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Killexams : IBM Mastery guide - BingNews Search results Killexams : IBM Mastery guide - BingNews Killexams : Taking a Quantum Leap Forward with IBM

The New School has long been renowned for its prowess in the social sciences, design, and performing arts. But today the university is reaching beyond its traditional spheres, cultivating knowledge and expertise in the most innovative technology in human history: quantum computing.

Partnering with IBM Global University Program and IBM Skills Academy, The New School has launched a revolutionary quantum computing initiative that challenges students and researchers to explore applications to art, design, education, business, and even social justice. The university’s first quantum computing course was spearheaded by Dr. Lin Zhou, senior vice president and chief information officer of The New School, and Sven Travis, associate professor of media and design. Premiering at Parsons’ School of Art, Media, and Technology last year, the class yielded groundbreaking results for the university and the industry at large. 

Individuals who have taken part in the IBM Skills Academy course can earn certificates indicating their mastery. So far, only 96 IBM Skills Academy Quantum Practitioner Certificates have been distributed, 12 percent of which belong to New School students, staff, and faculty. In other words, New Schoolers are officially among the first innovators to have access to this technology, and they are actively leading its development. Dr. Robert Sutor, who holds the title chief quantum exponent at IBM and has spoken in Zhou and Travis’ classroom, confirms that Parsons students are part of the first generation in their disciplines to be exposed to quantum computing. “They have a running head start,” he says.

According to Zhou, keeping up with disruptive technology and investing in computer science is essential for any academic institution hoping to remain relevant in this decade, let alone this century. He argues that literacy is now defined not just as the ability to read and write but also as the ability to engage with and program computers. “When I joined The New School, I felt we had an obligation to prepare the next generation of talent for the technology-concentrated future,” he explains. 

Zhou believes The New School has an important role to play in the development of quantum computing. He says that to harness the technology’s full potential, we’ll need to integrate quantum capability into daily life in thoughtful ways. As a university that’s been committed to social change and progressive innovation since its inception, The New School is uniquely positioned to research how quantum computing can be applied to the world in distinctly human-centered forms. “Preparing our society for this technology is largely the responsibility of liberal arts schools, of scholars,” says Zhou. “So we need to step up and better the social DNA of quantum, rather than solely put it on steroids.”

Parsons’ quantum computing course was designed for students with little or no computer science experience. After an introduction to quantum physics and computing, students in the class accessed IBM’s quantum machines through the cloud and developed programs using an open-source framework called Qiskit. To Zhou and Travis’ delight, students excelled in grasping the novel technology and submitted final projects that reflected the creative thinking Parsons is known for. 

According to Travis, students were encouraged to engage with their subject critically, as they would be in any other Parsons course. “No one has really looked at the technology and said, ‘Well, how does this change the way society might be looking at computers?’” he explains. It’s important to advance that kind of inquiry while quantum technology is still in its infancy, rather than after it’s been fully unleashed and we’re stuck addressing consequences retroactively, as we’ve had to do with innovations like social media. “Working with these new technologies, it’s increasingly important to look at issues of social justice and equity,” Travis adds. “As designers, we can’t solve the wicked problems just by viewing technology as a tool; we have to embrace technology as an intelligence amplifier that is going to allow us to solve design problems in fundamentally different ways.”

Indeed, students in the course devised projects that brought quantum technology to a human scale. Their work ranged from solutions for managing traffic and strengthening QR code security to cultural pursuits like music and fine art. Quantum computing is still in its early stages, and student work reflected this raw quality. But it was clear that the New School way of thinking is moving the technology toward new realms of possibility. 

Zhou and Travis are enthusiastic about the impact their course has had on students’ career opportunities. “Quantum computing has been heavily invested in by industries ranging from finance and natural resources to pharmaceuticals, automobile companies, and genetics,” says Zhou. Having knowledge of quantum technology can open up numerous and diverse pathways for students. 

Parsons’ quantum computing effort has also won major accolades. This year, the Quantum Computing for Design and Social Research project entry won a FutureEdge 50 Award, which recognizes the most advanced trials and applications of emerging technologies in business. This overwhelming success only enhances the potential of The New School’s unique collaboration with IBM. Zhou and Travis hope to channel growing momentum into the creation of a computer science graduate program. This would further solidify the university’s role in the development of quantum technology and establish a real STEM presence in an already diverse, transdisciplinary institution. 

Like quantum systems themselves, The New School’s quantum offerings are still in their early stages, developing according to need and opportunity in equal measure. But as with the technology itself, there is no doubt of the limitless potential in this sphere. As Zhou says, “This opens a new frontier for The New School.”

Tue, 15 Jun 2021 15:05:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : Why IBM's Move To Rein In Remote Workers Isn't The Answer

When companies find themselves in a rut (and in IBM’s case a very long, 20 consecutive quarters of loss/decline--whatever you want to call it--rut) they tend to follow the same two-step process:

1. Re-strategize, which typically starts with cutting cost.

2. Restructure.

When neither option works out—such as in the case of IBM—they revert back to step number one in an attempt to stay relevant.

Watch on Forbes:

That’s what is currently happening at International Business Machines. In an effort to turn themselves around, IBM is calling for remote workers to stop working remotely and come back into the office. The thinking behind this move is to create greater moments of serendipity. In other words, the more frequent employees interact, the more likely they are to generate new conversations which lead to new insights which increase business momentum. The keyword here is “likely.” The fact is, this strategy is another shot in the dark. It’s a hope for something new but it’s not a plan.

At the heart of IBM leadership's intention here is the desire to change employee behavior. They want to drive greater innovation, communicate and make decisions faster. They want to reduce the problem-solving cycle time because, after all, if you can A) see the problem and B) solve the problem faster than your enemy, then you’ll constantly stay ahead. But that’s not what’s going to happen with the current approach because restructuring just offers more of the same. Granted, An unhappy employee is a soon to be flight risk, and likely a future champion against working there. The problem with restructuring is that it offers immediate feedback because leaders feel like there's momentum. Unfortunately, the move is just smoke in mirrors; it’s an illusion that they’ve made progress when all they’ve really done is shuffled people around into different boxes. They haven’t changed behavior which is their real intention.

It’s not about where people work. Where people work isn’t as important as how or why they work. Remember from Daniel Pink’s research on Motivation 2.0 that autonomy is one of three main drivers for people, along with purpose and mastery. If employees don’t feel their autonomous needs are being met, then off to another job they go.

In the SEAL Teams, for example, we were deployed all across the globe—sometimes on our own—and we needed to stay informed about everything going on both within our area of operations and adjacent to it in order to make informed decisions that impacted future mission planning. The point is, it wasn’t where we worked that fostered collaboration, it was how. Here’s how:

Have a process.

Every day we had the same meeting—a 90 minute meeting of roughly 8,000 people geographically dispersed all over the globe who came together by way of virtual teleconference. Yes, eight thousand. The reason why this meeting was so large was because it informed the day of everyone involved, and in war—much like in business—the decisions in one area impact decisions in another. We shared theater-specific intentions so teams knew what they would and wouldn’t have access to which allowed them to plan more specifically; we shared lessons learned from different theaters which informed operations in another; we shared strategic intent which reduced the telephone effect that typically happens when messages get passed throughout the ranks. By getting everybody—and I mean everybody—together, you heard right from the horse’s mouth his intent and the decisions made, which eliminated individual interpretation.

Be consistent.

One reason why this ridiculously large meeting was effective was because it was consistent. No matter what happened the day prior, everybody knew this “global meeting” would occur. What this consistency built was trust—consistency in meeting and consistency in sharing information. Whether it’s having a meeting, communicating or making decisions,

The intent behind IBM’s move to incite more frequent interactions is clear, but there’s no meat to actioning it. Have a process for how you communicate, be consistent about it and hold people accountable. Remember, , and relocation isn’t a metric. If you want to drive better behavior, change how you operate.

Fri, 19 May 2017 12:37:00 -0500 Jeff Boss en text/html
Killexams : 5 Steps to Becoming a Successful Trader No result found, try new keyword!Soloway, Chief Market Strategist,, reveals How to Become a Master Trader - A Step-by-Step Guide. Learn how ... And you're not trading IBM, or Microsoft, or Apple. Thu, 28 Jul 2022 20:14:00 -0500 en-us text/html Killexams : Cybersecurity Lab Guide for Educators

For discussion questions and lessons plans, go to the Cybersecurity Lab collection on PBS LearningMedia.

The Cybersecurity Lab is a game designed to teach people how to keep their digital lives safe, spot cyber scams, learn the basics of coding, and defend against cyber attacks. Players assume the role of the chief technology officer of a start-up social network company that is the target of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks. In the game, players must complete challenges to strengthen their cyber defenses and thwart their attackers. The Lab also features stories of real-world cyber attacks, a glossary of cyber terms, and short animated videos that explain the need for cybersecurity, privacy versus security, cryptography (cyber codes), and what exactly hackers are.

There are four major gameplay components of the Lab:

  • Coding Challenge: An introduction to very basic coding skills. Players program a robot to navigate a maze, using drag-and-drop commands. 
  • Password-Cracking Challenge: A series of “password duels” teach players the basics of how attackers might try to crack their passwords and how they can make better, more secure passwords.
  • Social Engineering Challenge: Players are presented with two apparently similar emails or websites. They must first identify the differences between them and then decide which one is a scam attempting to steal their information or money. This challenge also includes a number of audio recordings and transcripts of phone calls; players have to decide if they should trust the caller or not. 
  • Network Attacks: As their companies grow, players must buy defenses to defend themselves against a series of cyber attacks. The better that players do in the three challenges, the more resources they’ll have to buy defenses.

Note: The Coding Challenge uses a Blockly interface that requires no prior knowledge of coding. Blockly uses a visual representation of code as blocks rather than a scripted programming language.

Time Allotment

75 minutes

Grade Level

6–12 grade

Standards Alignment Guide

The Cybersecurity Lab reinforces scientific and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts found in the Next Generation Science Standards. To see how the Cybersecurity Lab can be used to meet course objectives, get our standards alignment document below:

Cybersecurity Lab Standards Alignment Guide (113.0 KB)

Glossary of Cybersecurity Terms

The Cybersecurity Lab contains terms that may be unfamiliar to educators and students. In the game, these terms are highlighted with definitions that appear as mouse-overs. Below is a document with all of these terms:

NOVA Labs Cybersecurity Glossary (86.3 KB)

Content Objectives

  • Students will be able to explain computer science terminology related to coding, password protection, social engineering, and network security
  • Students will be able to describe how encryption works to protect privacy
  • Students will be able to describe accurate network security breaches and how companies defend against them
  • Students will be able to explain why the term “hacker” is extremely flexible and the variety of roles that hackers play
  • Students will be able to analyze reports of unfolding security breaches and apply their understanding of security networks to them

Process Objectives

  • Students will be able to navigate a robot through a maze using Blockly code in the Coding Challenge
  • Students will use analytical studying skills to distinguish among phishing attempts, fraudulent websites, and phone scammers in the Social Engineering Challenge
  • Students will use logical reasoning to create strong passwords in the Password-Cracking Challenge


  • The Cybersecurity Lab is accessible on web and mobile browsers that support HTML5, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer (version 9.0 and higher)

Multimedia Resources

The Cybersecurity Lab includes four short animated videos that cover a variety of cybersecurity and computer science topics:

The Internet is fundamentally insecure. However, there are simple things you can do to protect yourself and your information. This video also provides an introduction to the activities in the Cybersecurity Lab.

