Friday, 22 January 2016

Thinking about Grothendieck

On n-Category Cafe is a post by John Baez linking to a short article on the late, great mathematician (and human being by all accounts) Alexander Grothendieck written by Barry Mazur.

I want to quote from that paper because I think the statement here is fundamental to everything we do, particularly in engineering and mathematics, be it category theory, trying to model the information flows in a system to better understand privacy or even linking privacy engineering with the legal aspects (emphasis mine):

The mathematical talks I had with him—as I remember them now—were largely, perhaps only, about viewpoint, never about specifics (with the exception of a conversation about differential structures on conjugate complexifications of an algebraic variety over a number field). Grothendieck’s message was clear throughout: that everything important will follow easily, will flow, from the right vantage. It was principally ‘the right vantage,’ a way of seeing mathematics, that he sought, and perhaps only on a lesser level, its by-products. 

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