Forty five years later, a major open problem in operator algebras is solved

A couple of days ago, Ken Davidson and Matt Kennedy posted a preprint on the arxiv, “The Choquet boundary of an operator system“. In this paper they solve a major open problem in operator algebras, showing that every operator system has sufficiently many boundary representations. 

In 1969, William Arveson published the seminal paper, [“Subalgebras of C*-algebras”, Acta Math. 123, 1969], which is one of the cornerstones, (if not the cornerstone) of the theory of operator spaces and nonself-adjoint operator algebras. In that paper, among other things, Arveson introduced and put to good use the notion of a boundary representation. I wrote on “Subalgebras of C*-algebras” in a previous post dedicated to Arveson, and for some background material the reader is invited to look into that old post. I did not, however, write much about boundary representations (because I was emphasizing his contributions rather what he has left open). Below I wish to explain what are boundary representations, what does it mean that there are sufficiently many of these, and where Davidson and Kennedy’s new results fits in the chain of results leading to the solution of the problem. The paper itself is accessible to anyone who understands the problem, and the main ideas are clearly presented in its introduction.

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