To Think or Not to Think: That Is the Dilemma

| April 1, 2011

For many mathematics educators, one of the most imperative goals of teaching mathematics at the secondary and even post-secondary levels is to increase students’ awareness of mathematics.  But one’s appreciation for the ubiquity of mathematics is truly a double-edge sword constantly sharpened and dulled by the rapid technological advances the very knowledge of mathematics creates.

As a mathematician, every time I use a mobile device, I am cognizant of the encryption devices that protect my emails, voice messages, and videos.  I am constantly reminded of the power of mathematics.  On the other hand, technology, at certain level, serves to simplify my thought processes so that I no longer have to tally up my monthly credit card spending or even my shortest subway route to a Bohemian party in downtown given the point-to-point evolving traffic patterns – I can download apps that employ parallel algorithms to compute the most efficient route to that coordinate in lower Manhattan at 8:30 on Friday with 1 train out of service and a 15-minute subway delay at Penn station meanwhile picking up a bottle of red at a shop in upper East side off the route.

Technology has this uneasy relationship with its users.  The gap between users and the technologies they use was widening even before the Industrial Revolution and it is expanding astronomically today.  The latest financial meltdown of the credit default swaps, CDS, is an example of how technology has expanded into deep waters where even the most experienced asset management companies dare not swim.

Advice?  Start somewhere.  Next time you watch a film on Blu-Ray (a technology soon to be extinct), sit down, google CSS decryption module, read how it works over an espresso.  I am sure you will enjoy the film more.