The book is directed at laymen and its statements often remain vague.
The whole universe itself is conjectured to be a cellular automaton (with probably only very few rules). No particular cellular automaton is proposed, and it is speculated how such a model could exist despite Bell's theorem.
The book also claims that all sufficientlycomplex systems are essentially of the same complexity, an idea that has long been known in the form of the ChurchTuring thesis, and that most systems around us actually reach this limit complexity.
The book starts by classifying many different types of cellular automata. His goal in these early chapters is to try to answer, when, how, and why these systems achieve random complexity. A general conclusion from this first section is that some rare automata with very simple rules have the potential to generate complex and random results.
The next section goes on to apply this knowledge to modeling in the fields of: physics, biology (including evolution), and computation.
Wolfram worked on the book from 1992 to 2002. It was selfpublished; a publishing contract with AddisonWesley[?] broke down when Wolfram demanded that all reviewers sign nondisclosure agreements and refrain from studying math or physics for the next ten years. Wolfram has been criticized for not publishing any of these ideas in peer reviewed journals, and for not crediting other scientists whose work he builds on. It is for these failings and for some of Wolfram's more grandiose claims that many would consider this work to be a piece of pseudoscience if it had a wider following.
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