Quo Vadis?

This post is not aimed at justifying this blog’s existence to the reader. In this day and age uninterested readers will simply stop reading and wander off to other blogs. Instead, this post is aimed at reminding my future self why I started to write this blog in the first place.

The world is becoming more and more mathematical. Behind expressions like big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, deep learning and data science lurks mathematics. The big five companies—Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft—rely on advanced algorithms in their day-to-day operations and so do countless others. Every day our lives are shaped by mathematics, often operating behind the scenes.

Here I use the term mathematics in a wide sense. Mathematics is the science of looking for patterns, for rules, for structure in places that, at first, look chaotic and devoid of order. In the Renaissance mathematicians used the geometry of Euclid to find order in the chaotic movement of the planets. In the 18th century they unleashed the power of calculus to tame the flight of cannon balls. And in the 20th century mathematicians started to use numerical methods to predict the weather.

Nowadays chaos is found in the huge datasets created by ourselves as we surf the internet, post to social networks, have our actions tracked online and offline and by carrying with us our smartphones with their myriad sensors.

As mathematicians we are, by training and education, in a privileged position to comprehend the world from its algorithmical, computerised side. We may bemoan that we encounter people for whom “being bad at math” is almost a point of pride, while at the same time few boast of “being bad at reading”. And yet, given our position, I find it our duty to share understanding. How to do this best, I do not know. I hope that this blog will find readers, but if not, at least I can say that I tried.

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