I mentioned in a comment in a blog that a substantial part of activity of Timothy Gowers in recent ten or more years is politics. It seems that this claim needs to be clarified. I will start with the definitions of the word “politics” in Merriam-Webster online. There are several meanings, of which the following (3a, 5a, 5b) are the most relevant.
a : political affairs or business; especially : competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government).
a : the total complex of relations between people living in society
b : relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view
It seems that the interpretation of T. Gowers himself is based only on the most objectionable meaning, namely:
c : political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices.
I am not in the position to judge how artful the politics of Gowers is; its results suggest that it is highly artful. But I have no reason to suspect any dishonest practices.
With only one exception, I was (and I am) observing Gowers activities only online (this includes preprints and publications, of course). I easily admit that in this way I may get a distorted picture. But this online-visible part does exist, and this part is mostly politics of mathematics, not mathematics itself.
I do classify as politics things like “The Princeton Companion to Mathematics”, which do not look as such at the first sight. This particular book gives a fairly distorted and at some places an incorrect picture of mathematics, and this is why I consider it as politics – it is an attempt to influence both the wide mathematical public and the mathematicians in power.
I was shocked by Gowers reply to the anonym2’s comment to his post “ICM2010 — Villani laudatio” in his blog. The Gowers blog at the time of 2010 Congress clearly showed that he has almost no idea about the work of mathematicians awarded Fields medals that year. But Gowers was a member of the committee selecting the medalists. “How it could be?” asked anonym2. The reply was very short: “No comment”. This lack of a response (or should I say “this very telling response”?) and the following it explanations of T. Tao clearly showed that the work of the Fields medals committee is now a pure politics, contrary to Tao’s assertion of the opposite. If the members of the committee do not understand the work of laureates, they were not able to base their choices on the substance of the works considered, and only the politics is left. In fact, nowadays it is rather easy to guess which member of the committee was a sponsor for which medalist. This was not the case in the past, and the predictions of the mathematical community were very close to the outcome. I myself, being only a second year graduate student, not even suspecting that there is any politics involved, was able to compile a list of 10 potential Fields medalist for that year, and all four actual medalists were on the list. The question of anonym2 "How could the mathematical community be so wrong in their predictions?" could not even arise at these times.
Next post: Part 2.