The Quest for Computable Knowledge: A Longer View

April 29, 2009
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Stephen Wolfram
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As people might imagine, I’m pretty busy right now getting Wolfram|Alpha ready for launch. But yesterday afternoon I took a few hours out to give an early preview of Wolfram|Alpha at Harvard.

There were lots of interesting questions and comments, particularly about the broader intellectual context of Wolfram|Alpha.

There’s really a very long and rich history behind the kinds of things we’re doing with Wolfram|Alpha.

And in fact, a little while ago my staff took some notes of mine and assembled a timeline about the history of “The Quest for Computable Knowledge.” I think it makes interesting reading; there’s quite a diverse collection of elements, some very well known, some not.

I’ve always been particularly struck by Gottfried Leibniz’s role. He really had pretty much the whole idea of Wolfram|Alpha—300 years ago.

At the end of the 1600s he came to believe that somehow there must be a way to mechanize the resolution of all human arguments.

He imagined that one could represent human discourse using logic and mathematics. Then he imagined that one could use a machine to work out answers from this—and in fact he even built some small mechanical calculators himself.

He also realized that to provide raw material for his mechanization it would be necessary to assemble lots of knowledge. So he worked hard to get libraries constructed, and to invent systems for organizing them.

Of course there were some elements missing. But Leibniz really had the right basic idea.

It’s just that you can’t build a Wolfram|Alpha with manuscripts and clockwork. And in fact, I think now is pretty much the first time in history that technology and ideas have reached the point where Wolfram|Alpha is at all practical.

Of course, it’s still a lot of work… and it’s time for me to get back to that now!

(By the way, Leibniz actually went further in his thinking about what might be knowable—and if you’re interested in seeing more, I happened to talk about this a couple of years ago.)

77 Comments

I think wolfram alpha is a excellent program that will contribute to the future generation greatly. This will help students to access quick, accurate and decisive information while doing homework or working on projects. God has bless you with the wisdom, and the human race really appreciate that. Continue with the good work.

Posted by Noel Swaby April 29, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Nice timeline. Maybe you could include in it Russell (logical atomism), Wittgenstein (Tractatus), and Hilbert (‘s program).

Posted by François Dongier April 29, 2009 at 4:14 pm

I just hope it doesn’t make us laziedr. I already use google as an outboard brain though this probably says more about me than society.

Posted by Damien McE April 29, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Although I am looking forward with much anticipation to Wolfram|Alpha, it is hard for me to imagine that this is going to be popular. The reason is perhaps a little unexpected.

I think that exact answers are not always the most interesting.

If I am exploring, I want to make a discovery. I understand that Wolfram|Alpha can help do that. But with a less precise search engine, an unexpected association is very likely to pop up. Precision is important for design and proof…not necessarily for discovery and hope.

Wolfram|Alpha launches the day after tomorrow so I am speculating on its utility based on the information that has been released. I am well aware that I could be underestimating its capabilities. But the underlying theme seems to be accuracy. My guess is that the greatest advantages of Wolfram|Alpha (its precision and accuracy) may actually cause it to be of limited interest to most people.

In any case, I am looking forward to it.

Posted by Charles Peden April 29, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Note: Wolfram|Alpha will be releasing in early to mid May, not May 1 (day after tomorrow).

    Posted by The PR Team April 29, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    You wonder that it might not be popular? Well, take a look at Wikipedia’s Zeroeth law: “The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice. In theory, it can never work.” Nobody would have predicted it would be such a huge success. My guess is that humans are more knowledge hungry than we assume :) But ultimately, only time will tell.

    Posted by Waldir Pimenta April 30, 2009 at 6:13 am

I must address Damien’s statement. Tools do not make us lazy. Tools are what advance civilization. They improve the human condition. Tools are what makes us human. Embrace the new tools. Revel in the possibilities.

Posted by Paul Freet April 29, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Always good to see difference, but how much difference will be made?
a single witness has one version of an event and therefore one answer, and we use our judgement, instinct, knowledge fear, prejudice or love to believe or doubt it.
If an amalgamation of every scrap of assumed relevant knowledge is gathered together and the answer computed mechanically, no matter how original sophisticated or unique the process is that generates the answer, then truth itself is disguised and any one answer has the same value as any other….

