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Mathematicians versus the Silicon Age: Sheldon Axler

Summary: Mathematicians versus the Silicon Age:
Who Wins?
Sheldon Axler
Mathematicians invented computers. Computers then changed the way
mathematics progresses. Have computers made mathematicians, and the tech-
niques they developed over the past few thousand years, obsolete? Are math-
ematicians merely trying to preserve their jobs by sticking with outmoded re-
quirements, such as insisting on rigorous proofs even in the face of overwhelming
numeric evidence? This possibility was envisioned by Alan Turing, a mathemati-
cian who helped create the dawn of the computer age (and who helped the Allies
win World War II by playing a key role in cracking the German Enigma code),
when in 1947 he wrote:
The masters are liable to get replaced because as soon as any tech-
nique becomes at all stereotyped it becomes possible to devise a
system of instruction tables which will enable the electronic com-
puter to do it for itself. It may happen however that the masters
will refuse to do this. They may be unwilling to let their jobs be
stolen from them in this way. In that case they would surround the
whole of their work with mystery and make excuses, couched in well
chosen gibberish, whenever any dangerous suggestions were made. I


Source: Axler, Sheldon - Dean of the College of Science and Engineering, San Francisco State University


Collections: Mathematics