# How to Think Computationally About AI, the Universe and Everything | Stephen Wolfram | TED

TLDRStephen Wolfram explores the idea that computation is the fundamental process underlying everything in our universe. He discusses the concept of space and matter being made of discrete elements and how the universe can be built through simple computational rules. Wolfram introduces the 'ruliad', the entangled limit of all possible computational processes, and explains how observers like us perceive the laws of physics due to our computational boundedness and persistence in time. He also touches on the implications of computational irreducibility for AI and society, suggesting that as we automate more, it opens up new directions in the ruliad for human exploration and definition.

### Takeaways

- 🌟 Computation is a powerful way to formalize the world, potentially underlying everything in our universe.
- 📚 Stephen Wolfram has spent decades building a tower of science and technology based on the idea of computation.
- ⌛️ After a decade of research, Wolfram announced what appears to be the ultimate machine code of the universe, confirming its computational nature.
- 🧠 The universe's structure is defined by a network of relations between discrete elements, which can be represented through simple computational rules.
- 🖥️ Computation can lead to the emergence of space-time and Einstein's equations for gravity, with potential detectable deviations.
- 🌐 Quantum mechanics emerges from the perception of a branching universe, with the structure of quantum branches visualized as 'branchial space'.
- 🔄 The history of science has seen four broad paradigms, with the latest being multi-computational, involving multiple threads of time.
- 🔢 The 'rulial' concept suggests that all possible computational rules are used, creating a vast, unique object that encompasses all computational processes.
- 🧐 Observers like us are part of the rulial and perceive laws that align with the key theories of 20th-century physics.
- 📈 Generative AI can be used to explore the rulial by taking tiny slices aligned with human-produced images, offering a glimpse into uncharted conceptual spaces.
- 🚀 The development of a computational language, such as the Wolfram Language, allows for the formalization of knowledge and the operationalization of ideas.
- 🤖 AIs, like humans, can use computational language to explore the rulial space, but their exploration without human alignment may not connect with human interests.
- 🔑 The future of AI and computation may involve a balance between achieving full computational potential and maintaining predictability and societal alignment.

### Q & A

### What is the main idea that Stephen Wolfram discusses in his TED talk?

-Stephen Wolfram discusses the idea that computation is the fundamental process underlying everything in our universe, and he introduces the concept of the 'rulial', a space where all possible computational processes exist.

### What does Wolfram suggest is the ultimate machine code of the universe?

-Wolfram suggests that the universe is built from the application of very simple computational rules, and that these rules define the structure of space and everything in it.

### How does Wolfram describe the emergence of space and time in his computational model?

-Wolfram describes the emergence of space and time as a result of the successive application of simple computational rules to the 'atoms of space', which are the discrete elements that make up space.

### What role does computation play in the emergence of quantum mechanics according to Wolfram's theory?

-In Wolfram's theory, computation plays a crucial role in the emergence of quantum mechanics as it describes the story of how branching minds perceive a branching universe, with the same phenomenon that gives us gravity in physical space giving us quantum mechanics in 'branchial space'.

### What is the 'rulial' and how does it relate to the concept of observers in the universe?

-The 'rulial' is a term coined by Wolfram to describe the entangled limit of all possible computational processes. Observers, including humans, are part of the rulial and perceive the universe through specific slices of it, which are influenced by their computational boundedness and perception of persistence in time.

### How does Wolfram explain the laws of physics that we perceive?

-Wolfram explains that the laws of physics we perceive, namely general relativity, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics, are a result of the characteristics of observers like us who are computationally bounded and perceive persistence in time.

### What is the significance of the Wolfram Language in Wolfram's vision for computational thinking?

-The Wolfram Language is significant as it provides a full-scale computational language that formalizes and encapsulates facets of human intellectual achievements. It allows for the expression and exploration of ideas in computational terms, enabling users to bring their computational concepts into reality.

### How does Wolfram envision the future role of AI in exploring the 'rulial'?

-Wolfram envisions AIs as capable of exploring the 'rulial' space, but notes that without alignment with human interests, they may perform actions that seem random and pointless. The key is to create systems that are closely aligned with human understanding and desires.

### What is computational irreducibility and why is it significant in the context of AI and automation?

-Computational irreducibility refers to the concept that to predict the behavior of a system, one must go through the same computational steps as the system itself. It is significant in the context of AI and automation because it implies that we cannot always predict or understand the outcomes of complex systems, which presents a challenge for control and societal acceptance.

### How does Wolfram suggest we should approach the societal implications of AI and automation?

-Wolfram suggests that as we automate more aspects of life, we should focus on defining what we want as a society and use computational language to harness the power of AI and automation to achieve those goals. He also hints at the need for new societal structures, such as 'promptocracy', to help guide the development and use of AI.

### What is the potential impact of computational language on the way we approach problem-solving and innovation?

-The computational language has the potential to shift our approach from focusing on the mechanics of problem-solving to focusing on conceptualization. It allows for a more broad and general approach to thinking, which can lead to new innovations and ways of addressing complex problems.