Or should I just wait and see what its like?

Posted by Stree April 29, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    “If an amalgamation of every scrap of assumed relevant knowledge is gathered together and the answer computed mechanically, no matter how original sophisticated or unique the process is that generates the answer, then truth itself is disguised and any one answer has the same value as any other….”

    Is this not how a jury works, where the matter of life and death may be at stake? Is there any better system?

    Posted by Kahuna April 30, 2009 at 7:32 am

how about news, stories and blogs in german language?

Posted by emil April 29, 2009 at 5:37 pm

Need to see it, need to try it. Want to squeeze computable knowledge. With exponential increase in information, WA is the way for the future. Want to see it evolve constantly with time.

Posted by Ernesto Becerril April 29, 2009 at 6:13 pm

I really hope Wolframalpha will deliver what we all expect from it.

Posted by Isam April 29, 2009 at 6:22 pm

Damien, you clearly are lazier than you think. You didn’t even bother to check the spelling of “LAZIER!”

Posted by Foo April 29, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    To ‘Foo’
    Surely the more correct pronunciation of Lazier, is ‘More Lazy’, I do not think you can simply add ‘er’ to a word ending in ‘y’ to emphasise it. The American language seems to have evolved a new past tense for ‘drag’, being drugged, as in ‘I was drugged off my barstool last night’, when clearly, the correct wording would have been, ‘I was dragged from my barstool last night’, past tense for ‘drag’ being ‘dragged’. Maybe American sloppy vernacular is breeding more lazy people, lazy in their communication skills and lazy in their adoption of new technology…

    Britain has an enviable record for inventive creativity, maybe because we observe the basic simple language constraints in our everyday lives. Sure we invent new words, but they are not old words, being abused linqcritically!

    Posted by kaela.street April 30, 2009 at 1:37 am

“there must be a way to mechanize the resolution of all human arguments”,
that’s a beautiful thought…

I get the impression this will be something more then just ‘an excellent program’ and I’m anxious to see what it will turn out to be, and how it will perform.

also wonder what your gameplan(s) might look like right about now… :)

- can I experiment with the language somehow before having to buy a license?

Posted by chris.thebliss April 29, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Stephen,

Yesterday we tried to watch your webcast but as you know there was bandwidth issues. Today I looked at the webcast and rumor has it that you had them remove all video that showed the screen. That is just wrong. When you advertise a webcast of your product, we expect to see your product, not your beautiful face. If you are not ready to show, then don’t. But it is not OK to waste everybody’s time.

Posted by Nima Dilmaghani April 29, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    I agree with Nima’s comment, I watched the webcast in order to see the product that all the talk has been about. I’m still in the dark about what the user interface looks like, how it displays it’s results, etc.. It’s a shame really – it would have been nice to have a few sneak peaks, but it felt really restrictive and uncomfortable. We could have just read a blog post and found out similar information. :(

    Posted by peteski April 30, 2009 at 3:32 am

    I somewhat agree. Take Google for example. It appears they release the majority of their new products when they are in alpha/beta stage. They want the consumers to use it, give feedback so that they can either improve it or dump it.

    I have high hopes for W.A. and look forward to using it.

    Posted by Jeff April 30, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Nima–

    Go here for the screencast/screenshots:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYhLsQPHNas&feature=channel

    Posted by Josh Dilworth April 30, 2009 at 11:07 am

This appears to be very similar to the “smart answers” feature that the major search engines provide, but with a larger corpus of data and more thorough parsing of natural language queries, but perhaps I’m missing something. Is this targeted just at the scientific/academic community?

Posted by Joel April 29, 2009 at 7:17 pm

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” AE. Based on aforementioned quote, novel queries of Alpha would be of great interest. If a deal is made with insurance companies and govt data for access along with genetic fingerprinting of individuals then you have moved us one step closer to “Gattaca” so I hope your distaste for personal info stays put and you hide your source code well.

Posted by Matthew Byrd April 29, 2009 at 7:22 pm

good job.

Posted by 春泥博客 April 29, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Lazier? No. More empowered? Possibly. There are very simple things that scholars COULD do today that simply require science fiction to achieve, when it comes to actually accessing knowledge. W-A is a step in the direction of a future in which human potential becomes significantly greater.

