Opinion 98: Don't Fall In Love With Your Model: The Cautionary Tale of my Recent proof that P=NP

By Doron Zeilberger

Written: April 1(!), 2009

Humans will be humans. The physical and mathematical worlds are infinitely complex, and there is no way that we, lowly humans, can ever hope to have any real understanding of what is going on. Sure enough, we have the appearance of an "impressive" body of scientific and mathematical knowledge, but compared to the mind of G-d, it is all utterly trivial, and also totally wrong, and the reason that "often" our predictions come out "right" is an optical illusion and wishful thinking.

Because science, math, and economics are so hard, in fact intractable, human beings came up with very simplistic, utterly naive, models. They all start out with a "disclaimer": this is only a model, and should not be taken too seriously. But as soon as these humans finish these perfunctory words-just like the Surgeon General's warning- they forget all about it, and truly believe that these models are accurate and can be used in the real world.

We all know what happened to all these quants whiz-kids from Wall Street, who preferred to have a starting salary (before bonuses) of 300K, as opposed to 50K, as a visiting assistant professor, (as though multiplying your salary by six would make you six times happier, quite the contrary!), and developed all those flawed models. Look where they are now! Now they are applying to mathematics graduate school, because, all of a sudden they realized that "their real love and strength is pure mathematics".

But this is not the main point of this post. The main point is to comment on my recent "breakthrough" that P=NP. The reason that I am not making such a big deal about it (and definitely I am not going to claim the one million dollar prize from the Clay Foundation, since, as I said above, the more money you have, the more miserable you are, and I prefer to continue to be happily penny-less) is that the solution turned out to be very anti-climactic. All it did was prove that the question was stupid, because it was based on the flawed dogma of contemporary computer science that equates easy with "polynomial time". The "polynomial" algorithm in my proof has such a huge exponent, and such a huge constant, that makes it far from feasible, on today's (and any day's) computers.

But I truly hope that my solution was not in vain. Who knows?, maybe at least some people will realize how futile it is for humans to attempt to do science and mathematics, even with computers' help, because, unfortunately, the computers are still programmed by humans, and these humans can't be trusted to develop realistic models. They can't be trusted with developing toy models either, since they soon forget that these are tinker toys, and this way endanger all of us.

So, let's be humble, forget about science and mathematics, and go back to old-time religion and worshiping God, who alone knows what is going on.

Added Dec. 6, 2009: Read insightful remarks by Wesley Pegden.
Opinions of Doron Zeilberger