The sentence, "Even mathematicians don't have all the answers" is a frightening one. Mathematicians strain hard to have all practical answers. Even engineers go up a zillion blind alleys, and often don't know that the alleys are blind until they've already been announced as the answer.

"It may well turn out, of course, that what they need are more mathematicians." Heaven help IBM, and us.

The classic mid-life arc of the mathematician (esp. the pure one) goes like this:

  1. At 42 - Notice that some friends are getting rich.
  2. At 44 - Notice that zillions of "idiots" are getting rich.
  3. At 47 - Form company based on brilliant idea. Insist on maintaining complete control, to avoid corruption of idea by idiots.
  4.  At 50 - Declare bankruptcy.
  5. Later - New buyer of company makes a success out of it, sometimes a greatone.

I must admit that the high-tech age has reduced the probability of step 4 to, say, 96%. I am not writing as an outsider.

Rich Bubb adds:

Here is an article about one of IBM's chief mathematicians, and the real-world problems her department is solving. 

Kim Zussman writes:

Re: "Zillions of 'idiots' are getting rich:"

This is actually the key to everything. You will never get over how many less (intelligent/educated/motivate/ethical) people have more than you can ever hope to, and the explanations about randomness will fall on the deaf ears of all significant others.

What is much harder and more important to appreciate is how many of your betters will always live in incomprehensible hopelessness.


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