Posted by Russ Mitchell April 29, 2009 at 7:40 pm

I have been looking forward to this ever since I first heard about it.

An intelligent search engine will be a valuable business tool – as well as learning tool – for my organization. If it indeed lives up to its pre-hype, it will quickly become a necessary, and important part of the online business community.

Posted by Arnold Vance April 29, 2009 at 7:41 pm

Whitehead in Modes of Thought says:

“There is a book to be written, and its title should be, The Mind of Leibniz.”

Posted by Michael Scott April 29, 2009 at 7:42 pm

I’m looking forward to Wolfram|Alpha. However, I am disappointed by the PR campaign. An amazing product like this should simply be released; the public can make its own judgement. Nobody wants to listen to the long elaborations or hear an intermediary talk about it. The HLS “demo” was also a bust for the general public. The video shows Mr Wolfram and moderator only talking and contains no visuals of the actual service. A picture was leaked only AFTER Google simply released its own product.

I’m tuning out the Wolfram|Alpha PR campaign until the service gets released to the mass public.

Posted by Ming April 29, 2009 at 7:42 pm

.
Saludos Stephen. Los ojos del mundo web están sobre Uds. Conozco Mathematica7 y espero con mucha expectativa el uso de wolframalpha.

Felicitaciones Mr. Wolfram.

PS: No se le ocurra vender nada. Crezca y crezca, que la competencia será buena para todos.

Posted by José Carlos Maguiña April 29, 2009 at 7:44 pm

I can’t wait to drive it.

I can’t imagine doing it on the scale of Alpha, but I can relate to the critical code mass where finally enough services have been written that new and interesting things become possible.

Posted by Keith Ackermann April 29, 2009 at 8:04 pm

In my opinion this is a great project and it seems to be several orders of magnitude more complicated than any modern search engine. I believe society would benefit from this project.

Posted by Ted April 29, 2009 at 8:20 pm

I like the timeline, too. I wouldn’t add Russel or Hilbert, but instead Godel, who pointed out the limits of computable knowledge.

I’m really hoping that Wolfram|Alpha will concentrate in the future on improving the NLP aspect of the program. It would be nice to have a system which is not only an expert, but also a conversationalist. That might get us that much closer to passing the Turing Test.

Posted by Bill Callahan April 29, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Espero que este buscador cumpla con las expectativas de todos sus seguidores (entre los que me incluyo).
Les deseo mucho éxito, y les pido por favor, todo lo que hagan, háganlo siempre por el bien de la sociedad.
Un saludo, nos vemos el día 1ro.

Posted by Yaniel Yero April 29, 2009 at 8:45 pm

In addition to the Wolfram | Alpha website, I dream of possessing a neural implant to interface the Alpha engine with my brain as a means to synchronously annex and augment my consciosness at its source.

Posted by Naked Ape April 29, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Wolfram Alpha looks like it could really make human knowledge accessible to far more people. I can’t wait to see what the next generation( an I’m only 20! ), the kids who will see this as the norm, will be capable with tools like this.

Posted by Taylor Ratliff April 29, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Good summary with the timeline. I hope this is a sign of things to come with the project.

Posted by Arun Devan April 29, 2009 at 9:24 pm

I think you sound like an egomaniac. I hope it works as well as you claim, otherwise you’ll be a blowhard too.

Good luck!

Posted by Mike April 29, 2009 at 9:45 pm

good work! I cant wait to try it out :o)

Posted by Liza April 29, 2009 at 9:46 pm

My interest in this intelligent search engine that will evolve to include further past, present and future knowledge is in how it will affect the future integration with the human being, robotics, the empowerment of knowledge and the results of this empowerment on World societies. The obvious next step is an inexpensive massively distributed hardware penetration so more people can use it and benefit. This means HDTV and broadband. The effect on Network buildout is interesting to ponder. With all of the problems associated with networks, I wonder which ones WA will be partnering with as users are driven to it due to its advantages. Lets hope it is neither a power gatekeeper nor the Chinese government. It is only as accessable to the masses as the networks allow.

