12/15/2014

Part II: THE IMITATION GAME meets HOW I CAME TO HATE MATH/ Comment J'ai Détesté Les Maths Moral Relativism vs Beneficence and Justice: Maths and Economics

HOW I CAME TO HATE MATH/ Comment J'ai Détesté Les Maths is a film Directed by Olivier Peyon and written along with Amandine Escoffier. It  is a documentary whose initial purpose seems hijacked by historical events. Its parallel to the fictional historical biopic thriller, THE IMITATION GAME, screened at the Mill Valley Film Festival 2014, need be made. 
 
The MATH story, like in THE IMITATION GAME, begins lightly with young people who are awkward. Some of them, like Alan Turing,  grow into the lovely eccentricity that those who both love and understand maths often bear. Peyton’s film tours the world of elite global mathematics prize winners and its retreats. The viewer has the feeling of watching young Einsteins. The film is initially a celebration of Maths. 

After showing the rarefied air which the theoretical mathematicians breathe, MATHS eases viewers into the world of technical applications of maths. Finally, the story leads to the economic crisis of our current millennium and the misleading mathematical modeling which wrought it. 

Mathematicians, on camera, own the horrific results of their science.  It is reminiscent of Einstein after the the theory of relativity was weaponized. A nausea is shared by many clinicians and other applied scientists as they wade through memory of disasters sometimes mediated by applied theory, particularly when ethical parameters were absent. 

 “Is there any definable method for deciding whether any given mathematical assertion is true or not?”  The procedure for seeking this answer required stating a hypothesis, like any other science.  "If it were true," Toulman paraphrased  Alan Turing,  ”Any method of 'routinizing' mathematical proof can be thought of as a mechanical process.” Then the question was one of 'simple' technology “What sort of a “machine” would be needed to carry out such a proof?”   This was how the computer was theorized and developed.  It happened that the resources to build the machine arrived in the form of WWII.  However, the drive, well before the War, was Turing's theory needing proof. It happens that  the military remains one of a few venues where mathematics gets funded. The use of science and medicine in war is a bioethical issue.

“What happened with mathematical modeling?”  the last third of HOW I CAME TO HATE MATHS asks.
When Scientific theory jumps to technology, there is always a risk that those who best know the Science will loose or relinquish control of it. It is the fundamental basis of Bioethics that Scientist and Applied Scientist should resist the temptation to abandon their work to those less knowledgeable of their fields. Bioethics is not only a field for medical doctors, clinical medical ethics is only a subset. 

HOW I CAME TO HATE MATH asserts, mathematicians recognized errors in economic mathematical modeling earlier than has been admitted by financiers. In the blame game, the common person's behavioral finance is often pointed out while financiers and maths models are ignored.  As in other situations of bioethical conflict, the first step is recognizing a conflict and then exploring it. Taking responsibility is  requisite for the minds knowing the field to explore the  conflict, as happens in the film HOW I CAME TO HATE MATH.

Not too far away from the applications of the Turing Machine, or mathematical economic models we have seen similar loss of control of the fields of medicine and public health. Misuse of the technology ( knowledge) related to quarantine, perhaps for political capital, during epidemic scares,  come to mind. The murder of polio vaccine workers by extremist when the vaccine program was used as a shield for covert military activity also is an example. 

The logic of immorality is always flawed and bears consequences. However, detailed moral analysis may also bear negative results. The difference is made,  as in all science and ethics,not only by intention of but attention to details.  The people watching have to be able to recognize what they see. Biological Science receiving federal funding requires those learning to use it  have some training in Bioethics that is, graduate students. Apparently,  maths departments have no ethical educational obligation imposed by financiers. Maths and computer science have major bioethical  context in this and the last century.   Recognizing mathematical modeling’s role in a  devastating economic collapse of the world’s economy does not  excuse the greed of financiers, it only recognizes the bioethical issue.  

Even when those who know the science do their best at moral consideration, monitoring of consequences is paramount, in war and in peace. Having spent the last half of his life on Peace, Einstein would agree.  Hats if to the filmmakers of HOW  I CAME TO HATE MATHS, and the mathematicians they interviewed,  for the jerky C- turn made in the last third of this film. Don’t be fooled by the cute beginning. HOW I CAME TO HATE MATHS chronicles a whiplash in history that threatens to break a century’s neck.

References: 

How I Came to Hate Math / Comment j'ai détesté les ma (35mm) Directed by Olivier Peyon.(2013) Documentary. France (103 min)

How I came to  Hate Math  trailer www.youtube.com/embed/QVKtLkNF_PA" accessed October 16, 2014

The National Association of Retirement Plan Participants http://www.narpp.org/

Enstein, A., Nathan, O., Heinz, N. Einstein on Peace. Simon. 1960 

Punjwani, S. K. (2014). Understanding Underpinnings of
Act of Violence against Polio Workers: A Case Study of Pakistan. In I. Needham,
M. Kingma, K. McKenna, O. Frank, C. Tuttas, S. Kingma, et al., Fourth
International Conference on Violence in Health Sector; Towards Safety, Security
and Wellbeing of all (pp. 80-83). Amesterdam: Kavanah, Dewingeloo & Oud
Consultancy.

2 comments:

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