Sir Andrew Wiles smacks down unethical use of mathematics for profit
My buddy Jordan Ellenberg sent me this link to an article which covered Sir Andrew Wiles’ comments at a the opening of the Andrew Wiles Building, a housing complex for math nerds in Oxford. From the article:
Wiles claimed that the abuse of mathematics during the global financial meltdown in 2009, particularly by banks’ manipulation of complex derivatives, had tarnished his chosen subject’s reputation.
He explained that scientists used to worry about the ethical repercussions of their work and that mathematics research, which used to be removed from day-to-day life, has diverged “towards goals that you might not believe in”.
At one point Wiles said the following, which is music to my ears coming from a powerful mathematician:
One has to be aware now that mathematics can be misused and that we have to protect its good name.
First, maybe I should invite Wiles to be on my panel of mathematicians for investigating public math models. I originally thought this should be run under the auspices of a society such as the AMS but after talking to some people I’ve given up on that and just want it to be independent.
Second, the Andrew Wiles building was evidently paid for primarily by Landon Clay, who also founded the Clay Institute and was the CEO of Eaton Vance, which an investment management firm which provides its clients with wealth management tools and advice. I’m wondering if that kind of mathematical tool was in Wiles’ mind when he made his speech, and if so, how it went over. Certainly in my experience, wealth management tools are definitely in the “weapons of math destruction” toolbox.