Computers beat the devil?


I am a little behind the times on this, but Dave Richeson recently posted a quote from Michael Atiyah:

Algebra is the offer made by the devil to the mathematician. The devil says: I will give you this powerful machine, it will answer any question you like. All you need to do is give me your soul: give up geometry and you will have this marvelous machine.

Sir Michael Atiyah, 2002

I like the quote, I have a geometry prejudice, and feel the need to understand everything through pictures. Yet I felt it left something out. Maybe there is a reverse of the classic duel between god and the devil:

Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night:
God said, “Let Newton be!” and all was light.

Alexander Pope: Epitaph intended for Sir Isaac Newton

It did not last; the devil howling
“Ho! Let Einstein be!” restored the status quo.

Sir John Collins Squire A Random Walk in Science compiled by R. L. Weber, edited by E. Mendoza

In this case it is God’s turn to subtly undermine the work of the devil, offering the gift of computers to mathematicians. Algebra becomes algorithm and the geometry be revealed once more. The question is still whether mathematicians (especially Atiyah himself!) will appreciate this new gift.

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