Image credit: Wolfram Alpha
Stephen Wolfram has been working on a knowledge-based programming language he promises will become profoundly important in the world of technology and beyond. His pledge: it will become “a way to inject sophisticated computation and knowledge into everything—and to make it universally accessible to humans, programs and machines, in a way that lets all of them interact at a vastly richer and higher level than ever before.”
And it’s “insanely more ambitious” than Google’s Knowledge Graph, of which he recently told VentureBeat, “It’s just Wikipedia and other data.”
Wolfram is aiming far higher, using Wolfram Language as the catalyst, the building block and the epicenter of an entirely computable world.
But what will it do?
We beg for ways to integrate, to break down silos, to make the processes and systems in marketing work together. We crave automation while demanding deeper insight into consumer behaviors, desires and actions.
With his new language, Stephen Wolfram may well be laying the groundwork for a new era of truly integrated marketing. The possibilities warrant keeping a close eye on related products, as they’re released in upcoming months.
This new language will do just about anything, if it lives up to its hype. It will accept natural language input, though this doesn’t appear to mean actually programming in English; rather, the acceptance of some elements (like dates, time, etc.) in English.
Despite an emphasis on user-friendliness and accessibility, it still looks something like this example from a data visualization tutorial:
Wolfram Language will let you do things like this, within the framework of a system that should make it easier do anything with it:
Compute cliques and cohesive groups in a social network (think about that for a minute; imagine the possibilities if this were not only automated, but integrated with web design and content creation/deployment software):
Create dynamic visualizations with animations, dynamic annotation, or even sound, as in this example:
Deploy image recognition features for detecting and extracting features in images and other arrays of data; use face detection, detect edges in images, or track objects in an image sequence:
This is just a small sampling based on materials already available; Wolfram promises hundreds of functions.
Imagine if you could analyze customer data, access macro-level insights, create dynamic and interactive content — then deploy across web and mobile platforms — all within one cloud-based system, using one programming language.
Imagine coding an interactive presentation to automatically pull in the most relevant and recent research on a given topic, with the ability to convert that information to sounds, visuals or other responsive interactive elements, all from within the document creation platform.
These things and more may be available to us not in years, but in mere months.
A Primer in Wolfram Language
Wolfram explained in his blog post that he wouldn’t be able to explain everything about what he calls their “most important technology project yet.” Indeed, as with anything he does, the scope and scale of what he proposes seems almost unbelievable, even to a believer (and there are already skeptics). If anyone can pull off what he describes, though, it’s Wolfram, the chief designer of the computational knowledge engine that helps power Bing and Apple’s Siri.
He explains, “The Wolfram Language can immediately describe its own deployment. Whether it’s creating an instant API, or putting up an interactive web page, or creating a mobile app, or collecting data from a network of embedded programs… And what’s more, it can do it transparently across desktop, cloud, mobile, enterprise and embedded systems.”
Now, it’s “considerably extended” and unified with the Wolfram Alpha knowledgebase. Rather than managing the structure of programs (as with other languages), Wolfram Language is built on a “giant web” of algorithms, with thousands of functions designed to automate as much as possible. Within this evolved language, everything is represented as a symbolic expression, whether it’s a data set, a mathematical formula, a user interface or a document.
Wolfram Language moves beyond the framework for setting up “things” with its built-in knowledge and content, coupled with algorithms to automate the process of informing these “things,” all within the language. “It’s all completely fluid. Data becomes algorithmic. Algorithms become data. There’s no distinction needed between code and data. And everything becomes both intrinsically scriptable, and intrinsically interactive,” he wrote.
With the integration with Wolfram Alpha, the language becomes “a whole computable model of the world,” with a lot of working parts, including:
Image from Wolfram Alpha announcement
The new language will make it immeasurably easier to achieve some piece of functionality, he promises. Already, users can check out the preliminary version of the language and system documentation center, where you’ll find learning resources, featured examples and tutorials on string manipulation, sound generation, socioeconomic and demographic data, app creation and more.
As of November 21, the center had over 11,000 pages of information, according to a Stephen Wolfram tweet.
New Wolfram Product Releases Promised Within Months
Beyond the language is their Universal Deployment System, though Wolfram admits their challenge now is in harnessing this technology in the best ways possible. It’s hard to foresee the ultimate consequences of what they’ve been working on, he wrote, though he gave readers a peek at upcoming releases:
- The Wolfram Programming Cloud, to create and instantly deploy Wolfram Language programs in the cloud, in desktop programs or embedded systems.
- The Wolfram Data Science Platform, allowing one to connect with all sorts of data science and use Wolfram Language to do automated data science (complete with reporting).
- The Wolfram Publishing Platform, to create documents with interactive elements, then deploy them using technologies that support interactivity in any web browser or on mobile.
- Advancements in Mathematica, including the ability to run sessions in the cloud.
- The wolfram Embedded Computation Platform, with mechanisms for communicating with a wide range of devices.
- The Wolfram Course Authoring Platform, which automates the process of going from a script to all of the elements of an online course, then deploying in the cloud for students.
These are coming within months, he said.
“Over the years, I’ve put immense effort into the design of the language. Making sure that all the different pieces fit together as smoothly as possible. So that it becomes easy to integrate data analysis here with document generation there, with mathematical optimization somewhere else. I’m very proud of the results—and I know the language has been spectacularly productive over the course of a great many years for a great many people,” Wolfram wrote.
The New Language of the Interactive Web Will Be User-Friendly, Even as a First Language
They’ve already experimented with usability and claim it’s a “wonderful” first language to learn, according to Wolfram. Could it be possible that the next major language will not only do more – make more possible – but also be easier to learn and use? Wolfram plans to set up a Programming Playground to let people find out on their own.
He promises, “Just as the lines between data, content and code blur, so too will the lines between programming and mere input. Everything will become instantly programmable—by a very wide range of people, either by using the Wolfram Language directly, or by using free-form natural language.”
It’s early days, but we can’t wait to see this come to life. Have you had a chance to experiment with Wolfram Language? Share your thoughts and ideas on how it could affect the work of marketers in the comments!