Mathematics is sometimes described as the last bastion against deconstruction, a technique for analyzing texts in which the apparent absolute meanings of words are unpicked and so set into oscillation by identifying hidden self-references.

The foundations of mathematics are symbols to which absolute meanings have been assigned. Confidence in the meanings is drawn from the remarkable power that mathematics has shown to model the behavior of the physical world.

Mathematics as a discipline has become a religion of impenetrable complexity. It is controlled by a vast organisation of “high priests” who “teach”, review the work of others and award qualifications that convey on their holders limited powers to teach and review the work of others. The intellectual powers of those at the pinnacle of this priesthood are awesome, and terrifying to small children.

The problem is that mathematics has ascended to such lofty heights that it has lost sight of its primary utility, to process relationships between people: people of all ages and of every complexion. Relationships are relativistic. If you process information about relationships using mathematics that assigns absolute meanings to symbols, you end up privileging people on one side of a relationship over those on the other side.

It is humbly submitted that the priesthood of mathematicians needs to pause and take a hard look at what its continued adherence to absolutes is doing to humanity and to the environment that we share with all other living things. The physical world gets on fine with uncertainty. It does not matter to a particle that its position and momentum cannot both be known at the same time.

Mathematics coupled to AI is driving us relentlessly towards a deeply inequitable society. Individuals are powerless to oppose this, because the mathematics of absolutes stops them, and there is no alternative that they can use. What is needed is not the tearing up of rule-based systems, nationalism, totalitarian government, trade wars or bloody conflicts, but a little more flexibility in the way that mathematicians treat their most sacred objects: equations and nothing. Admitting a little self-reference into daily practice would take us a long way towards constructing a more resilient society.