Neel cuts in: Where'd you grow up?Palo Alto, she says. From there to Stanford to Google: for a girl obsessed with the outer limits of human potential, Kat has stayed pretty close to home. Neel nods knowingly. The suburban mind cannot comprehend the emergent complexity of a New York sidewalk.I don't know about that, Kat says, narrowing her eyes. I am pretty good with complexity.See, I know what you're thinking, Neel says, shaking his head.You're thinking it's just an agent-based simulation and everybody out here follows a pretty simple set of rules-- Kat is nodding--and if you can figure out those rules, you can model it. You can simulate the street, then the neighborhood, then the whole city. Right?Exactly. I mean, sure, I don't know what the rules are yet, but I could experiment and figure them out and then it would be trivial-- Wrong, Neel says, honking like a game-show buzzer. You can't do it. Even if you know the rules-- and by the way, there are no rules--but even if there were, you can't model it. You know why?My best friend and my girlfriend are sparring over simulations. I can only sit back and listen. Kat frowns. Why?You don't have enough memory.Oh, come on--Nope. You could never hold it all in memory. No computer's big enough. Not even your what's-it-called--The Big Box.That's the one. It's not big enough. This box-- Neel stretches out his hands, encompasses the sidewalk, the park, the streets beyond--is bigger.The snaking crowd surges forward.'s 24-Hour Bookstore
Robin Sloan