During the 1970s and 1980s, a team of Automated Theorem Proving researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago developed the Automated Reasoning Assistant, or AURA, to assist human users in the search for mathematical proofs. The resulting hybrid humans+AURA system developed the capacity to make novel contributions to pure mathematics by very untraditional means. This essay traces how these unconventional contributions were made and made possible through negotiations between the humans and the AURA at Argonne and the transformation in mathematical intuition they produced. At play in these negotiations were experimental practices, nonhumans, and nonmathematical modes of knowing. This story invites an earnest engagement between historians of mathematics and scholars in the history of science and science studies interested in experimental practice, material culture, and the roles of nonhumans in knowledge making.
Comment (from this Blueprint): Dick traces the history of the AURA automated reasoning assistant in the 1970s and 80s, arguing that the introduction of the computer system led to novel contributions to mathematics by unconventional means. Dick’s emphasis is on the AURA system as changing the material culture of mathematics, and thereby leading to collaboration and even negotiations between the mathematicians and the computer system.