Do you trust the security of your email, text messages, and browser history? Learn how trustworthy online communication actually is and how encryption can protect your privacy. Sometimes.

Hackers may not be who we think they are. In fact, you might be a hacker and not even know it. Learn the true meaning of hacking and some of the many reasons hackers hack.

Follow the trials and tribulations of Tim as a seemingly innocent piece of information threatens to ruin his life when it falls into the wrong hands.

Teacher Tips for Using the Cybersecurity Lab

The Cybersecurity Lab is a great resource for educators who want to teach their students best practices for staying safe online and introduce them to computer science principles and the architecture of online networks. In addition, school technology and media certified can use the Cybersecurity Lab as an orientation activity for students before they begin using online resources. English and social studies educators can also use the Cybersecurity Lab to reinforce textual analysis skills, as students must find textual evidence, draw inferences, and make judgments about the validity of sources in the Social Engineering Challenge.

  • Encourage students to create a NOVA Labs account before they start the Cybersecurity Lab for at-home or in-class completion. With an account, students will be able to save their progress in the Lab and also generate a Lab Report that tracks their completion of the game and video quizzes.
  • Use the Cybersecurity Lab video quizzes as a formative or summative assessment to gauge student understanding of the content.
  • After watching the videos, facilitate an in-class discussion with students about the content. Possible discussion syllabus include: 1.) The changes in technology in the past 15 years that have made cybersecurity such a pressing issue, 2.) Students’ experiences with cybersecurity, or 3.) How much of their lives students share online and the ramifications of sharing
  • Upon completion of the Cybersecurity Lab game, assign the cybersecurity stories as studying assignments with discussion questions that students can complete for homework.

Lesson Plan

Engage (10 min) – Intro activity that poses a question or calls upon prior knowledge

  • Have students watch Cybersecurity 101 and discuss what they know about cybersecurity and what safety measures they currently take with their online information.

Explore (20 min) – Students explore a hypothesis and collect data

  • Challenge students with the question, “How aware are you of the best practices for staying safe online?” Explain to students that in the game, they will explore ways that they can stay safe online and avoid security breaches.
  • Instruct students to create a list of tips that they would follow to avoid online scams and to create reliable passwords.
  • Instruct students to complete all the Level 1 challenges in the game.

Explain (15 min) – Direct instruction and content delivery

  • Reconvene and discuss some of the best practices that they learned and whether they encountered any information that supported or contradicted the tips they compiled before the game.
  • Present the best practices and the glossary terms that are essential to understand cybersecurity and instruct students to take notes.

Elaborate (45 min) – Apply content knowledge and skills to problem (guided practice)

  • Instruct students to complete the remainder of the game and to take notes on other best practices they encounter while playing the game. The Cybersecurity Lab also works well for group play, as students can collaborate in problem solving.

Evaluate (20 min) – Formal assessment (independent practice)

  • Students should complete the video quizzes and turn in their Lab report with confirmation of Lab completion.
  • Educators should also use this opportunity to assess student learning, with short response discussion questions summarizing best practices, the cybersecurity stories, and the glossary terms.

Related Resources

NOVA's Resources

Learn about “Watson,” the Jeopardy!-playing supercomputer in this video excerpt from NOVA scienceNOW: "How Does the Brain Work?" Created by a team at IBM, Watson was designed to answer questions on a variety of subjects and was put to the test by competing against human contestants on the quiz show Jeopardy!.

In this video from NOVA scienceNOW, meet Luis von Ahn, a computer scientist and professor at Carnegie Mellon who is already at the top of his field at age thirty. Learn about one of his most successful ideas—CAPTCHA—a test that humans can pass but computers cannot, which has been used to Strengthen the security of Internet sites.

In this video from NOVA scienceNOW: "Can Science Stop Crime?," explore how advances in information technology are making cars increasingly susceptible to cyber attacks.

External Resources

Learn how to protect yourself, your family, and your devices with tips and resources from the National Cyber Security Alliance.

Learn the basic concepts of computer science with drag-and-drop programming. This is a game-like, self-directed tutorial featuring video lectures by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Angry Birds, and Plants vs. Zombies. The Hour of Code is a continuation of the skills and problem-solving strategies that students encounter in the Coding Challenge, where they learn repeat-loops, conditionals, and basic algorithms.

Code Academy offers free, interactive courses for learning how to code. Learn everything from HTML to PHP and demonstrate your mastery of these coding languages by building websites and manipulating data in servers.

Tue, 17 Aug 2021 01:33:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : 5 Surefire Ways To Inspire Others More Deeply And Powerfully Next Year

Part Of The Series "Today's True Leadership"

This time of year, many of us are reflecting on the past 12 months, thinking about what we’ve done well and what we’d like to learn from, as well as where we’d like next year to take us.

Whether you’re a leader, manager, solopreneur, small business owner, parent, or anyone who wants more impact and to inspire others, there’s one New Year’s Resolution that can Strengthen everything you’re focused on right now. That’s learning how to inspire, uplift, transform and engage people so they can become their highest and best selves, contribute at their highest level, and reach their most exciting goals and visions.

How do we inspire others? I’ve seen that there are five critical ways that the most inspiring people have honed how they operate and interact with the world, so that they stand as a lighthouse for us, shining their light to make our way even clearer.

Below are five ways you can become more inspiring next year, and bring out the best in yourself and in your family, community, work culture and organization:

Be kinder and more compassionate.

Our world has undeniably grown colder, crueler and more disparaging with every minute. The internet and the anonymity of online interaction has only exacerbated this trend, and the speed of work and intensive pressure we face has dehumanized our interactions. Many have become more impatient, stressed, angry, and downright cruel.  Here’s a deeply saddening example of online cruelty, along with a beautiful, inspiring response from Lizzie Velasquez about the cruelty aimed at her.

The opposite of cruelty is kindness, and the rarity of kindness today means that when we see raw, pure kindness demonstrated in front of us, especially to those who’ve been cast out somehow or rejected, we’re often stunned and moved to tears.  The reality is that most of us desperately crave kindness, and continually search for it in vain.

Here’s a deeply moving and inspiring talk from Dr. Maya Angelou, about finding a way to be someone’s rainbow in their clouds:

What to do? Ask yourself, Where am I being stingy with my kindness? To whom have I withheld my kindness, care and compassion, and why is that? What would do I need to heal to access more kindness in my heart?”

Don’t take it all so seriously.

With the intense pressures of our lives today, we’ve forgotten how to laugh. The more you can distance yourself from your fragile, defensive ego and uptight personality that takes everything so personally and seriously, the more you’ll inspire people to feel free be who they really are, authentically and openly.  Authenticity enlivens people, because they feel they can finally be free to be open, make mistakes, laugh at their foibles, and move forward boldly integrating what they've learned from their mistakes to build a better, happier life and livelihood.

What to do? Take some time out each day to tap into your sense of lightness and humor.  Breathe deeply, meditate for a few minutes, talk a walk, and let your lightness and easy-going nature emerge. , pressing or life-and-death. Plug into something that makes you laugh from your belly every day.

Become a riveting storyteller.

Nothing inspires and uplifts us more than a riveting, personal story that is both universal  (in that it speaks to all of us about what we want more of)  but also powerfully individual, filled with specific life details that weave together a picture that teaches us something about what it is to be human.

What to do? Check out Nancy Duarte’s riveting research and watch her TEDx talk on the secret structure of great talks. Then take some time to craft your own riveting personal story, and share it widely.

Stand in the shoes of the one you judge most harshly.

Nothing is uglier than someone who judges, tears down, demeans and diminishes other people for being different.  You simply can’t be an inspiring individual or leader if you gossip, criticize, and tear down others who aren’t like you.

What to do? Stop using your language as a weapon, and . Stand in the shoes of the very individual who makes you so angry and frustrated. Try to understand exactly how and why you’re different, and find a way to embrace that difference rather than tear it down.  Learn about the six dominant action styles humans use to take action towards a goal, and identify your specific action style. Understanding your style will help you see how and why others are different and why we need those very differences to make up a whole and healthy society and world.

Bravely honor and stand up for what you believe in.

Finally, we’ve all heard stories of individuals, leaders and managers who, in the face of terrible challenge and crises, have become more brave, honorable, ethical and accountable.  Here’s a powerful example of this – Vietnam POW Lee Ellis shares what his harrowing POW experience taught him about leadership and engaging with honor.

In times of crisis, these inspiring leaders know that all they have to cling to is their honor, integrity and personal accountability for how they will react to the world.  And they won’t compromise that for anything.  For a life-changing read on this topic, read holocaust survivor Dr. Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning.

We’ve also heard the rare stories of a leader or manager whose employee made an enormous, costly mistake,  yet they choose not to fire the individual, but stand behind him or her instead.

One example is Thomas J. Watson, former Chairman and CEO of IBM who has been said to have shared this about standing behind an employee who made a huge mistake:

“Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?”

Do you know many leaders who are truly brave?  So many today don’t actually lead – they follow. They pursue (with cowardice) what they think they have to in order to look powerful, save face, and protect their own skins.

What to do? Examine where you’re not being brave in how you work, act, and communicate.  Decide to finally stand up for what you believe in, and speak powerfully about what you value. Find a way to become more personally accountable rather than blaming others for what isn’t going well.  When you become braver, and rise up for yourself, you’ll inevitably find that what isn’t working around you, and people who are dishonorable, cruel, and lacking in accountability, will begin to fall away.

To become more inspiring in your life and work, join my Brave Up Life Mastery program, and watch my TEDx Talk “Time to Brave Up.”

Thu, 21 Jul 2022 05:15:00 -0500 Kathy Caprino en text/html
Killexams : Did the Universe Just Happen? Killexams : The Atlantic | April 1988 | Did the Universe Just Happen? | Wright

More on science and technology from The Atlantic Monthly.

The Atlantic Monthly | April 1988

I. Flying Solo

d Fredkin is scanning the visual field systematically. He checks the instrument panel regularly. He is cool, collected, in control. He is the optimally efficient pilot.

The plane is a Cessna Stationair Six—a six-passenger single-engine amphibious plane, the kind with the wheels recessed in pontoons. Fredkin bought it not long ago and is still working out a few kinks; right now he is taking it for a spin above the British Virgin Islands after some minor mechanical work.

He points down at several brown-green masses of land, embedded in a turquoise sea so clear that the shadows of yachts are distinctly visible on its sandy bottom. He singles out a small island with a good-sized villa and a swimming pool, and explains that the compound, and the island as well, belong to "the guy that owns Boy George"—the rock star's agent, or manager, or something.

I remark, loudly enough to overcome the engine noise, "It's nice."

Yes, Fredkin says, it's nice. He adds, "It's not as nice as my island."

