Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

Vladimir Voevodsky on the role of different kinds of mathematical knowledge in social practices

May, 21 –  Andrei Rodin’s talk at the conference ‘Bridge the Gap‘ at the University of the Balearic Islands, Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

Abstract: In his lecture about the projected future of mathematics delivered in 2003 soon after receiving Fields Medal Vladimir Voevodsky raises concerns about the fact the contemporary research mathematics is wholly detached from interests and needs of society outside a close circle of peers. He returns to this issue in 2014 in his Paul Bernays lectures providing this time some elements of response to this challenge, which are related to his project of developing Univalent Foundations of mathematics that support formal verification of mathematical results with computer. In the same lectures Voevodsky presents an original analysis of contemporary mathematical practices, which include not only research practices but also educational practices at all levels including the most elementary ones. The aim of my talk is to present a summary of these Voevodsky’s ideas and show how the project of paving the gap between today’s research mathematics, on the one hand, and common mathematical practices such as teaching and learning the elementary school mathematics, on the other hand, can be further advanced. I shall use the example of Topological Data Analysis for demonstrating how recently obtained mathematical results may meet societal and economical needs, and at the same time be transparent to general public.