My talk at BIRS on “Noncommutative convexity, a la Davidson and Kennedy”

by Orr Shalit

Update August 5: here is the link to the video recording of the talk: link.

I was invited to speak in the BIRS workshop Multivariable Operator Theory and Function Spaces in Several Variables. Surprise: the organizers asked each of the invited speakers (with the exception of some early career researchers, I think) to speak on somebody else’s work. I think that this is a very nice idea for two reasons.

First, it is very healthy to encourage researchers to open their eyes and look around, instead of concentrating always on their own work – either racing for another publication or “selling” it. At the very least being asked to speak about somebody else’s work, it is guaranteed that I will learn something new in the workshop!

The second reason why I think that this is a very welcome idea is maybe a bit deeper. Every mathematician works to solve their favorite problems or develop their theories, but every once in a while it is worthwhile to stop and think: what do we make out of all this? What are the results/theories/points of view that we would like to carry forward with us? The tree can’t grow in all directions with no checks – we need to prune it. We need to bridge the gap between the never stopping flow of papers and results, on one side, and the textbooks of the future, on the other side.

With these ambitious thoughts in mind, I chose to speak about Davidson and Kennedy’s paper “Noncommutative Choquet theory” in order to force myself to digest and internalize what looked to me to be an important paper from the moment it came out, and with this I hoped to stop a moment and rearrange my mental grip on noncommutative function theory and noncommutative convexity.

The theory developed by Davidson and Kennedy and its precursors were inspired to a very large extent by classical Choquet theory. It therefore seems that to understand it properly, as well as to understand the reasoning behind some of the definitions and approaches, one needs to be familiar with this theory. So one possible natural way to start to describe Davidson and Kennedy’s theory is by recalling the classical theory that it generalizes.

But I didn’t want to explain it in this way, because that is the way that Davidson and Kennedy’s exposition (both in the papers and in some talks that I saw) goes. I wanted to start with the noncommutative point of view from the outset. I did use the classical (i.e. commutative case) for a tiny bit of motivation but in a somewhat different way, which rests on stuff everybody knows. So, I did a little expository experiment, and if you think it blew up then everybody can simply go and read the original paper.

Here are my “slides”:

The conference webpage will have video recordings of all talks at some point.