He's joking, I guess, but he's right. Ed Fredkin's island, which soon comes into view, is bigger and prettier. It is about 125 acres, and the hill that constitutes its bulk is a deep green—a mixture of reeds and cacti, sea grape and turpentine trees, machineel and frangipani. Its beaches range from prosaic to sublime, and the coral in the waters just offshore attracts little and big fish whose colors look as if they were coordinated by Alexander Julian. On the island's west side are immense rocks, suitable for careful climbing, and on the east side are a bar and restaurant and a modest hotel, which consists of three clapboard buildings, each with a few rooms. Between east and west is Fredkin's secluded island villa. All told, Moskito Island—or Drake's Anchorage, as the brochures call it—is a nice place for Fredkin to spend the few weeks of each year when he is not up in the Boston area tending his various other businesses.

In addition to being a self-made millionaire, Fredkin is a self-made intellectual. Twenty years ago, at the age of thirty-four, without so much as a bachelor's degree to his name, he became a full professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Though hired to teach computer science, and then selected to guide MIT's now eminent computer-science laboratory through some of its formative years, he soon branched out into more-offbeat things. Perhaps the most idiosyncratic of the courses he has taught is one on "digital physics," in which he propounded the most idiosyncratic of his several idiosyncratic theories. This theory is the reason I've come to Fredkin's island. It is one of those things that a person has to be prepared for. The preparer has to say, "Now, this is going to sound pretty weird, and in a way it is, but in a way it's not as weird as it sounds, and you'll see this once you understand it, but that may take a while, so in the meantime don't prejudge it, and don't casually dismiss it." Ed Fredkin thinks that the universe is a computer.

Fredkin works in a twilight zone of modern science—the interface of computer science and physics. Here two concepts that traditionally have ranked among science's most fundamental—matter and energy—keep bumping into a third: information. The exact relationship among the three is a question without a clear answer, a question vague enough, and basic enough, to have inspired a wide variety of opinions. Some scientists have settled for modest and sober answers. Information, they will tell you, is just one of many forms of matter and energy; it is embodied in things like a computer's electrons and a brain's neural firings, things like newsprint and radio waves, and that is that. Others talk in grander terms, suggesting that information deserves full equality with matter and energy, that it should join them in some sort of scientific trinity, that these three things are the main ingredients of reality.

Fredkin goes further still. According to his theory of digital physics, information is more fundamental than matter and energy. He believes that atoms, electrons, and quarks consist ultimately of bits—binary units of information, like those that are the currency of computation in a personal computer or a pocket calculator. And he believes that the behavior of those bits, and thus of the entire universe, is governed by a single programming rule. This rule, Fredkin says, is something fairly simple, something vastly less arcane than the mathematical constructs that conventional physicists use to explain the dynamics of physical reality. Yet through ceaseless repetition—by tirelessly taking information it has just transformed and transforming it further—it has generated pervasive complexity. Fredkin calls this rule, with discernible reverence, "the cause and prime mover of everything."

T THE RESTAURANT ON FREDKIN'S ISLAND THE FOOD is prepared by a large man named Brutus and is humbly submitted to diners by men and women native to nearby islands. The restaurant is open-air, ventilated by a sea breeze that is warm during the day, cool at night, and almost always moist. Between the diners and the ocean is a knee-high stone wall, against which waves lap rhythmically. Beyond are other islands and a horizon typically blanketed by cottony clouds. Above is a thatched ceiling, concealing, if the truth be told, a sheet of corrugated steel. It is lunchtime now, and Fredkin is sitting in a cane-and-wicker chair across the table from me, wearing a light cotton sport shirt and gray swimming trunks. He was out trying to windsurf this morning, and he enjoyed only the marginal success that one would predict on the basis of his appearance. He is fairly tall and very thin, and has a softness about him—not effeminacy, but a gentleness of expression and manner—and the complexion of a scholar; even after a week on the island, his face doesn't vary much from white, except for his nose, which is red. The plastic frames of his glasses, in a modified aviator configuration, surround narrow eyes; there are times—early in the morning or right after a nap—when his eyes barely qualify as slits. His hair, perennially semi-combed, is black with a little gray.

Fredkin is a pleasant mealtime companion. He has much to say that is interesting, which is fortunate because generally he does most of the talking. He has little curiosity about other people's minds, unless their interests happen to coincide with his, which few people's do. "He's right above us," his wife, Joyce, once explained to me, holding her left hand just above her head, parallel to the ground. "Right here looking down. He's not looking down saying, 'I know more than you.' He's just going along his own way."

The food has not yet arrived, and Fredkin is passing the time by describing the world view into which his theory of digital physics fits. "There are three great philosophical questions," he begins. "What is life? What is consciousness and thinking and memory and all that? And how does the universe work?" He says that his "informational viewpoint" encompasses all three. Take life, for example. Deoxyribonucleic acid, the material of heredity, is "a good example of digitally encoded information," he says. "The information that implies what a creature or a plant is going to be is encoded; it has its representation in the DNA, right? Okay, now, there is a process that takes that information and transforms it into the creature, okay?" His point is that a mouse, for example, is "a big, complicated informational process."

Fredkin exudes rationality. His voice isn't quite as even and precise as Mr. Spock's, but it's close, and the parallels don't end there. He rarely displays emotion—except, perhaps, the slightest sign of irritation under the most trying circumstances. He has never seen a problem that didn't have a perfectly logical solution, and he believes strongly that intelligence can be mechanized without limit. More than ten years ago he founded the Fredkin Prize, a $100,000 award to be given to the creator of the first computer program that can beat a world chess champion. No one has won it yet, and Fredkin hopes to have the award raised to $1 million.

Fredkin is hardly alone in considering DNA a form of information, but this observation was less common back when he first made it. So too with many of his ideas. When his world view crystallized, a quarter of a century ago, he immediately saw dozens of large-scale implications, in fields ranging from physics to biology to psychology. A number of these have gained currency since then, and he considers this trend an ongoing substantiation of his entire outlook.

Fredkin talks some more and then recaps. "What I'm saying is that at the most basic level of complexity an information process runs what we think of as physics. At the much higher level of complexity life, DNA—you know, the biochemical functions—are controlled by a digital information process. Then, at another level, our thought processes are basically information processing." That is not to say, he stresses, that everything is best viewed as information. "It's just like there's mathematics and all these other things, but not everything is best viewed from a mathematical viewpoint. So what's being said is not that this comes along and replaces everything. It's one more avenue of modeling reality, and it happens to cover the sort of three biggest philosophical mysteries. So it sort of completes the picture."

Among the scientists who don't dismiss Fredkin's theory of digital physics out of hand is Marvin Minsky, a computer scientist and polymath at MIT, whose renown approaches cultic proportions in some circles. Minsky calls Fredkin "Einstein-like" in his ability to find deep principles through simple intellectual excursions. If it is true that most physicists think Fredkin is off the wall, Minsky told me, it is also true that "most physicists are the ones who don't invent new theories"; they go about their work with tunnel vision, never questioning the dogma of the day. When it comes to the kind of basic reformulation of thought proposed by Fredkin, "there's no point in talking to anyone but a Feynman or an Einstein or a Pauli," Minsky says. "The rest are just Republicans and Democrats." I talked with Richard Feynman, a Nobel laureate at the California Institute of Technology, before his death, in February. Feynman considered Fredkin a brilliant and consistently original, though sometimes incautious, thinker. If anyone is going to come up with a new and fruitful way of looking at physics, Feynman said, Fredkin will.

Notwithstanding their moral support, though, neither Feynman nor Minsky was ever convinced that the universe is a computer. They were endorsing Fredkin's mind, not this particular manifestation of it. When it comes to digital physics, Ed Fredkin is flying solo.

He knows that, and he regrets that his ideas continue to lack the support of his colleagues. But his self-confidence is unshaken. You see, Fredkin has had an odd childhood, and an odd education, and an odd career, all of which, he explains, have endowed him with an odd perspective, from which the essential nature of the universe happens to be clearly visible. "I feel like I'm the only person with eyes in a world where everyone's blind," he says.

II. A Finely Mottled Universe

HE PRIME MOVER OF EVERYTHING, THE SINGLE principle that governs the universe, lies somewhere within a class of computer programs known as cellular automata, according to Fredkin.

The cellular automaton was invented in the early 1950s by John von Neumann, one of the architects of computer science and a seminal thinker in several other fields. Von Neumann (who was stimulated in this and other inquiries by the ideas of the mathematician Stanislaw Ulam) saw cellular automata as a way to study reproduction abstractly, but the word cellular is not meant biologically when used in this context. It refers, rather, to adjacent spaces—cells—that together form a pattern. These days the cells typically appear on a computer screen, though von Neumann, lacking this convenience, rendered them on paper.

In some respects cellular automata resemble those splendid graphic displays produced by patriotic masses in authoritarian societies and by avid football fans at American universities. Holding up large colored cards on cue, they can collectively generate a portrait of, say, Lenin, Mao Zedong, or a University of Southern California Trojan. More impressive still, one portrait can fade out and another crystallize in no time at all. Again and again one frozen frame melts into another It is a spectacular feat of precision and planning.

But suppose there were no planning. Suppose that instead of arranging a succession of cards to display, everyone learned a single rule for repeatedly determining which card was called for next. This rule might assume any of a number of forms. For example, in a crowd where all cards were either blue or white, each card holder could be instructed to look at his own card and the cards of his four nearest neighbors—to his front, back, left, and right—and do what the majority did during the last frame. (This five-cell group is known as the von Neumann neighborhood.) Alternatively, each card holder could be instructed to do the opposite of what the majority did. In either event the result would be a series not of predetermined portraits but of more abstract, unpredicted patterns. If, by prior agreement, we began with a USC Trojan, its white face might dissolve into a sea of blue, as whitecaps drifted aimlessly across the stadium. Conversely, an ocean of randomness could yield islands of structure—not a Trojan, perhaps, but at least something that didn't look entirely accidental. It all depends on the original pattern of cells and the rule used to transform it incrementally.

This leaves room for abundant variety. There are many ways to define a neighborhood, and for any given neighborhood there are many possible rules, most of them more complicated than blind conformity or implacable nonconformity. Each cell may, for instance, not only count cells in the vicinity but also pay attention to which particular cells are doing what. All told, the number of possible rules is an exponential function of the number of cells in the neighborhood; the von Neumann neighborhood alone has 232, or around 4 billion, possible rules, and the nine-cell neighborhood that results from adding corner cells offers 2512, or roughly 1 with 154 zeros after it, possibilities. But whatever neighborhoods, and whatever rules, are programmed into a computer, two things are always true of cellular automata: all cells use the same rule to determine future behavior by reference to the past behavior of neighbors, and all cells obey the rule simultaneously, time after time.