Posted by Robin L. Ore April 29, 2009 at 9:48 pm

As a professional I use Internet based resources and search tools to locate supporting information for my projects. The Wolfram Alpha tool will lend credibility to those who consider Internet based searching as a waste of time. Capturing intution is beyond science.

Posted by Simon Daniels April 29, 2009 at 9:50 pm

For anyone who disbelieves that life is more than just a piece of meat, will agree that Stephen Wolfram probably was Leibniz. Geniuses of that calibre are far and few in between.
But back to WA, that someone ever took this idea of computable knowledge and is making into a publicly available tool is absolutely amazing. My concern is that truth is relative and what is true for one might not be true for another. Lets take what I mentioned above. To billions of people in East Asia it isn’t even a question that man is more than a collection of cells, but a spiritual being. That is different in the Western World, even though this idea is gaining momentum. But what will the person who adds this knowledge to WA go with? Most people think there is no scientific answer. There is one of course but there are also many others which are unfortunately accepted by some as “scientific”.

Posted by Wolfram Frank April 29, 2009 at 10:07 pm

This looks like a potentially magnificent tool as well as a wonderfully steady source of brain candy. I’m curious as to how new data is integrated into the relationships already determined by the search engine and corollarily how fluidly that information is processed. As for the ideas about this making people more lazy, I’d venture to say that that is absolute rubbish. It’s clear that the nature of being is changing dramatically. The body of human knowledge has made it impossible to pursue old paradigms of learning based heavily on remembering things. As every second passes it becomes ever more overwhelming to memorize enough material to exist in the environment we’ve created for ourselves. The real skills now will be the skills of information seeking and information creation. Eventually, those will become automated as remembering has (and one might argue that Wolfram|Alpha is a vigorous step toward automating information seeking) and we will discover new meta-activities that can be performed on or with information. Regardless of where all this leads, the last 10 years and probably the next 10 years will be looked back upon as an information revolution which dwarfs all previous revolutions in thought, in manufacturing or in being. It’s truly exciting to participate in it all, even if by playing only a minor role.

Posted by Matthew Pendleton April 29, 2009 at 10:16 pm

A big promise but maybe not that hard to accomplish. I thinkwe will find that the majority of searches are pretty mundane and maybe even quite predictable within an industry.

Bigger issue is how to get queries from the rest of humanity that really needs answers. Not enough people in the ‘developed’ world are seeking to improve the actual life of the ‘everyone else’ and most of their questions are unanswerable anyhow.. like why are you dropping cluster-bombs and not rice-sacks?

Posted by omdesign April 29, 2009 at 11:06 pm

I really look forward to the release. Maybe in release 2.0 you could include a social networking aspect that would allow “members” in real time to see what other members are searching in real time. It would allow for likeminded searchers to then discuss and engage in real time the “why or what” they are looking.
If I wanted to know ” how tall is a walnut tree” and I found at the same time somebody else was searching for the same – it would allow us the opportunity to socialize about our question…..

Best of luck,
Jeff Robinson
http://www.cookee.biz

Posted by Jeff Robinson April 29, 2009 at 11:11 pm

Yeah, this sounds really interesting. Now I already have a idea of what WolframAlpha is about and what some features could be. Let’s see how it’s gonna come out!

Posted by Skateboard April 29, 2009 at 11:48 pm

hope to see this NEW searching engine soon….

To give an answer to any question? Seems impossible.

Posted by sparksustc April 29, 2009 at 11:50 pm

How many languages does Wolfram|alpha support?
Does Wolfram|Alpha support Chinese Knowledges?

Posted by wowuyule April 29, 2009 at 11:54 pm

I am hoping Prof Wolfram’s work with get rid of monopolists like Google forever. At last knowledge will be free forever and fascists can and will go to hell.

Posted by GS April 30, 2009 at 12:16 am

I hope you will be an alternative.

Posted by Ozgur Bayraktutan April 30, 2009 at 1:06 am

Sometimes it is amazing, how much thoughts and hopes you put into ideas of others, just ´cause they did a good job on something before. Whenever I receive a mail telling me that wolfram|alpha took one further step, I always think “WOW, amazing, it´s getting true….”, even though I did never see it. Still though I´m really looking forward to it and it gets my full attention everytime you submit a mail with the progress you made. Oh yeah, I am looking forward to it. Thanks.

