For centuries, the highest level of mathematics has been seen as an isolated creative activity, to produce a proof for review and acceptance by research peers. Mathematics is now at a remarkable inflexion point, with new technology radically extending the power and limits of individuals. "Crowdsourcing" pulls together diverse experts to solve problems; symbolic computation tackles huge routine calculations; and computers, using programs designed to verify hardware, check proofs that are just too long and complicated for any human to comprehend.

Yet these techniques are currently used in stand-alone fashion, lacking integration with each other or with human creativity or fallibility. The Social Machine of Mathematics project applies the lens of social machines to the academic discipline of mathematics, with the ultimate ambition of changing the way people do mathematics, and transforming the reach, pace, and impact of research within the discipline.