In the late 1950s, shortly after becoming acquainted with cellular automata, Fredkin began playing around with rules, selecting the powerful and interesting and discarding the weak and bland. He found, for example, that any rule requiring all four of a cell's immediate neighbors to be lit up in order for the cell itself to be lit up at the next moment would not provide sustained entertainment; a single "off" cell would proliferate until darkness covered the computer screen. But equally simple rules could create great complexity. The first such rule discovered by Fredkin dictated that a cell be on if an odd number of cells in its von Neumann neighborhood had been on, and off otherwise. After "seeding" a good, powerful rule with an irregular landscape of off and on cells, Fredkin could watch rich patterns bloom, some freezing upon maturity, some eventually dissipating, others locking into a cycle of growth and decay. A colleague, after watching one of Fredkin's rules in action, suggested that he sell the program to a designer of Persian rugs.

Today new cellular-automaton rules are formulated and tested by the "information-mechanics group" founded by Fredkin at MIT's computer-science laboratory. The core of the group is an international duo of physicists, Tommaso Toffoli, of Italy, and Norman Margolus, of Canada. They differ in the degree to which they take Fredkin's theory of physics seriously, but both agree with him that there is value in exploring the relationship between computation and physics, and they have spent much time using cellular automata to simulate physical processes. In the basement of the computer-science laboratory is the CAM—the cellular automaton machine, designed by Toffoli and Margolus partly for that purpose. Its screen has 65,536 cells, each of which can assume any of four colors and can change color sixty times a second.

The CAM is an engrossing, potentially mesmerizing machine. Its four colors—the three primaries and black—intermix rapidly and intricately enough to form subtly shifting hues of almost any gradation; pretty waves of deep blue or red ebb and flow with fine fluidity and sometimes with rhythm, playing on the edge between chaos and order.

Guided by the right rule, the CAM can do a respectable imitation of pond water rippling outward circularly in deference to a descending pebble, or of bubbles forming at the bottom of a pot of boiling water, or of a snowflake blossoming from a seed of ice: step by step, a single "ice crystal" in the center of the screen unfolds into a full-fledged flake, a six-edged sheet of ice riddled symmetrically with dark pockets of mist. (It is easy to see how a cellular automaton can capture the principles thought to govern the growth of a snowflake: regions of vapor that find themselves in the vicinity of a budding snowflake freeze—unless so nearly enveloped by ice crystals that they cannot discharge enough heat to freeze.)

These exercises are fun to watch, and they supply one a sense of the cellular automaton's power, but Fredkin is not particularly interested in them. After all, a snowflake is not, at the visible level, literally a cellular automaton; an ice crystal is not a single, indivisible bit of information, like the cell that portrays it. Fredkin believes that automata will more faithfully mirror reality as they are applied to its more fundamental levels and the rules needed to model the motion of molecules, atoms, electrons, and quarks are uncovered. And he believes that at the most fundamental level (whatever that turns out to be) the automaton will describe the physical world with perfect precision, because at that level the universe is a cellular automaton, in three dimensions—a crystalline lattice of interacting logic units, each one "deciding" zillions of point in time. The information thus produced, Fredkin says, is the fabric of reality, the stuff of which matter and energy are made. An electron, in Fredkin's universe, is nothing more than a pattern of information, and an orbiting electron is nothing more than that pattern moving. Indeed, even this motion is in some sense illusory: the bits of information that constitute the pattern never move, any more than football fans would change places to slide a USC Trojan four seats to the left. Each bit stays put and confines its activity to blinking on and off. "You see, I don't believe that there are objects like electrons and photons, and things which are themselves and nothing else," Fredkin says. What I believe is that there's an information process, and the bits, when they're in certain configurations, behave like the thing we call the electron, or the hydrogen atom, or whatever."

HE READER MAY NOW HAVE A NUMBER OF questions that unless satisfactorily answered will lead to something approaching contempt for Fredkin's thinking. One such question concerns the way cellular automata chop space and time into little bits. Most conventional theories of physics reflect the intuition that reality is continuous—that one "point" in time is no such thing but, rather, flows seamlessly into the next, and that space, similarly, doesn't come in little chunks but is perfectly smooth. Fredkin's theory implies that both space and time have a graininess to them, and that the grains cannot be chopped up into smaller grains; that people and dogs and trees and oceans, at rock bottom, are more like mosaics than like paintings; and that time's essence is better captured by a digital watch than by a grandfather clock.

The obvious question is, Why do space and time seem continuous if they are not? The obvious answer is, The cubes of space and points of time are very, very small: time seems continuous in just the way that movies seem to move when in fact they are frames, and the illusion of spatial continuity is akin to the emergence of smooth shades from the finely mottled texture of a newspaper photograph.

The obvious answer, Fredkin says, is not the whole answer; the illusion of continuity is yet more deeply ingrained in our situation. Even if the ticks on the universal clock were, in some absolute sense, very slow, time would still seem continuous to us, since our perception, itself proceeding in the same ticks, would be no more finely grained than the processes being perceived. So too with spatial perception: Can eyes composed of the smallest units in existence perceive those units? Could any informational process sense its ultimate constituents? The point is that the basic units of time and space in Fredkin's reality don't just happen to be imperceptibly small. As long as the creatures doing the perceiving are in that reality, the units have to be imperceptibly small.

Though some may find this discreteness hard to comprehend, Fredkin finds a grainy reality more sensible than a smooth one. If reality is truly continuous, as most physicists now believe it is, then there must be quantities that cannot be expressed with a finite number of digits; the number representing the strength of an electromagnetic field, for example, could begin 5.23429847 and go on forever without failing into a pattern of repetition. That seems strange to Fredkin: wouldn't you eventually get to a point, around the hundredth, or thousandth, or millionth decimal place, where you had hit the strength of the field right on the nose? Indeed, wouldn't you expect that every physical quantity has an exactness about it? Well, you might and might not. But Fredkin does expect exactness, and in his universe he gets it.

Fredkin has an interesting way of expressing his insistence that all physical quantities be "rational." (A rational number is a number that can be expressed as a fraction—as a ratio of one integer to another. Expressed as a decimal, a rational number will either end, as 5/2 does in the form of 2.5, or repeat itself endlessly, as 1/7 does in the form of 0.142857142857142 . . .) He says he finds it hard to believe that a finite volume of space could contain an infinite amount of information. It is almost as if he viewed each parcel of space as having the digits describing it actually crammed into it. This seems an odd perspective, one that confuses the thing itself with the information it represents. But such an inversion between the realm of things and the realm of representation is common among those who work at the interface of computer science and physics. Contemplating the essence of information seems to affect the way you think.

The prospect of a discrete reality, however alien to the average person, is easier to fathom than the problem of the infinite regress, which is also raised by Fredkin's theory. The problem begins with the fact that information typically has a physical basis. Writing consists of ink; speech is composed of sound waves; even the computer's ephemeral bits and bytes are grounded in configurations of electrons. If the electrons are in turn made of information, then what is the information made of?

Asking questions like this ten or twelve times is not a good way to earn Fredkin's respect. A look of exasperation passes fleetingly over his face. "What I've tried to explain is that—and I hate to do this, because physicists are always doing this in an obnoxious way—is that the question implies you're missing a very important concept." He gives it one more try, two more tries, three, and eventually some of the fog between me and his view of the universe disappears. I begin to understand that this is a theory not just of physics but of metaphysics. When you disentangle these theories—compare the physics with other theories of physics, and the metaphysics with other ideas about metaphysics—both sound less far-fetched than when jumbled together as one. And, as a bonus, Fredkin's metaphysics leads to a kind of high-tech theology—to speculation about supreme beings and the purpose of life.

III. The Perfect Thing

DWARD FREDKIN WAS BORN IN 1934, THE LAST OF three children in a previously prosperous family. His father, Manuel, had come to Southern California from Russia shortly after the Revolution and founded a chain of radio stores that did not survive the Great Depression. The family learned economy, and Fredkin has not forgotten it. He can reach into his pocket, pull out a tissue that should have been retired weeks ago, and, with cleaning solution, make an entire airplane windshield clear. He can take even a well-written computer program, sift through it for superfluous instructions, and edit it accordingly, reducing both its size and its running time.

Manuel was by all accounts a competitive man, and he focused his competitive energies on the two boys: Edward and his older brother, Norman. Manuel routinely challenged Ed's mastery of fact, inciting sustained arguments over, say, the distance between the moon and the earth. Norman's theory is that his father, though bright, was intellectually insecure; he seemed somehow threatened by the knowledge the boys brought home from school. Manuel's mistrust of books, experts, and all other sources of received wisdom was absorbed by Ed.

So was his competitiveness. Fredkin always considered himself the smartest kid in his class. He used to place bets with other students on exam scores. This habit did not endear him to his peers, and he seems in general to have lacked the prerequisites of popularity. His sense of humor was unusual. His interests were not widely shared. His physique was not a force to be reckoned with. He recalls, "When I was young—you know, sixth, seventh grade—two kids would be choosing sides for a game of something. It could be touch football. They'd choose everybody but me, and then there'd be a fight as to whether one side would have to take me. One side would say, 'We have eight and you have seven,' and they'd say, 'That's okay.' They'd be willing to play with seven." Though exhaustive in documenting his social alienation, Fredkin concedes that he was not the only unpopular student in school. "There was a socially active subgroup, probably not a majority, maybe forty percent, who were very socially active. They went out on dates. They went to parties. They did this and they did that. The others were left out. And I was in this big left-out group. But I was in the pole position. I was really left out."

Of the hours Fredkin spent alone, a good many were devoted to courting disaster in the name of science. By wiring together scores of large, 45-volt batteries, he collected enough electricity to conjure up vivid, erratic arcs. By scraping the heads off matches and buying sulfur, saltpeter, and charcoal, he acquired a good working knowledge of pyrotechnics. He built small, minimally destructive but visually impressive bombs, and fashioned rockets out of cardboard tubing and aluminum foil. But more than bombs and rockets, it was mechanisms that captured Fredkin's attention. From an early age he was viscerally attracted to Big Ben alarm clocks, which he methodically took apart and put back together. He also picked up his father's facility with radios and household appliances. But whereas Manuel seemed to fix things without understanding the underlying science, his son was curious about first principles.

So while other kids were playing baseball or chasing girls, Ed Fredkin was taking things apart and putting them back together Children were aloof, even cruel, but a broken clock always responded gratefully to a healing hand. "I always got along well with machines," he remembers.

After graduation from high school, in 1952, Fredkin headed for the California Institute of Technology with hopes of finding a more appreciative social environment. But students at Caltech turned out to bear a disturbing resemblance to people he had observed elsewhere. "They were smart like me," he recalls, "but they had the full spectrum and distribution of social development." Once again Fredkin found his weekends unencumbered by parties. And once again he didn't spend his free time studying. Indeed, one of the few lessons he learned is that college is different from high school: in college if you don't study, you flunk out. This he did a few months into his sophomore year. Then, following in his brother's footsteps, he joined the Air Force and learned to fly fighter planes.

T WAS THE AIR FORCE THAT FINALLY BROUGHT Fredkin face to face with a computer. He was working for the Air Proving Ground Command, whose function was to ensure that everything from combat boots to bombers was of top quality, when the unit was given the job of testing a computerized air-defense system known as SAGE (for "semi-automatic ground environment"), To test SAGE the Air Force needed men who knew something about computers, and so in 1956 a group from the Air Proving Ground Command, including Fredkin, was sent to MIT's Lincoln Laboratory and enrolled in computer-science courses. "Everything made instant sense to me," Fredkin remembers. "I just soaked it up like a sponge."