Posted by John E. April 30, 2009 at 1:20 am

I can’t sleep at nights until it is 1st May :-)) Seriously I am curious like a cat.
Why didn’t you add me to the beta users, Stephen???

Posted by Robert April 30, 2009 at 1:34 am

Just truly inspiring. I am motivated to do the same and explore the world.

Posted by Alispiritual April 30, 2009 at 1:45 am

When will we hoi polloi be given access to Alpha?

Posted by Ask Mr. Religion April 30, 2009 at 1:56 am

it’s impessive))) can hardly wait the release) good job!

Posted by Sandra April 30, 2009 at 2:10 am

Will your ‘engine’ be launched with your name on it?
This seems very subjective branding with very objective strategies. If it’s not too late with respect you should consider a more snappy 21st Century name. As you know many successful brands planned it this way.

Posted by KEN LYON April 30, 2009 at 2:23 am

I look forward to the ability to extrapolate data from multiple disparate sets for non-trivial use; something beyond a simple ‘mash-up’

Posted by Ian Springham April 30, 2009 at 2:34 am

Talking about Leibniz…I sure hope Wolfram|Alpha will turn out to be the ‘beste aller möglichen Suchmaschinen’…for the time being that is, of course!

Posted by Rhyphor April 30, 2009 at 2:46 am

A while back I came across John Wilkins, in a paper by Borges,

The Analytical Language of John Wilkins
http://www.crockford.com/wrrrld/wilkins.html

An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Essay_towards_a_Real_Character_and_a_Philosophical_Language

#R;

Posted by Roy Nelson April 30, 2009 at 2:54 am

It is really good .
the only trouble is the the site is too long.it has 12 letters.
why not combine the two words”wolfram” and”alpha”
they have the common “L”
and the have the same Pronunciation “f” ,both “F” and “PH” pronunce “F”

so we can combine them ,maybe “WOLPHA”will be OK.”WOLPHA”,it only has 6 letters,half of the “wolfram alpha” and it is the combination of “wolfram alpha”

wolpha.com

it’s really OK

Posted by Roy April 30, 2009 at 3:09 am

One aspect seems to be always forgotten.

Education. I try to create excitement/ curiosity for my 11year old daughter and we “only listened” to your webcast.
But due to time difference she fell asleep after she told me she wants to play with it and she is interested to find out how to apply it to her daily life.
So we are nearly there – my wish is that you keep your wonderful tool open for everybody to play with and I hope that we can lay the seeds to “educate” our next generation with the best knowledge and hopefully with the best tools.

Please include the younger generation when analyzing user experience…

Posted by Karlheinz Lamprecht April 30, 2009 at 3:19 am

I am very interested in your work and I can´t wait to use it. I see how much brain work must be behind that. Respekt!

Posted by Mo April 30, 2009 at 3:20 am

Looking forward to see how I can integrate results via an API???
Am thinking of robotics/drone applications.

Posted by Fergal Breen April 30, 2009 at 3:22 am

A fascinating initiative; but ambitious as it seems it needs to set itself higher goals, I would suggest. Wolfram still sppears to believe that Universal Computation is some kind of maximum or upper limit to the ‘expressive power’ or degrees of freedom of a system. This is not so.

In particular by combining Fuzzy Logic (or Vague Set theory as Russell called it) with Transfinite Set theory, one can show that systems or processes can have expressive power equivalent to ‘surreal numbers’ (ref e.g. Conway, on Numbers & Games). These can be approximated using current computing (for example with ANN’s) but not accurately modeled, for which we need quantum computing.

A visual or physical implementation of such a transfinitely complex system is I believe the basis of our spacetime. My current favourite is a Transfinite Geometric Network, which is a network connected by geometric figues (arcs, helices, etc) with information transfer dependent on the geometric configuration(s). Such a network can emerge fomr an underlying system I call Collisional Automata.

Wolfram needs to include the ‘possible truths’ generated by such transfinite systems if he is to achieve the goals I believe he has.

