Richard Feynman on Computation (Stephen Wolfram)  AI Podcast Clips  Summary and Q&A
TL;DR
Richard Feynman's perspective on running companies and using tools for effective problemsolving and exploration, and the importance of empirical observation in understanding complex systems.
Key Insights
 ❓ Feynman's approach to problemsolving emphasized intuitive frameworks and simple intuition.
 😒 The speaker recognizes the value of Feynman's intuition but also advocates for the use of computational tools and empirical observation.
 ❓ Feynman's tendency to withhold detailed calculations sometimes hindered the understanding of his insights by others.
 🏑 Collaboration between the speaker and Feynman on quantum computing revealed differences in their approaches but also highlighted ongoing challenges in the field.
 👻 Building computational tools, such as a computer language, allows for the exploration of complex systems in artificial universes.
 🤗 The process of building computational tools fosters openmindedness and the ability to see new possibilities.
Transcript
when you were a Caltech did you get to interact with richard fineman analogy of a nice Richard we we work together quite a bit actually in fact on and in fact both when I was at Caltech and after I left Caltech we were both consultants at this company called Thinking Machines Corporation which was just down the street from here actually um ultimate... Read More
Questions & Answers
Q: Did Feynman understand the importance of using tools for problemsolving and exploration in the field of mathematics and physics?
Feynman had a deep understanding of mathematical computations and had his own methods for solving complex problems, but he may not have fully appreciated the value of systematic tools and computational approaches in problemsolving.
Q: How did Feynman's perspective on intuition and simplicity influence his approach to understanding complex concepts?
Feynman believed that simple intuition was the key to understanding complex phenomena, often relying on his own calculations to develop intuitive frameworks. However, he sometimes neglected to share the detailed calculations, leading to challenges in replicating his insights.
Q: How did the speaker and Feynman collaborate on quantum computing? Were there any differences in their approaches?
The speaker and Feynman worked together on quantum computers, but their approaches differed. Feynman preferred manual calculations and had difficulty understanding the speaker's computerbased approach. This led to debates and highlighted different aspects of quantum computing that are still relevant today.
Q: How did the speaker understand the importance of being openminded in exploring complex systems?
The speaker's experience in building computer tools, specifically a computer language, allowed them to explore different possibilities and create artificial universes for experimentation. This experience shaped their openmindedness and willingness to explore new ideas beyond the constraints of the natural world.
Q: Did Feynman understand the importance of using tools for problemsolving and exploration in the field of mathematics and physics?
Feynman had a deep understanding of mathematical computations and had his own methods for solving complex problems, but he may not have fully appreciated the value of systematic tools and computational approaches in problemsolving.
More Insights

Feynman's approach to problemsolving emphasized intuitive frameworks and simple intuition.

The speaker recognizes the value of Feynman's intuition but also advocates for the use of computational tools and empirical observation.

Feynman's tendency to withhold detailed calculations sometimes hindered the understanding of his insights by others.

Collaboration between the speaker and Feynman on quantum computing revealed differences in their approaches but also highlighted ongoing challenges in the field.

Building computational tools, such as a computer language, allows for the exploration of complex systems in artificial universes.

The process of building computational tools fosters openmindedness and the ability to see new possibilities.

It is easy to overlook the obvious, and the speaker acknowledges their effort to not miss important insights despite the challenges of observation and understanding complex systems.
Summary
In this video, the speaker discusses his interactions with Richard Feynman, a renowned physicist, and their work together at Thinking Machines Corporation. The speaker highlights Feynman's view that managing companies was a distraction and his focus on creating tools for effective problemsolving. They also touch upon Feynman's approaches to mathematical computation, his ideas on intuition, and their collaboration on quantum computing. The speaker reflects on the importance of experimentation and keeping an open mind when exploring complex concepts.
Questions & Answers
Q: When you were at Caltech, did you get to interact with Richard Feynman?
Yes, we worked together quite a bit, both during my time at Caltech and after. We were consultants at Thinking Machines Corporation. Feynman had a different view on running companies, seeing it as a distraction. He believed that the focus should be on figuring things out and making things happen.
Q: Did Feynman understand the purpose of creating tools to empower exploration?
Not as well as he might have. He acknowledged the technical side of what we were doing but didn't fully grasp the role of tools in enhancing problemsolving and exploration. He was more interested in his own intuitive methods and making computers follow those.
Q: Did Feynman have any memorable examples or thoughts on mathematical computation?
Yes, he had his own methods for doing integrals and gaining intuition about math. His approach was to make a computer follow his intuitional methods instead of using traditional approaches. However, he acknowledged the challenge of turning computational results into something understandable to humans.
Q: What do you make of the difference between Feynman's approach to intuition and computational methods?
Feynman was skilled at calculating things and believed it was easy because it came naturally to him. He valued having a simple intuition about how everything worked and considered it to be the impressive factor. Unfortunately, this led to instances where people were mystified by his intuitive frameworks that only he understood due to the calculations he had performed.
Q: How did you perceive Feynman's understanding of computation?
Feynman found computation interesting, but I believe he was on the edge of fully grasping its potential. His fascination with intuition and his natural inclination towards calculations sometimes hindered him from fully exploring the power of computation.
Q: Can you discuss the differences between intuition and experimentation in scientific discovery?
Intuition is valuable, but it is not always reliable for making accurate conclusions about complex systems. Experimentation is crucial because it allows us to observe and explore phenomena that intuition cannot encompass. Feynman recognized this when he understood that the speaker's discovery was achieved through experimental science, not intuition.
Q: How did you keep an open mind while exploring rules and complexity?
Reflecting on my own experiences, I realized that the historical story of our exploration can differ from what we lived through. I started with reductionistic physics, where you delve deep into the universe, and then transitioned to building computer tools and languages. Building a computer language is like building an artificial universe, which gave me a different perspective and allowed me to explore possibilities rather than adhering to the constraints of the natural universe.
Q: How did programming and the creation of a computer language influence your exploration of the universe?
By programming and building a computer language, I essentially created an artificial brain or tool to explore the universe. This tool, unlike a telescope, allows us to see and analyze information in a more general and deeper way. Programming expands our possibilities and enables us to explore structures and ideas that our human minds alone may overlook.
Q: Is there a difference between a computer and a telescope when it comes to exploring the universe?
Yes, there is a fundamental difference between a computer and a telescope. While both serve as tools for exploration, a computer provides a more general and versatile approach to understanding the universe. It allows us to process information, develop models, and gain insights that may not be immediately apparent through direct observation with a telescope.
Q: How do you ensure you don't miss the obvious when exploring complex concepts?
It is challenging not to miss the obvious, but my experiences in building computational languages have taught me to consider different structures and remain open to various possibilities. Although I acknowledge the ease of overlooking the obvious, I strive to factor this into my exploration and problemsolving efforts.
Summary & Key Takeaways

Richard Feynman and the speaker worked together at Thinking Machines Corporation and both had contrasting views on running companies.

Feynman emphasized intuitive frameworks and simple intuition in understanding complex concepts, but often neglected to share the detailed calculations that led to his insights.

The speaker acknowledges the value of Feynman's intuition but highlights the importance of computational tools and experimental science in gaining a deeper understanding of complex systems.