Friday, January 14, 2011

Infecting an alien architecture, A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE

Black Box Portability (principle #7 of The Perfect Virus) requires (literally) a new kind of science, specifically Stephen Wolfram's seminal book A New Kind Of Science. As I've previously stated, Wolfram's book had a larger impact on my view of technology and mathematics than any other academic influence. Interestingly, Stephen Wolfram had to invent Mathematica before he had the right tools to go after the really interesting problems, as he says [p.21]: "When I first started at the beginning of the 1980s, my goal was mostly just to understand the phenomenon of complexity." He builds a compelling case that classical mathematics kept solving fairly uninteresting problems, problems that depended upon simplification in a world without computers. The kinds of "complexity" that interested Wolfram, and which led to the many cross-discipline breakthroughs discussed in A New Kind Of Science, didn't manifest themselves to him until several thousand computational iterations. More interesting still, he used classical mathematical theorems to prove that his "cellular automata" (simple binary processes that could produce incredibly complex behavior) were equally capable of solving infinitely complex multi-dimensional problems.

So if you expect to "grok" an alien architecture with what you term to be high-power mathematics, you might consider Wolfram's assessment [p.859] that modern mathematics of today "…can be seen as a direct extension of…arithmetic and geometry that apparently arose in Babylonian times." He further puts my own college major in perspective by saying that today's mathematics is "…nothing like the majority of the programs that I discuss in this book."

Unlike any textbook I've ever read, Wolfram's 338 pages of chapter notes are a more compelling discourse than the 857 pages that make up the body of his book. Furthermore, if one reads A New Kind Of Science while simultaneously trying to solve a specific problem, methodologies for solving that problem will literally jump off the page. This was my experience as I considered how to take Piers Anthony's fictional Macroscope approach to infecting an alien architecture and realize it as it applied to The Perfect Virus.

Admittedly, I'm in a "state of play" here. I wanted a plausible mechanism around which to weave my own novel. But darned if I didn't find several such mechanisms. So I'm twice humbled. Once by my Cyber Privateer Fantasy League nominee Jeff Walker, who told me I wouldn't recognize a good application if it bit me and who subsequently shared his 22 principles of the perfect application. And a second time, as Stephen Wolfram told me that my college mathematics field hadn't seen much innovation since the Babylonians. A Socrates dialogue of Plato gives me my net-net: "…wisdom is knowing what you don't know…" Turns out, the list of stuff I don't know is growing faster than the things I do know. But my humble thanks go to Jeff Walker and Stephen Wolfram for those whacks upside my head.

Will cyber privateering be a workable solution to what I consider to be a gigantic problem facing our modern civilization? Damned if I know. But it's sure fun to consider the possibilities. And China will almost certainly give us an alien architecture against which we'll have to contend.

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Implementation suggestions for THE MORGAN DOCTRINE are most welcome. What are the "Got'chas!"? What questions would some future Cyber Privateering Czar have to answer about this in a Senate confirmation hearing?