Wolfram and The Power to, …, erm

In a few weeks Wolfram|Alpha will finally be unveiled and we will see if it can live up to its promise.

There was a great article on hplus magazine by Rudy Rucker, whose life seems to have been entwined with Wolfram for a long time. Rudy seems to have got an early dose of the excitment I’ve picked up around Wolfram’s plans.

He quotes Stephen Wolfram as saying:

Wolfram|Alpha isn’t really a search engine, because we compute the answers, and we discover new truths. If anything, you might call it a platonic search engine, unearthing eternal truths that may never have been written down before.

he goes on to explain that:

Wolfram|Alpha can pop out an answer to pretty much any kind of factual question that you might pose to a scientist, economist, banker, or other kind of expert. The exciting part is that you’re not just looking up pages on the web, you’re getting new information that’s generated by computations working from the known data.

Stephen Wolfram seems confident that he will be able to cope with capacity issues:

Most of our computational needs center on converting user inputs into Mathematica-like queries, and then computing the answers to these queries. Answering one query might use a hundred of our computers running flat out for a fraction of a second. So we’re still trying to gauge how many computers we’ll need.

I’m itching to see this in action, but if it is as good as it sounds, will Wolfram sell out to the highest bidder once this is off the ground?

I’m not a selling things kind of guy, …
We’d rather look for things like partnerships or licensing deals or APIs. I see a new field of knowledge-based computing. Imagine a spread sheet that can pull in knowledge about the entries.

A spreadsheet, or a business intelligence platform? Imagine Wolfram|Alpha’s computational natural language interface licensed to interface with all of the data on the web, the logical structures in Wolfram|Alpha, …, and all of your corporate data! That could be an explosive combination: the Power to Dream?

SAS bloggers, such as Tammi Kay George and Waynette Tubbs, have been talking about Data Driven Management Culture and how to Make the Most of a Bad Situation: Analytics.

Which prompt me to ask two questions:

  • How soon before this scientific development is suborned to commercial ends?
  • Would this be a bad thing?

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