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way to get such an answer in a number of steps that increases not exponentially but only like a power.

And although it has never been established for certain it seems by now likely that in most meaningful senses there is not. So what this implies is that to answer questions about the t-step behavior of a multiway system can take any ordinary Turing machine a number of steps that increases faster than any power of t.

So how common is this kind of phenomenon? One can view asking about possible outcomes in a multiway system as like asking about possible ways to satisfy a constraint. And certainly a great many practical problems can be formulated in terms of constraints.

But how do such problems compare to each other? The Principle of Computational Equivalence suggests that those that seem difficult should somehow tend to be equivalent. And indeed it turns out that over the course of the past few decades a rather large number of such problems have in fact all been found to be so-called NP-complete.

What this means is that these problems exhibit a kind of analog of universality which makes it possible with less than exponential effort to translate any instance of any one of them into an instance of any other. So as an example the picture on the facing page shows how one type of problem about a so-called non-deterministic Turing machine can be translated to a different type of problem about a cellular automaton.

Much like a multiway system, a non-deterministic Turing machine has rules that allow multiple choices to be made at each step, leading to multiple possible paths of evolution. And an example of an NP-complete problem is then whether any of these paths satisfy the constraint that, say, after a particular number of steps, the head of the Turing machine has ever gone further to the right than it starts.

The top row in the picture on the facing page shows the first few of the exponentially many possible paths obtained by making successive sequences of choices in a particular non-deterministic Turing machine. And in the example shown, one sees that for two of these paths the head goes to the right, so that the overall constraint is satisfied.

So what about the cellular automaton below in the picture? Given a particular initial condition its evolution is completely

From Stephen Wolfram: A New Kind of Science [citation]