SAGE, when ready for testing, turned out to be even more complex than anticipated—too complex to be tested by anyone but genuine experts—and the job had to be contracted out. This development, combined with bureaucratic disorder, meant that Fredkin was now a man without a function, a sort of visiting scholar at Lincoln Laboratory. "For a period of time, probably over a year, no one ever came to tell me to do anything. Well, meanwhile, down the hall they installed the latest, most modern computer in the world—IBM's biggest, most powerful computer. So I just went down and started to program it." The computer was an XD-1. It was slower and less capacious than an Apple Macintosh and was roughly the size of a large house.

When Fredkin talks about his year alone with this dinosaur, you half expect to hear violins start playing in the background. "My whole way of life was just waiting for the computer to come along," he says. "The computer was in essence just the perfect thing." It was in some respects preferable to every other conglomeration of matter he had encountered—more sophisticated and flexible than other inorganic machines, and more logical than organic ones. "See, when I write a program, if I write it correctly, it will work. If I'm dealing with a person, and I tell him something, and I tell him correctly, it may or may not work."

The XD-1, in short, was an intelligence with which Fredkin could empathize. It was the ultimate embodiment of mechanical predictability, the refuge to which as a child he had retreated from the incomprehensibly hostile world of humanity. If the universe is indeed a computer, then it could be a friendly place after all.

During the several years after his arrival at Lincoln Lab, as Fredkin was joining the first generation of hackers, he was also immersing himself in physics—finally learning, through self-instruction, the lessons he had missed by dropping out of Caltech. It is this two-track education, Fredkin says, that led him to the theory of digital physics. For a time "there was no one in the world with the same interest in physics who had the intimate experience with computers that I did. I honestly think that there was a period of many years when I was in a unique position."

The uniqueness lay not only in the fusion of physics and computer science but also in the peculiar composition of Fredkin's physics curriculum. Many physicists acquire as children the sort of kinship with mechanism that he still feels, but in most cases it is later diluted by formal education; quantum mechanics, the prevailing paradigm in contemporary physics, seems to imply that at its core, reality, has truly random elements and is thus inherently unpredictable. But Fredkin escaped the usual indoctrination. To this day he maintains, as did Albert Einstein, that the common interpretation of quantum mechanics is mistaken—that any seeming indeterminacy in the subatomic world reflects only our ignorance of the determining principles, not their absence. This is a critical belief, for if he is wrong and the universe is not ultimately deterministic, then it cannot be governed by a process as exacting as computation.

After leaving the Air Force, Fredkin went to work for Bolt Beranek and Newman, a consulting firm in the Boston area, now known for its work in artificial intelligence and computer networking. His supervisor at BBN, J. C. R. Licklider, says of his first encounter with Fredkin, "It was obvious to me he was very unusual and probably a genius, and the more I came to know him, the more I came to think that that was not too elevated a description." Fredkin "worked almost continuously," Licklider recalls. "It was hard to get him to go to sleep sometimes." A pattern emerged. Licklider would supply Fredkin a problem to work on—say, figuring out how to get a computer to search a text in its memory for an only partially specified sequence of letters. Fredkin would retreat to his office and return twenty or thirty hours later with the solution—or, rather, a solution; he often came back with the answer to a question different from the one that Licklider had asked. Fredkin's focus was intense but undisciplined, and it tended to stray from a problem as soon as he was confident that he understood the solution in principle.

This intellectual wanderlust is one of Fredkin's most enduring and exasperating traits. Just about everyone who knows him has a way of describing it: "He doesn't really work. He sort of fiddles." "Very often he has these great ideas and then does not have the discipline to cultivate the idea." "There is a gap between the quality of the original ideas and what follows. There's an imbalance there." Fredkin is aware of his reputation. In self-parody he once brought a cartoon to a friend's attention: A beaver and another forest animal are contemplating an immense man-made dam. The beaver is saying something like, "No, I didn't actually build it. But it's based on an idea of mine."

Among the ideas that congealed in Fredkin's mind during his stay at BBN is the one that gave him his current reputation as (depending on whom you talk to) a thinker of great depth and rare insight, a source of interesting but reckless speculation, or a crackpot.

IV. Tick by Tick, Dot by Dot

HE IDEA THAT THE UNIVERSE IS A COMPUTER WAS inspired partly by the idea of the universal computer. Universal computer, a term that can accurately be applied to everything from an IBM PC to a Cray supercomputer, has a technical, rigorous definition, but here its upshot will do: a universal computer can simulate any process that can be precisely described and perform any calculation that is performable.

This broad power is ultimately grounded in something very simple: the algorithm. An algorithm is a fixed procedure for converting input into output, for taking one body of information and turning it into another. For example, a computer program that takes any number it is given, squares it, and subtracts three is an algorithm. This isn't a very powerful algorithm; by taking a 3 and turning it into a 6, it hasn't created much new information. But algorithms become more powerful with recursion. A recursive algorithm is an algorithm whose output is fed back into it as input. Thus the algorithm that turned 3 into 6, if operating recursively, would continue, turning 6 into 33, then 33 into 1,086, then 1,086 into 1,179,393, and so on.

The power of recursive algorithms is especially apparent in the simulation of physical processes. While Fredkin was at BBN, he would use the company's Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-1 computer to simulate, say, two particles, one that was positively charged and one that was negatively charged, orbiting each other in accordance with the laws of electromagnetism. It was a pretty sight: two phosphor dots dancing, each etching a green trail that faded into yellow and then into darkness. But for Fredkin the attraction lay less in this elegant image than in its underlying logic. The program he had written took the particles' velocities and positions at one point in time, computed those variables for the next point in time, and then fed the new variables back into the algorithm to get newer variables—and so on and so on, thousands of times a second. The several steps in this algorithm, Fredkin recalls, were "very simple and very beautiful." It was in these orbiting phosphor dots that Fredkin first saw the appeal of his kind of universe—a universe that proceeds tick by tick and dot by dot, a universe in which complexity boils down to rules of elementary simplicity.

Fredkin's discovery of cellular automata a few years later permitted him further to indulge his taste for economy of information and strengthened his bond with the recursive algorithm. The patterns of automata are often all but impossible to describe with calculus yet easy to express algorithmically. Nothing is so striking about a good cellular automaton as the contrast between the simplicity of the underlying algorithm and the richness of its result. We have all felt the attraction of such contrasts. It accompanies the comprehension of any process, conceptual or physical, by which simplicity accommodates complexity. Simple solutions to complex problems, for example, make us feel good. The social engineer who designs uncomplicated legislation that will cure numerous social ills, the architect who eliminates several nagging design flaws by moving a single closet, the doctor who traces gastro-intestinal, cardiovascular, and respiratory ailments to a single, correctable cause—all feel the same kind of visceral, aesthetic satisfaction that must have filled the first caveman who literally killed two birds with one stone.

For scientists, the moment of discovery does not simply reinforce the search for knowledge; it inspires further research. Indeed, it directs research. The unifying principle, upon its apprehension, can elicit such devotion that thereafter the scientist looks everywhere for manifestations of it. It was the scientist in Fredkin who, upon seeing how a simple programming rule could yield immense complexity, got excited about looking at physics in a new way and stayed excited. He spent much of the next three decades fleshing out his intuition.

REDKIN'S RESIGNATION FROM BOLT BERANEK AND Newman did not surprise Licklider. "I could tell that Ed was disappointed in the scope of projects undertaken at BBN. He would see them on a grander scale. I would try to argue—hey, let's cut our teeth on this and then move on to bigger things." Fredkin wasn't biting. "He came in one day and said, 'Gosh, Lick, I really love working here, but I'm going to have to leave. I've been thinking about my plans for the future, and I want to make'—I don't remember how many millions of dollars, but it shook me—'and I want to do it in about four years.' And he did amass however many millions he said he would amass in the time he predicted, which impressed me considerably."

In 1962 Fredkin founded Information International Incorporated—an impressive name for a company with no assets and no clients, whose sole employee had never graduated from college. Triple-I, as the company came to be called, was placed on the road to riches by an odd job that Fredkin performed for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. One of Woods Hole's experiments had run into a complication: underwater instruments had faithfully recorded the changing direction and strength of deep ocean currents, but the information, encoded in tiny dots of light on sixteen-millimeter film, was inaccessible to the computers that were supposed to analyze it. Fredkin rented a sixteen-millimeter movie projector and with a surprisingly simple modification turned it into a machine for translating those dots into terms the computer could accept.

This contraption pleased the people at Woods Hole and led to a contract with Lincoln Laboratory. Lincoln was still doing work for the Air Force, and the Air Force wanted its computers to analyze radar information that, like the Woods Hole data, consisted of patterns of light on film. A makeshift information-conversion machine earned Triple-I $10,000, and within a year the Air Force hired Fredkin to build equipment devoted to the task. The job paid $350,000—the equivalent today of around $1 million. RCA and other companies, it turned out, also needed to turn visual patterns into digital data, and "programmable film readers" that sold for $500,000 apiece became Triple-I's stock-in-trade. In 1968 Triple-I went public and Fredkin was suddenly a millionaire. Gradually he cashed in his chips. First he bought a ranch in Colorado. Then one day he was thumbing through the classifieds and saw that an island in the Caribbean was for sale. He bought it.

In the early 1960s, at the suggestion of the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency, MIT set up what would become its Laboratory for Computer Science. It was then called Project MAC, an acronym that stood for both "machine-aided cognition" and "multiaccess computer." Fredkin had connections with the project from the beginning. Licklider, who had left BBN for the Pentagon shortly after Fredkin's departure, was influential in earmarking federal money for MAC. Marvin Minsky—who would later serve on Triple-I's board, and by the end of 1967 owned some of its stock—was centrally involved In MAC's inception. Fredkin served on Project MAC's steering committee, and in 1966 he began discussing with Minsky the possibility of becoming a visiting professor at MIT. The idea of bringing a college dropout onto the faculty, Minsky recalls, was not as outlandish as it now sounds; computer science had become an academic discipline so suddenly that many of its leading lights possessed meager formal credentials. In 1968, after Licklider had come to MIT and become the director of Project MAC, he and Minsky convinced Louis Smullin, the head of the electrical-engineering department, that Fredkin was worth the gamble. "We were a growing department and we wanted exciting people," Smullin says. "And Ed was exciting."

Fredkin had taught for barely a year before he became a full professor, and not much later, in 1971, he was appointed the head of Project MAC—a position that was also short-lived, for in the fall of 1974 he began a sabbatical at the California Institute of Technology as a Fairchild Distinguished Scholar. He went to Caltech under the sponsorship of Richard Feynman. The deal, Fredkin recalls, was that he would teach Feynman more about computer science, and Feynman would teach him more about physics. While there, Fredkin developed an idea that has slowly come to be seen as a profound contribution to both disciplines. The idea is also—in Fredkin's mind, at least—corroborating evidence for his theory of digital physics. To put its upshot in brief and therefore obscure terms, Fredkin found that computation is not inherently irreversible and thus it is possible, in principle, to build a computer that doesn't use up energy and doesn't supply off heat.

