In this, Wolfram is allying himself with one side in the ancient struggle between what (with much oversimplification) one might call cultures of the image and cultures of the word. In our own time it has surfaced in the competition between television and newspapers and between graphical user interfaces and command line interfaces in computer operating systems.
The culture of images has had the better of it lately. For a while the culture of the word had seemed to have scored a victory with the introduction of sound into motion pictures. In Sunset Boulevard, Norma Desmond recalls that in silent films, “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces.” But now movies can go on for long stretches with no words, only the thunk of cars running into each other and the sizzle of light sabers. The ascendancy of the culture of the image has been abetted by computers and the study of complexity, which have made possible the simulation of complex visual images.
I am an unreconstructed believer in the importance of the word, or its mathematical analogue, the equation.
The crucial phrase here is "with much oversimplification". I am wondering what could be the larger trend manifesting in the history of ideas that Weinberg is referring to: his observation of "the ascendancy of the culture of the image" seems obvious enough in our time, and one could conjecture that the culture of the word had scored an earlier victory with the invention of the printing press, say. The dichotomy also seems to relate to a contrast between exact/more intuitive modes of thinking and expression that is sometimes attributed to West/East (or modernism/postmodernism, or even Wittgenstein I/II :).
If the trend has been observed (and named) by historians of ideas, do they describe it as a back-and-forth between (suitable generalizations of) the cultures of the image and the word respectively across times and cultures, or is it more of a uniform ascendancy of the culture of images perhaps facilitated by progress in technology and the factoid that everything might have been said (but not by everyone) in certain areas? Or is there no larger trend in history and these are just sentimental words from an elder (and wise) individual of a kind that is perhaps constant across generations?