Computer Genius Builds Language That Lets Anyone Calculate Anything

Controversial mathematician Stephen Wolfram is about to release a programming language with the goal of being able to quickly do just about any calculation or visualisation on just about any kind of data a person could want.

Wolfram, creator of the widely used mathematical software Mathematica and the “computational knowledge engine” Wolfram|Alpha, has announced the forthcoming release of the Wolfram Language, the underlying programming language powering those two pieces of software.

Wolfram describes and demos the language in a video posted late last month:

The language release aims to combine a vast array of computational and visualisation algorithms at the heart of Mathematica with the databases and natural language processing that power Wolfram Alpha. As Wolfram puts it, it is intended to be a “knowledge-based programming language”.

The language also aims to be flexible enough for either complete beginners or expert developers to be able to quickly create programs to analyse data and solve problems.

The algorithms implemented by the language vary from mathematical functions like algebraic expansions and derivatives to financial computations like finding the future value of an investment, to many more.

These algorithms are coupled with databases curated by Wolfram Research including financial data, socioeconomic statistics, and various facts about people and places.

The language also is set to have some impressive data visualisation methods included as well. To the left is an image from the video, showing the web of hyperlinks connected to Wolfram’s home page, as visualized by the language.

Wolfram has described the language as “knowing things about the world”, and this kind of statement has stirred up some controversy. David Auerbach at Slate questions whether or not the incorporation of a huge data base of algorithms and real-world data actually makes a language closer to understanding the world in the way a human does.

This gets into a debate over the nature of artificial and human intelligence that has gone on since at least the beginning of the computer era.

Whether or not the Wolfram Language represents a leap forward in the development of AI, it will probably be an excellent tool for anyone interested in computation and data, just as Mathematica and Wolfram|Alpha have been and continue to be.

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