All computers on the market are irreversible. That is, their history of information processing cannot be inferred from their present informational state; you cannot look at the data they contain and figure out how they arrived at it. By the time the average computer tells you that 2 plus 2 equals 4, it has forgotten the question; for all it knows, you asked what 1 plus 3 is. The reason for this ignorance is that computers discharge information once it is no longer needed, so that they won't get clogged up.

In 1961 Rolf Landauer, of IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center, established that this destruction of information is the only part of the computational process that unavoidably involves the dissipation of energy. It takes effort, in other words, for a computer to forget things but not necessarily for it to perform other functions. Thus the question of whether you can, in principle, build a universal computer that doesn't dissipate energy in the form of heat is synonymous with the question of whether you can design a logically reversible universal computer, one whose computational history can always be unearthed. Landauer, along with just about everyone else, thought such a computer impossible; all past computer architectures had implied the regular discarding of information, and it was widely believed that this irreversibility was intrinsic to computation. But while at Caltech, Fredkin did one of his favorite things—he showed that everyone had been wrong all along.

Of the two kinds of reversible computers invented by Fredkin, the better known is called the billiard-ball computer. If it were ever actually built, it would consist of billiard balls ricocheting around in a labyrinth of "mirrors," bouncing off the mirrors at 45-degree angles, periodically banging into other moving balls at 90-degree angles, and occasionally exiting through doorways that occasionally would permit new balls to enter. To extract data from the machine, you would superimpose a grid over it, and the presence or absence of a ball in a given square at a given point in time would constitute information. Such a machine, Fredkin showed, would qualify as a universal computer; it could do anything that normal computers do. But unlike other computers, it would be perfectly reversible; to recover its history, all you would have to do is stop it and run it backward. Charles H. Bennett, of IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center, independently arrived at a different proof that reversible computation is possible, though he considers the billiard-ball computer to be in some respects a more elegant solution to the problem than his own.

The billiard-ball computer will never be built, because it is a platonic device, existing only in a world of ideals. The balls are perfectly round and hard, and the table perfectly smooth and hard. There is no friction between the two, and no energy is lost when balls collide. Still, although these ideals are unreachable, they could be approached eternally through technological refinement, and the heat produced by fiction and collision could thus be reduced without limit. Since no additional heat would be created by information loss, there would be no necessary minimum on the total heat emitted by the computer. "The cleverer you are, the less heat it will generate," Fredkin says.

The connection Fredkin sees between the billiard-ball computer and digital physics exemplifies the odd assortment of evidence he has gathered in support of his theory. Molecules and atoms and their constituents, he notes, move around in theoretically reversible fashion, like billiard balls (although it is not humanly possible, of course, actually to take stock of the physical state of the universe, or even one small corner of it, and reconstruct history by tracing the motion of microscopic particles backward). Well, he asks, given the theoretical reversibility of physical reality, doesn't the theoretical feasibility of a reversible computer lend credence to the claim that computation is reality's basis?

No and yes. Strictly speaking, Fredkin's theory doesn't demand reversible computation. It is conceivable that an irreversible process at the very core of reality could supply rise to the reversible behavior of molecules, atoms, electrons, and the rest. After all, irreversible computers (that is, all computers on the market) can simulate reversible billiard balls. But they do so in a convoluted way, Fredkin says, and the connection between an irreversible substratum and a reversible stratum would, similarly, be tortuous—or, as he puts it, "aesthetically obnoxious." Fredkin prefers to think that the cellular automaton underlying reversible reality does its work gracefully.

Consider, for example, a variant of the billiard-ball computer invented by Norman Margolus, the Canadian in MIT's information-mechanics group. Margolus showed how a two-state cellular automaton that was itself reversible could simulate the billiard-ball computer using only a simple rule involving a small neighborhood. This cellular automaton in action looks like a jazzed-up version of the original video game, Pong. It is an overhead view of endlessly energetic balls ricocheting off clusters of mirrors and each other It is proof that a very simple binary cellular automaton can supply rise to the seemingly more complex behavior of microscopic particles bouncing off each other. And, as a kind of bonus, these particular particles themselves amount to a computer. Though Margolus discovered this powerful cellular-automaton rule, it was Fredkin who had first concluded that it must exist and persuaded Margolus to look for it. "He has an intuitive idea of how things should be," Margolus says. "And often, if he can't come up with a rational argument to convince you that it should be so, he'll sort of transfer his intuition to you."

That, really, is what Fredkin is trying to do when he argues that the universe is a computer. He cannot supply you a single line of reasoning that leads inexorably, or even very plausibly, to this conclusion. He can tell you about the reversible computer, about Margolus's cellular automaton, about the many physical quantities, like light, that were once thought to be continuous but are now considered discrete, and so on. The evidence consists of many little things—so many, and so little, that in the end he is forced to convey his truth by simile. "I find the supporting evidence for my beliefs in ten thousand different places," he says. "And to me it's just totally overwhelming. It's like there's an animal I want to find. I've found his footprints. I've found his droppings. I've found the half-chewed food. I find pieces of his fur, and so on. In every case it fits one kind of animal, and it's not like any animal anyone's ever seen. People say, Where is this animal? I say, Well, he was here, he's about this big, this that and the other. And I know a thousand things about him. I don't have him in hand, but I know he's there." The story changes upon retelling. One day it's Bigfoot that Fredkin's trailing. Another day it's a duck: feathers are everywhere, and the tracks are webbed. Whatever the animal, the moral of the story remains the same: "What I see is so compelling that it can't be a creature of my imagination."

V. Deus ex Machina

HERE WAS SOMETHING BOTHERSOME ABOUT ISAAC Newton's theory of gravitation. The idea that the sun exerts a pull on the earth, and vice versa, sounded vaguely supernatural and, in any event, was hard to explain. How, after all, could such "action at a distance" be realized? Did the earth look at the sun, estimate the distance, and consult the law of gravitation to determine where it should move and how fast? Newton sidestepped such questions. He fudged with the Latin phrase si esset: two bodies, he wrote, behave as if impelled by a force inversely proportional to the square of their distance. Ever since Newton, physics has followed his example. Its "force fields" are, strictly speaking, metaphorical, and its laws purely descriptive. Physicists make no attempt to explain why things obey the law of electromagnetism or of gravitation. The law is the law, and that's all there is to it.

Fredkin refuses to accept authority so blindly. He posits not only laws but also a law-enforcement agency: a computer. Somewhere out there, he believes, is a machinelike thing that actually keeps our individual bits of space abiding by the rule of the universal cellular automaton. With this belief Fredkin crosses the line between physics and metaphysics, between scientific hypothesis and cosmic speculation. If Fredkin had Newton's knack for public relations, if he stopped at saying that the universe operates as if it were a computer, he could Strengthen his stature among physicists while preserving the essence of his theory—the idea that the dynamics of physical reality will ultimately be better captured by a single recursive algorithm than by the mathematics of conventional physics, and that the continuity of time and space implicit in traditional mathematics is illusory.

Actually, some estimable physicists have lately been saying things not wholly unlike this stripped-down version of the theory. T. D. Lee, a Nobel laureate at Columbia University, has written at length about the possibility that time is discrete. And in 1984 Scientific American, not exactly a soapbox for cranks, published an article in which Stephen Wolfram, then of Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, wrote, "Scientific laws are now being viewed as algorithms. . . . Physical systems are viewed as computational systems, processing information much the way computers do." He concluded, "A new paradigm has been born."

The line between responsible scientific speculation and off-the-wall metaphysical pronouncement was nicely illustrated by an article in which Tomasso Toffoli, the Italian in MIT's information-mechanics group, stayed barely on the responsible side of it. Published in the journal Physica D, the article was called "Cellular automata as an alternative to (rather than an approximation of) differential equations in modeling physics." Toffoli's thesis captured the core of Fredkin's theory yet had a perfectly reasonable ring to it. He simply suggested that the historical reliance of physicists on calculus may have been due not just to its merits but also to the fact that before the computer, alternative languages of description were not practical.

Why does Fredkin refuse to do the expedient thing—leave out the part about the universe actually being a computer? One reason is that he considers reprehensible the failure of Newton, and of all physicists since, to back up their descriptions of nature with explanations. He is amazed to find "perfectly rational scientists" believing in "a form of mysticism: that things just happen because they happen." The best physics, Fredkin seems to believe, is metaphysics.

The trouble with metaphysics is its endless depth. For every question that is answered, at least one other is raised, and it is not always clear that, on balance, any progress has been made. For example, where is this computer that Fredkin keeps talking about? Is it in this universe, residing along some fifth or sixth dimension that renders it invisible? Is it in some meta-universe? The answer is the latter, apparently, and to understand why, we need to return to the problem of the infinite regress, a problem that Rolf Landauer, among others, has cited with respect to Fredkin's theory. Landauer illustrates the problem by telling the old turtle story. A professor has just finished lecturing at some august university about the origin and structure of the universe, and an old woman in tennis shoes walks up to the lectern. "Excuse me, sir, but you've got it all wrong," she says. "The truth is that the universe is sitting on the back of a huge turtle." The professor decides to humor her. "Oh, really?" he asks. "Well, tell me, what is the turtle standing on?" The lady has a ready reply: "Oh, it's standing on another turtle." The professor asks, "And what is that turtle standing on?" Without hesitation, she says, "Another turtle." The professor, still game, repeats his question. A look of impatience comes across the woman's face. She holds up her hand, stopping him in mid-sentence. "Save your breath, sonny," she says. "It's turtles all the way down."

The infinite-regress problem afflicts Fredkin's theory in two ways, one of which we have already encountered: if matter is made of information, what is the information made of? And even if one concedes that it is no more ludicrous for information to be the most fundamental stuff than for matter or energy to be the most fundamental stuff, what about the computer itself? What is it made of? What energizes it? Who, or what, runs it, or set it in motion to begin with?

HEN FREDKIN IS DISCUSSING THE PROBLEM OF THE infinite regress, his logic seems variously cryptic, evasive, and appealing. At one point he says, "For everything in the world where you wonder, 'What is it made out of?' the only thing I know of where the question doesn't have to be answered with anything else is for information." This puzzles me. Thousands of words later I am still puzzled, and I press for clarification. He talks some more. What he means, as near as I can tell, is what follows.

First of all, it doesn't matter what the information is made of, or what kind of computer produces it. The computer could be of the conventional electronic sort, or it could be a hydraulic machine made of gargantuan sewage pipes and manhole covers, or it could be something we can't even imagine. What's the difference? Who cares what the information consists of? So long as the cellular automaton's rule is the same in each case, the patterns of information will be the same, and so will we, because the structure of our world depends on pattern, not on the pattern's substrate; a carbon atom, according to Fredkin, is a certain configuration of bits, not a certain kind of bits.

