of Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha and the Wolfram Language; the author of A New Kind of Science; and the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research. Wolfram talks with Haley about his professional journey and reflects on almost four decades of history, from his first introduction to the field of complexity science to the 30 year anniversary of Mathematica. He shares his hopes for the evolution of complexity science as a foundational field of study. He also gives advice for complexity researchers, recommending they focus on asking simple, foundational questions.


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

“We just celebrated 30th anniversary of Mathematica and its been really nice to see over the past 30 years all the incredible things that have been invented and discovered in the world with our technology in lots of different areas.” — Stephen Wolfram

“My story is basically an alternation of working on basic science and working on technology.” — Stephen Wolfram


“I discovered what is now called 'emergence' through the surprising complexity of simple programs in the computational universe.” — Stephen Wolfram

“For me, if there is a disappointment, it’s that the basic science of complexity has not been more explored...The great thing about the basic science is that it will survive forever.” — Stephen Wolfram

“The more the applications crowd in, the more people say, ‘oh we don’t need the basic science’.” — Stephen Wolfram

“The question of whether you are really successful in research is vastly more about, did you ask the right question, rather than, were you good at the mechanics of answering the question. Strategy is critical in research.” — Stephen Wolfram

“It sounds paradoxical, given the name of the field complexity, but work on simple questions.” — Stephen Wolfram  

“My favorite activity is making, what i like to call ‘alien artifacts’, which means things that nobody thought exists, but I can make them exist.” — Stephen Wolfram  

“What we need is a methodology of complexity. Once you have a uniform set of methodological ideas, you have more development of a community.” — Stephen Wolfram  

“I consider myself a fairly serious student of the history of science.” — Stephen Wolfram

“If you are in the paradigm shift business, the best indicator of good final outcome is that people are really upset when the thing first arrives.” — Stephen Wolfram

“We were studying what happened to the complexity field and to me it is really still an open question.” — Stephen Wolfram

“What we haven’t yet done with the basic science of complexity is really make it extremely clear that it’s an underpinning of what people should learn.”  — Stephen Wolfram

 A New Kind of Science, published May 2002

A New Kind of Science, published May 2002

 Stephen Wolfram giving his presentation at ICCS 2018

Stephen Wolfram giving his presentation at ICCS 2018