"There's a branch now of math, between math and physics, really, that you can do on a
computer; they set up these cellular automata, little colored tiles each representing a
number, with a certain small set of rules about what color combinations in the surrounding
tiles produce what color of each new tile, and it's amazing, however simple the rules look,
how these astounding complex patterns develop. Some end very abruptly, out of their
internal logic, and some give signs of going on forever, without ever repeating themselves.
My own feeling is with this sort of mathematical behavior you're coming very close to the
texture of Creation, you could say; the visual analogies with DNA jump right out at you,
and there're a lot of physical events, not just biological but things like fluid turbulence,
that are what we call computationally irreducible - that is, they can only be described step
by step. Now, on a computer you can imitate this, if you find the right algorithms. That's what
they're beginning to use computers for, this study of chaos and complexity. The implications are
enormous: if the physical universe can be modelled by a computational system, and its laws
regarded as algorithms, then on a sufficiently powerful machine, with enough memory, you could
model reality itself, and then interrogate it!"
(pg 102) |