Besides, we can never know what the information is made of or what kind of machine is processing it. This point is reminiscent of childhood conversations that Fredkin remembers having with his sister, Joan, about the possibility that they were part of a dream God was having. "Say God is in a room and on his table he has some cookies and tea," Fredkin says. "And he's dreaming this whole universe up. Well, we can't reach out and get his cookies. They're not in our universe. See, our universe has bounds. There are some things in it and some things not." The computer is not; hardware is beyond the grasp of its software. Imagine a vast computer program that contained bodies of information as complex as people, motivated by bodies of information as complex as ideas. These "people" would have no way of figuring out what kind of computer they owed their existence to, because everything they said, and everything they did—including formulate metaphysical hypotheses—would depend entirely on the programming rules and the original input. As long as these didn't change, the same metaphysical conclusions would be reached in an old XD-1 as in a Kaypro 2.

This idea—that sentient beings could be constitutionally numb to the texture of reality—has fascinated a number of people, including, lately, computer scientists. One source of the fascination is the fact that any universal computer can simulate another universal computer, and the simulated computer can, because it is universal, do the same thing. So it is possible to conceive of a theoretically endless series of computers contained, like Russian dolls, in larger versions of themselves and yet oblivious of those containers. To anyone who has lived intimately with, and thought deeply about, computers, says Charles Bennett, of IBM's Watson Lab, this notion is very attractive. "And if you're too attracted to it, you're likely to part company with the physicists." Physicists, Bennett says, find heretical the notion that anything physical is impervious to expertment, removed from the reach of science.

Fredkin's belief in the limits of scientific knowledge may sound like evidence of humility, but in the end it permits great ambition; it helps him go after some of the grandest philosophical questions around. For example, there is a paradox that crops up whenever people think about how the universe came to be. On the one hand, it must have had a beginning. After all, things usually do. Besides, the cosmological evidence suggests a beginning: the big bang. Yet science insists that it is impossible for something to come from nothing; the laws of physics forbid the amount of energy and mass in the universe to change. So how could there have been a time when there was no universe, and thus no mass or energy?

Fredkin escapes from this paradox without breaking a sweat. Granted, he says, the laws of our universe don't permit something to come from nothing. But he can imagine laws that would permit such a thing; in fact, he can imagine algorithmic laws that would permit such a thing. The conservation of mass and energy is a consequence of our cellular automaton's rules, not a consequence of all possible rules. Perhaps a different cellular automaton governed the creation of our cellular automation—just as the rules for loading software are different from the rules running the program once it has been loaded.

What's funny is how hard it is to doubt Fredkin when with such assurance he makes definitive statements about the creation of the universe—or when, for that matter, he looks you in the eye and tells you the universe is a computer. Partly this is because, given the magnitude and intrinsic intractability of the questions he is addressing, his answers aren't all that bad. As ideas about the foundations of physics go, his are not completely out of the ball park; as metaphysical and cosmogonic speculation goes, his isn't beyond the pale.

But there's more to it than that. Fredkin is, in his own odd way, a rhetorician of great skill. He talks softly, even coolly, but with a low-key power, a quiet and relentless confidence, a kind of high-tech fervor. And there is something disarming about his self-awareness. He's not one of these people who say crazy things without having so much as a clue that you're sitting there thinking what crazy things they are. He is acutely conscious of his reputation; he knows that some scientists are reluctant to invite him to conferences for fear that he'll say embarrassing things. But he is not fazed by their doubts. "You know, I'm a reasonably smart person. I'm not the smartest person in the world, but I'm pretty smart—and I know that what I'm involved in makes perfect sense. A lot of people build up what might be called self-delusional systems, where they have this whole system that makes perfect sense to them, but no one else ever understands it or buys it. I don't think that's a major factor here, though others might disagree." It's hard to disagree, when he so forthrightly offers you the chance.

Still, as he gets further from physics, and more deeply into philosophy, he begins to try one's trust. For example, having tackled the question of what sort of process could generate a universe in which spontaneous generation is impossible, he aims immediately for bigger game: Why was the universe created? Why is there something here instead of nothing?

HEN THIS SUBJECT COMES UP, WE ARE SITTING IN the Fredkins' villa. The living area has pale rock walls, shiny-clean floors made of large white ceramic tiles, and built-in bookcases made of blond wood. There is lots of air—the ceiling slopes up in the middle to at least twenty feet—and the air keeps moving; some walls consist almost entirely of wooden shutters that, when open, let the sea breeze pass as fast as it will. I am glad of this. My skin, after three days on Fredkin's island, is hot, and the air, though heavy, is cool. The sun is going down.

Fredkin, sitting on a white sofa, is talking about an interesting characteristic of some computer programs, including many cellular automata: there is no shortcut to finding out what they will lead to. This, indeed, is a basic difference between the "analytical" approach associated with traditional mathematics, including differential equations, and the "computational" approach associated with algorithms. You can predict a future state of a system susceptible to the analytic approach without figuring out what states it will occupy between now and then, but in the case of many cellular automata, you must go through all the intermediate states to find out what the end will be like: there is no way to know the future except to watch it unfold.

This indeterminacy is very suggestive. It suggests, first of all, why so many "chaotic" phenomena, like smoke rising from a cigarette, are so difficult to predict using conventional mathematics. (In fact, some scientists have taken to modeling chaotic systems with cellular automata.) To Fredkin, it also suggests that even if human behavior is entirely determined, entirely inevitable, it may be unpredictable; there is room for "pseudo free will" in a completely mechanistic universe. But on this particular evening Fredkin is interested mainly in cosmogony, in the implications of this indeterminacy for the big question: Why does this giant computer of a universe exist?

It's simple, Fredkin explains: "The reason is, there is no way to know the answer to some question any faster than what's going on."

Aware that he may have said something enigmatic, Fredkin elaborates. Suppose, he says, that there is an all-powerful God. "And he's thinking of creating this universe. He's going to spend seven days on the job—this is totally allegorical—or six days on the job. Okay, now, if he's as all-powerful as you might imagine, he can say to himself, 'Wait a minute, why waste the time? I can create the whole thing, or I can just think about it for a minute and just realize what's going to happen so that I don't have to bother.' Now, ordinary physics says, Well, yeah, you got an all-powerful God, he can probably do that. What I can say is—this is very interesting—I can say I don't care how powerful God is; he cannot know the answer to the question any faster than doing it. Now, he can have various ways of doing it, but he has to do every Goddamn single step with every bit or he won't get the right answer. There's no shortcut."

Around sundown on Fredkin's island all kinds of insects start chirping or buzzing or whirring. Meanwhile, the wind chimes hanging just outside the back door are tinkling with methodical randomness. All this music is eerie and vaguely mystical. And so, increasingly, is the conversation. It is one of those moments when the context you've constructed falls apart, and gives way to a new, considerably stranger one. The old context in this case was that Fredkin is an iconoclastic thinker who believes that space and time are discrete, that the laws of the universe are algorithmic, and that the universe works according to the same principles as a computer (he uses this very phrasing in his most circumspect moments). The new context is that Fredkin believes that the universe is very literally a computer and that it is being used by someone, or something, to solve a problem. It sounds like a good-news/bad-news joke: the good news is that our lives have purpose; the bad news is that their purpose is to help some remote hacker estimate pi to nine jillion decimal places.

So, I say, you're arguing that the reason we're here is that some being wanted to theorize about reality, and the only way he could test his theories was to create reality? "No, you see, my explanation is much more abstract. I don't imagine there is a being or anything. I'm just using that to talk to you about it. What I'm saying is that there is no way to know what the future is any faster than running this [the universe] to get to that [the future]. Therefore, what I'm assuming is that there is a question and there is an answer, okay? I don't make any assumptions about who has the question, who wants the answer, anything."

But the more we talk, the closer Fredkin comes to the religious undercurrents he's trying to avoid. "Every astrophysical phenomenon that's going on is always assumed to be just accident," he says. "To me, this is a fairly arrogant position, in that intelligence—and computation, which includes intelligence, in my view—is a much more universal thing than people think. It's hard for me to believe that everything out there is just an accident." This sounds awfully like a position that Pope John Paul II or Billy Graham would take, and Fredkin is at pains to clarify his position: "I guess what I'm saying is—I don't have any religious belief. I don't believe that there is a God. I don't believe in Christianity or Judaism or anything like that, okay? I'm not an atheist, I'm not an agnostic, I'm just in a simple state. I don't know what there is or might be. But what I can say is that it seems likely to me that this particular universe we have is a consequence of something I would call intelligent." Does he mean that there's something out there that wanted to get the answer to a question? "Yeah." Something that set up the universe to see what would happen? "In some way, yes."

VI. The Language Barrier

N 1974, UPON RETURNING TO MIT FROM CALTECH, Fredkin was primed to revolutionize science. Having done the broad conceptual work (concluding that the universe is a computer), he would enlist the aid of others in taking care of the details—translating the differential equations of physics into algorithms, experimenting with cellular-automaton rules and selecting the most elegant, and, eventually, discovering The Rule, the single law that governs every bit of space and accounts for everything. "He figured that all he needed was some people who knew physics, and that it would all be easy," Margolus says.

One early obstacle was Fredkin's reputation. He says, "I would find a brilliant student; he'd get turned on to this stuff and start to work on it. And then he would come to me and say, 'I'm going to work on something else.' And I would say, 'Why?' And I had a few very honest ones, and they would say, 'Well, I've been talking to my friends about this and they say I'm totally crazy to work on it. It'll ruin my career. I'll be tainted forever.'" Such fears were not entirely unfounded. Fredkin is one of those people who arouse either affection, admiration, and respect, or dislike and suspicion. The latter reaction has come from a number of professors at MIT, particularly those who put a premium on formal credentials, proper academic conduct, and not sounding like a crackpot. Fredkin was never oblivious of the complaints that his work wasn't "worthy of MIT," nor of the movements, periodically afoot, to sever, or at least weaken, his ties to the university. Neither were his graduate students.

Fredkin's critics finally got their way. In the early 1980s, while he was serving briefly as the president of Boston's CBS-TV affiliate, someone noticed that he wasn't spending much time around MIT and pointed to a faculty rule limiting outside professional activities. Fredkin was finding MIT "less and less interesting" anyway, so he agreed to be designated an adjunct professor. As he recalls the deal, he was going to do a moderate amount of teaching and be paid an "appropriate" salary. But he found the real salary insulting, declined payment, and never got around to teaching. Not surprisingly, he was not reappointed adjunct professor when his term expired, in 1986. Meanwhile, he had so nominally discharged his duties as the head of the information-mechanics group that the title was given to Toffoli.

Fredkin doubts that his ideas will achieve widespread acceptance anytime soon. He believes that most physicists are so deeply immersed in their kind of mathematics, and so uncomprehending of computation, as to be incapable of grasping the truth. Imagine, he says, that a twentieth-century time traveler visited Italy in the early seventeenth century and tried to reformulate Galileo's ideas in terms of calculus. Although it would be a vastly more powerful language of description than the old one, conveying its importance to the average scientist would be nearly impossible. There are times when Fredkin breaks through the language barrier, but they are few and far between. He can sell one person on one idea, another on another, but nobody seems to get the big picture. It's like a painting of a horse in a meadow, he says"Everyone else only looks at it with a microscope, and they say, 'Aha, over here I see a little brown pigment. And over here I see a little green pigment.' Okay. Well, I see a horse."