Posted by Frank Dunn April 30, 2009 at 3:30 am

Good Day to all of you as eager as me waiting for the launch (and, of course, as well to those who aren´t. If they are any)
However, I just would like to add my humble “two cents”, first a big and loud Congratulation for even getting so far with WA to all of it´s minor and major developers. If it will just be able to do the half of everything we all expecting from it right now : WOW ! (and, truly : I think it will)
and second : I do not fully agree with “it will make us lazier”;-)
I suppose it´s like cheat sheets in school. You always need to have a clue what to look up and to necessarily scribble down on your tiny sheet. Actually, most of the times you prepared a cheat you will not need it ;-)
So figuratively, for WA it´s : always needing to know what to ask for implies some kind of “essential basics” (I mean :beyond the ability to read and write)
And for the “discoveries” I assume they will just occur on a somehow higher level than on other (in loss for a better word) search engines.
But probably only for people like me (not native tongues) and then by “language accident” :-)
I hope we will soon see a multi- language version (preferably a german one…..)

Kind regards and have a nice day

Posted by Anja April 30, 2009 at 3:38 am

A tool to target knowledge without tons of fumbles….a dream.
Look very much forward to the launch.

Posted by Andrea Cenci di Bello April 30, 2009 at 3:41 am

I like the core notion.

Posted by Kishor April 30, 2009 at 4:17 am

Leibnitz surely was a great scholar but I believe not more than Plato. Surely 2 more scholars mostly De Caurt & Spinoza contributed greatly to the visualization of the reason research & it’s manifestation. A lot is known to prominent scholars in different separate fields but too few is evident in equations -how one field corresponds with others & maybe interpreted. I do not believe it’s possible to enlarge greatly the scholar community via Wolfram|Alpha engine (& any other, for the phenomena of man has not changed for 40.000 years). But we all need & wait from Steven Wolfram & his engine a sort of modern logical machine -like Dm.Mendeleev’s table of Chemistry elements -wholesale & approved system of our intellectual heritage -Different Forex instruments do not predict & even do not describe currency rates & dynamics..but now we even do not know what they reflect in what scales & conditions, how they interact each other. If Wolfram|Alpha truely works it shows us those conventional rules in system, it’s practical truth & evidence.Great Am.Scholar William James, 1909 approved the Universal character (evidence)of Human’s mentality. Now the problem to overcome for Search Engine as Wolfram|Alpha is to revise our intellectual heritage in a whole-ideas, books, great names, PC progs & all soft, inventions, true copy-rights, etc-describe, compare, show in it’s raw, computate, visualize. Best wishes from Moscow, De’min L.Igor

Posted by igor impersky April 30, 2009 at 4:30 am

Alpha is a great effort Stephen. But you are thinking about language the wrong way.

Language is not just a “handle” on what is known. “Everyday language” is not a “very imprecise way to specify questions or ideas” (as you say in your talk, http://www.stephenwolfram.com/publications/recent/ultimateknowledge)

Historical linguistics leads you that way. But you must not follow.

Instead we must understand that natural language is exactly the engine to computate all that is knowable, you are looking for!

It is almost funny. You see the randomness produced by your automata as evidence they are universally powerful, but continue to assume the randomness/ambiguity we see in natural language is a flaw!

If you can think of music as a computational engine to generate patterns (“Wolfram Tones”), why not language? I’m sure that is what it is. And as the “irreducible” randomess of natural language patterns indicate, it is likely to be the universally powerful computational engine you are looking for.

Posted by Rob Freeman April 30, 2009 at 6:00 am

INTERESTING…..WE KNOW THAT ASPECTS OF “REALITY” CHANGE IN THE COURSE OF TIME, AND ARE THEREFORE DYNAMIC.WHAT DOESNT CHANGE IS THE HOWLING OF THE MOB, WHO CARE NOT FOR TRUTH, JUSTICE, REASON ETC. ; TO PUT THE DATA TO USE ON A LARGE SCALE WILL BE PROBLEMATIC

Posted by TOM HOPKINS April 30, 2009 at 6:06 am

What a wonderful summary of computable knowledge, it’s really all there! Brittannica, Wikipedia, Vannevar Bush’s memex, Ramon Lull’s Ars Magna… Apart from François Dongier’s and Bill Callahan’s suggestions, I’d also add DBpedia and Freebase, which extract data from Wikipedia (and other sources in the case of Freebase) and store it in a semantic, structured form.