### Outlines

### 🧠 The Computational Universe and its Foundations

The speaker discusses the evolution of formalizing the world through computation, which has led to the discovery of what appears to be the ultimate machine code of the universe. This code is inherently computational, suggesting that computation is the ultimate formalization for understanding our universe. The concept is based on the idea that space and matter are made of discrete elements, and everything is defined by a network of relations between these 'atoms of space.' The speaker illustrates this with a visual representation of the universe's beginning, showing the emergence of space through simple computational rules. The talk touches on the implications for physics, including the emergence of space-time and Einstein's equations for gravity, and hints at potential deviations such as variations in the dimensionality of space. Furthermore, it explores the idea that our universe may allow for multiple timelines and histories, with quantum mechanics emerging from the story of how observers perceive a branching universe.

### 🌌 Exploring the Rulial Space and the Role of Observers

The speaker introduces the concept of the 'rulial space,' which encompasses all possible computational processes. As observers, we are part of this space and sample specific slices of it. The human mind is described as being computationally bounded and persistent in time, despite being composed of different 'atoms of space' at every moment. The laws of physics, including general relativity, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics, are perceived by observers with these characteristics. The speaker also discusses the idea of 'generative AI' and how it can be used to explore the rulial space by taking tiny slices aligned with human images and concepts. This exploration leads to the discovery of unfamiliar and complex phenomena that challenge our current understanding. The speaker emphasizes the importance of computational language in expressing and formalizing our knowledge of the world in computational terms, which is a significant achievement of human civilization.

### 🤖 The Future of AI and Computational Language

The speaker envisions a future where AI and computational language play a central role in scientific exploration and technological advancement. AIs, like humans, can explore the rulial space, but their achievements are more significant when they are closely aligned with human understanding. The speaker highlights the success of training large language models (LLMs) on vast amounts of data to produce human-like text, which reveals deep insights into the semantic grammar of language and logic. The speaker also discusses the development of the Wolfram Language, a full-scale computational language that encapsulates various facets of human intellectual achievements. This language acts as a tool for researchers, CEOs, and even children to think computationally and leverage computational superpowers. The integration of AI with the computational language is seen as a powerful emerging workflow, where AI can help express ideas in precise computational terms and compute new facts.

### 🚀 Embracing Computational Irreducibility and the Human-Centered Future

The speaker reflects on the implications of computational irreducibility, which suggests that not all systems can be simply predicted or explained through mathematical formulas. This challenges the traditional belief in the predictability of systems and highlights the significance of the passage of time. The speaker discusses the societal dilemma of balancing the full computational potential of AI with the need for predictability and control. The unpredictability of AI's actions, much like nature's, is seen as a natural consequence of their complexity. The speaker also contemplates the impact of automation on human work, suggesting that as new areas of work are automated, new opportunities for human endeavor emerge. The speaker concludes by emphasizing the importance of computational language in defining human goals and navigating the vastness of the rulial space, making the power and depth of computational possibilities accessible to everyone.

### Mindmap

### Keywords

### 💡Computation

### 💡Discrete Elements

### 💡Space-Time

### 💡Quantum Mechanics

### 💡Computational Irreducible

### 💡Ruliad

### 💡Generative AI

### 💡Wolfram Language

### 💡Computational Superpowers

### 💡Computational Irreducible Systems

### 💡Promptocracy

### Highlights

Computation is a powerful way to formalize the world, alongside human language, mathematics, and logic.

Stephen Wolfram has spent nearly 50 years building a tower of science and technology based on computation.

WolframAlpha's launch was followed by a question about whether computation underlies everything in our universe.

In April 2020, Wolfram announced what appears to be the ultimate machine code of the universe, which is computational.

The universe is conceptualized as being made of discrete elements, with space and everything in it defined by a network of relations.

Space and everything in it can be built by the successive application of simple computational rules.

The concept of space-time and Einstein's equations for gravity emerge from pure computation.

Quantum mechanics is described as the story of how branching minds perceive a branching universe.

There are four broad paradigms in the history of science, distinguished by how they deal with time.

Computational irreducibility implies that the passage of time corresponds to an irreducible computation.

A new paradigm involves multi-computational systems with many threads of time that are knitted together by an observer.

The ruliad is a concept representing the entangled limit of all possible computational processes.

Observers are part of the ruliad and sample specific slices of it, being computationally bounded and persistent in time.

The laws of physics as we perceive them are a result of the characteristics of observers like us.

Generative AI can be used to explore the ruliad by taking tiny slices aligned with human images and concepts.

AIs can explore rulial space, but their achievements are dependent on alignment with human understanding and interests.

The development of a computational language, such as the Wolfram Language, enables expressing and operationalizing all human thought in computational terms.

Computational language provides a path for creating a computational X for all imaginable fields.

The use of computational language is likened to having a superpower, allowing one to bring computational concepts into reality.

As AI and computation become more integrated, the ability to predict system behavior becomes more challenging due to computational irreducibility.

The societal dilemma of allowing AI full computational potential without being able to predict their actions.

Automation and AI open up more directions in the ruliad, but choosing between them requires human work and definition.

Computational language is key to defining what we want and charting our path in the ruliad.

Learning computational thinking is more akin to liberal arts than STEM, emphasizing broad knowledge and general thinking.

Despite advances in science and technology, the human element remains central to the exploration and understanding of the universe.