Fredkin's research has nevertheless paid off in unanticipated ways. Comparing a computer's workings and the dynamics of physics turned out to be a good way to figure out how to build a very efficient computer—one that harnesses the laws of physics with great economy. Thus Toffoli and Margolus have designed an inexpensive but powerful cellular-automata machine, the CAM 6. The "machine' is actually a circuit board that when inserted in a personal computer permits it to orchestrate visual complexity at a speed that can be matched only by general-purpose computers costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Since the circuit board costs only around $1,500, this engrossing machine may well entice young scientific revolutionaries into joining the quest for The Rule. Fredkin speaks of this possibility in almost biblical terms, "The big hope is that there will arise somewhere someone who will have some new, brilliant ideas," he says. "And I think this machine will have a dramatic effect on the probability of that happening."

But even if it does happen, it will not ensure Fredkin a place in scientific history. He is not really on record as believing that the universe is a computer. Although some of his tamer insights have been adopted, fleshed out, and published by Toffoli or Margolus, sometimes in collaboration with him, Fredkin himself has published nothing on digital physics. His stated rationale for not publishing has to do with, of all things, lack of ambition. "I'm just not terribly interested," he says. "A lot of people are fantastically motivated by publishing. It's part of a whole thing of getting ahead in the world." Margolus has another explanation: "Writing something down in good form takes a lot of time. And usually by the time he's done with the first or second draft, he has another wonderful idea that he's off on."

These two theories have merit, but so does a third: Fredkin can't write for academic journals. He doesn't know how. His erratic, hybrid education has left him with a mixture of terminology that neither computer scientists nor physicists recognize as their native tongue. Further, he is not schooled in the rules of scientific discourse; he seems just barely aware of the line between scientific hypothesis and philosophical speculation. He is not politic enough to confine his argument to its essence: that time and space are discrete, and that the state of every point in space at any point in time is determined by a single algorithm. In short, the very background that has allowed Fredkin to see the universe as a computer seems to prevent him from sharing his vision. If he could talk like other scientists, he might see only the things that they see.

Robert Wright is the author of
Three Scientists and Their Gods: Looking for Meaning in an Age of Information, The Moral Animal: Evolutionary Psychology and Everyday Life, and Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny.
Copyright © 2002 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; April 1988; Did the Universe Just Happen?; Volume 261, No. 4; page 29.
Wed, 24 Nov 2010 05:10:00 -0600 text/html
Killexams : How to Switch Careers: The ABCs of Teaching

State and local governments have rarely been so cash-strapped. Layoffs during the current school year have been widespread, and state budget outlooks remain dire. Nonetheless, the Department of Education sees a need for 1.7 million new teachers by 2017 because of retirements and attrition.

You’ll find the most opportunities in math, science, English as a second language and special education, and in schools serving the underprivileged. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree and state certification to teach, but you won’t have to quit your job, go back to school and get an education degree. About one-third of new teachers come via alternative-certification routes; 55% of those are career switchers.

Such alternative routes aim to put you in the classroom quickly-with a paycheck-typically under the supervision of a mentor as you complete the necessary coursework. You’ll likely have demonstrated mastery of the content you’ll be teaching, oftentimes through an assessment test.

Visit for alternative-certification programs from 831 schools, including online programs. Visit the National Center for Alternative Certification’s Web site at to see the routes in each state to alternative certification-all told, there are 125 such routes among the 50 states and Washington, D.C. You’ll pay anywhere from zero to several thousand dollars to retrain as a teacher-about $5,000 is average, says Emily Feistritzer, NCAC’s founder.

Alternative programs in Texas produce more than half of the state’s teachers, including Sampson Gardner, a former civil-litigation lawyer who now teaches fifth-grade math at Bay City Intermediate School, outside of Houston. Like many career switchers, Gardner believes teaching was always his calling-he just didn’t know it. “As much as I liked being a lawyer, it wasn’t what I was built to do,” says Gardner, 32. “I’m supposed to teach.”His certification came through the iTeach Texas program; the $4,250 cost was deducted from his teaching paycheck over ten months.

Gardner is philosophical about trading his old lifestyle for an educator’s. Recently, he found an old paycheck stub. “They took more out in taxes than my whole check now,” he says.

And yet teaching remains a popular second act. In 2009, some 40,000 people applied for fellowships from the New Teacher Project, designed for high achievers without a background in education. The organization operates fellowship programs in 18 locations nationwide, including New York City, Chicago and Denver.

Under the Troops for Teachers program ( members of the military may be eligible for up to $10,000 toward the cost of obtaining teaching credentials. If you’re one of IBM’s 400,000 employees, check out the company’s pioneering Transition to Teaching program, which provides up to $15,000 for older employees who want an encore career in the classroom. IBM’s efforts are considered a model for helping seasoned workers transition into the 21st-century workforce-where it’s never too late to reinvent yourself.

Sun, 19 Jun 2022 12:00:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : Tevis Rose Trower

Board | Blog

Tevis Rose Trower is a pioneer in the field of worklife satisfaction. Fueled by the question, "Why do we 'hate' work?", Trower in 2001 founded New York-based Balance Integration Corporation, providing work life balance and creativity tools to maximize human assets in corporate America. Heralded in the recently published Megatrends 2010 as Corporate Mindfulness Guru for the new millennium, Trower teaches corporate professionals how to apply time-tested mindfulness techniques to resolve modern work life challenges.

Trower is a faculty member in advanced management studies at NYU's School for Continuing and Professional Studies. Under the auspices of Balance Integration, Trower has created work life mastery programs for numerous leading organizations including Google, AOL, Viacom, Yahoo!, Edelman Public Relations, Disney, Cleary-Gottleib, and the Young Presidents Organization.

Trower is also a certified creativity coach and presents at Kripalu, Exhale, and studios around the globe. Her work has been cited in publications including Yogi Times, Yoga Journal, Business Week, Forbes, Investors Business Daily, Glamour, and AMNY. She is also a former U.S. Army reservist and board member of the New York Yoga Teachers' Association.

Trower's breadth of professional and cultural experience includes dealing with the human element within the corporate environments of Fortune 500 companies, such as General Motors, Coca-Cola, IBM, and UPS, as well as her years as a cross-industry consultant with Korn/Ferry International.

In addition to a master's degree in international business, Trower has studied and certified with many luminaries in the area of business mastery, yoga, meditation, authentic leadership, creativity in business, and systems thinking. Her greatest pleasure is converting great concepts into practical experiences with take-away tools that participants use to immediately and in the long term enhance their work life reality.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 02:29:00 -0600 en text/html
Killexams : As Facebook Tightens Their Grip On VR, Jailbreaking Looks More Likely

The Quest 2 wireless VR headset by Oculus was recently released, and improves on the one-and-a-half year old Quest mainly in terms of computing power and screen resolution. But Oculus is owned by Facebook, a fact that Facebook is increasingly desparate on making very clear. The emerging scene is one that looks familiar: a successful hardware device, and a manufacturer that wants to keep users in a walled garden while fully controlling how the device can be used. Oculus started out very differently, but the writing has been on the wall for a while. Rooting and jailbreaking the Quest 2 seems inevitable, but what will happen then?

Facebook Makes It Clear They Want Control

Quest 2 wireless VR headset. Facebook account required.

The Quest 2 now requires a Facebook account to operate. Existing Quest headset users can coast along with an Oculus account on their older hardware, but only for now.

Users must link their Facebook account, or create an account if they don’t have one. Having users sign up for access to online services is nothing new, but Facebook is a social network intent on tracking every activity and connection between people. It is not an integral part of delivering a VR experience to a user. But if a user doesn’t have an account, or refuses to create one, the device simply cannot be used, regardless of whether one wishes to partake of Facebook’s social features, and concomitant surveilance, or not.

Facebook is also adamant about users adhering to their “real names only” policy and is known to engage in demanding identity verification, which makes creating a throwaway account with a fake name perhaps less feasible of an option than it otherwise would be. There’s another wrinkle as well; users who violate Facebook’s terms risk losing access to their account, which also means losing access to all of their purchases, effectively rendering their expensive headset useless. Even if one leaves the social network voluntarily and closes their Facebook account, the company has made it clear that all of one’s purchases will disappear along with it.

It Wasn’t Always This Way

Facebook purchased Oculus back in 2014, meaning that when the original Quest headset released in May 2019 Oculus was already owned by Facebook. But it wasn’t until recently that their products showed overt signs of Facebook integration. In Blake Harris’ book The History of the Future, which chronicles Oculus’ beginnings with a successful crowdfunded headset design, and their eventual purchase by Facebook, it’s clear that Oculus had very different values. And there is definitely one feature that exists thanks to Oculus advocating for it: the ability to sideload apps not approved by Facebook.

Sideloading is achieved by flipping a software toggle in the headset, essentially enabling Developer Mode, to allow apps from “untrusted sources”. It is so popular with users that an alternate software library and helper application called SideQuest has emerged as the de facto source for apps and software that are neither approved nor controlled by Facebook.

Even so, Facebook exerts a kind of soft control in the sense that one must be careful not to step on Facebook’s toes, because sideloading is only possible while Facebook permits it. That is because there’s one more ingredient needed to access developer mode: one must register a developer account. This used to be a trivial process, little more than filling in a couple fields in one’s account settings, but Facebook recently began to require verification of developer accounts.

Starting in October 2020, Facebook expects a valid phone number or credit card information at a minimum, and without developer credentials one cannot enable sideloading on their headset. Developer verification, by the way, is separate from the requirement of requiring a Facebook account for the headset itself. No authorized developer account, no access to sideloading.

The writing was on the wall when social features like virtually attending live events required a Facebook login, and with the release of the Quest 2, all of that kicked into high gear. Sideloading only exists while Facebook allows it, new restrictions have already begun rolling out, and a real-names-only Facebook account tied to your VR activity is needed to even use the headset itself.

Jailbreaking Looks Likely, But Then What?

Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of people less than delighted with the new terms dictated by Facebook. Robert Long, a WebXR developer at Mozilla, offered a $5,000 bounty for a working jailbreak to free the device from its reliance on Facebook, an offer former Oculus founder Palmer Luckey also pledged to match.

A solution hasn’t been released yet, but there are reports that a working jailbreak exists. If a means of rooting the headset and freeing it from Facebook gets released into the wild, we’ll doubtlessly see a sort of arms race play out between hackers intent on using their purchased device as they see fit, and Facebook working to prevent exactly that.

But what happens then? One possibility is foreshadowed by Facebook’s tolerance of sideloading: they may simply harvest the best ideas and features from independent developers, and take them as their own. Users will be less likely to bother with jailbreaking if doing so doesn’t deliver any compelling features. If history repeats itself and VR follows the same path as jailbreaking did with the Apple iPhone, then the benefits offered by jailbreaking will dwindle and ultimately disappear, leaving the process of crafting jailbreaks useful mainly for collecting bug bounties. But Facebook is not Apple, and the Quest is not an iPhone. Perhaps things will go in a different direction, but we’ll have to wait to find out.

Wed, 03 Aug 2022 11:59:00 -0500 Donald Papp en-US text/html
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