Posted by Waldir Pimenta April 30, 2009 at 6:09 am

Whew..!!!

i have Jusst recently ‘stumbled’ luckily onto Mathematica, & now keeping my eyes peeled fer Wolfram Alpha…! :)

Can’t put my excitement in words..!

My Heart-felt congratulations for Dear Mr.Wolfram & his talented friends for their massive-yet-focussed effort to Design, Nurture, & Develop Such Gems as Mathematica…

And i wish Wolfram Alpha would also prove to be a very interesting & useful endeavour..!

Cheers..!!! :)

Posted by Raghu Ugare April 30, 2009 at 6:16 am

Good luck to you – hope it all succeeds ……………. no such thing as too much knowledge.

Posted by Peter / Jamaica April 30, 2009 at 8:47 am

Although it was long time ago, but both from mathematics and from philosophy, the good old Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz were taught with “tz” at the end. My opinion, if Plato is still Plato and not Plao, then Leibnitz should remain Leibnitz. I wonder what will Alpha spit out for the “tz” version.

Posted by János Löbb April 30, 2009 at 11:21 am

With the introduction of W|A, it is easy to envision a world of independent computers collaborating in a distributed network, each responsible for a Knol (or other unit of knowledge) such that W|A would only be limited by the number of processors it was distributed over.

But I realize now that I am typing this, with the imminent release of the new “Teminator” movie, that perhaps THIS is the origin of SkyNET!! :)

Stephen truly is one of the great THINKERS of our time, and I am tremendously inspired and honored to be so “near” via this blog and the release of W|A into the world.

Posted by Christopher Burns April 30, 2009 at 11:42 am

imho, the magic in computers is the person(s) behind them.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” — Arthur C. Clarke
can’t wait to see more of your magic. thank you for the preview and the overview of your dream machine …

Posted by Mary April 30, 2009 at 1:37 pm

I have already set my homepage as W/A .And waiting for you !!!

Posted by Satish April 30, 2009 at 2:30 pm

I have several comments.

First, I love observing the wackos that have come crawling out of the woodwork. They haven’t seen W/A yet, but they “know” what Wolfram is doing, or has done, wrong. All I have to say to that is “Uh-huh. And where is*your* interactive, online knowledge visualizer and correlation?” Oh. I thought not. Why don’t you at *least* wait until you see what it actually does before you start pretending you know what it (or Wolfram himself) *should* have done? At least that way you won’t be embarrassing yourselves quite so harshly. You know. Conceptualizing from objective facts, rather than from your own fevered imaginations.

Second, my impression here is of something that might accelerate the rate at which I can absorb concepts by (a) gathering what might often be far-flung data and relationships into a coherent construct, and (b) literally visualizing it with charts and so forth so that my understanding can move ahead by leaps and bounds, instead of individual words. Now, the fact is, I’ve not seen it yet either, but that is what it sounds like thus far to me. If it does these things, I’ll be just beside myself with approval.

Lastly, I echo the sentiment of the person who hopes for an API; it would be truly lovely to be able to access the system — at least feed it queries — in an automated manner. You’d probably have to throttle such a thing, of course, and recovering the costs of such use are a serious issue, but still… direct access to this kind of tool seems like it would be a real boon to many types of information processing systems and educational systems as well. Having said that, if it’s web only, well then web it is. Beats the living whatever out of not having it at all.

Posted by fyngyrz April 30, 2009 at 5:05 pm

Dear Friends,

Since February I heard about Wolfram Alpha project and I am following as much as possible in order to understand and translate it to people in my Universitym, group of friends or graduate students as well. Today I just wrote an small aticle and it was published in one of the most important websites in Rio de Janeiro called Alma Carioca. Please take a look on the article
http://www.almacarioca.net/wolframalpha-nova-revoluo-na-internet-em-maio/ and be aware that this site has the reputation to have among its readers people who construct opinion in this country (Brazil) and will spread it. I hardly can wait for the deployment.

Sincerely,
Vanderlei Martinianos, MSc. Candidate
International Business Consultant
martinianos@martinianos.com
Cel +55 21 9891-0600

Posted by Vanderlei Martinianos April 30, 2009 at 5:26 pm