[FOM] Pure mathematics and humanity's collective curiosity

John McCarthy jmc at cs.Stanford.EDU
Tue Oct 16 17:29:42 EDT 2007

Alasdair Urquhart includes

> I think all mathematics is potentially applicable.

True.  At least G.H. Hardy's attempt to claim that his mathematics had 
no application was refuted not too long after his death.

However, a consequence of this view has been that some funders and
universities have asked researchers to tell how soon they expect
applications.  The effect has been especially baleful in computer

Returning to the collective curiosity idea, I don't think the
widespread public and media admiration of Wiles's proof of FLT was
based on any belief that applications would follow.  It was of
considerable importance that a significant fraction of the public
could at least understand what had been proved.

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