If you are in need of some light relief, you could do worse than peruse the opinions of Doron Zeilberger, who, if viewed strictly through the lens of these ramblings, appears to have a relationship with theoretical mathematics something along the lines of the Unabomber’s relationship with technology. (Let me add that my feelings in real life about Zeilberger is that he has proved some amazing theorems, an opinion which I am absolutely sure is not reciprocated.)
Zeilberger’s opinion 151 is somewhat of a doozy, calling out Ken Ono as a member of the “fancy math gang” who “stole” Ramanujan. First, the idea that one could imagine what Ramanujan thought of the modern theory of mock theta functions (or any other part of mathematics influenced by his legacy) is pure BS. Second, once you create something in mathematics, it transcends its creator; what Ramanujan actually would have thought of his legacy is mostly irrelevant. Maybe Robert Langlands thinks we are all fools for not taking up the double-bitted axe and the cross-cut saw and devoting our lives to the trace formula, and maybe he’s right, but in reality the Langlands program will go in a very different direction to what Langlands anticipated and most likely be better for it. Third, it’s hard to maintain any legitimacy making criticisms of the way modern mathematics is done while insisting that you don’t actually know any “fancy” mathematics, whether that is true or not. But finally, and this is what is most amusing about this opinion, is that I am usually inclined to criticise Ken on precisely the same point, except in the exact opposite direction. That is, my frustration with the theory of mock modular forms is not that it’s too fancy, but rather that it’s nowhere near fancy enough! The subject is crying out for a treatment which incorporates representation theory, where “shadows” are related to the (reducible) principal series which has a discrete series quotient, and where the amazing special structures which have been discovered are given a more algebraic framework rather than the subject as it currently stands: a wild west of crazy q-series, Lerch sums, and indefinite theta series. Whether such an approach would actually be useful is hard to guarantee in advance, but the relevance for the classical theory of modular forms cannot be overestimated.
The process of mathematics is as follows. You discover or observe some phenomenon, and you try to explain it. While trying to explain it, you may come up with a more general theory which explains not only the original example, but also an entire family of examples. And usually at this point, the general theory is more interesting than the original example, because it has more explanatory power to explain why things are true. That doesn’t mean the original example is no longer interesting, but it has to be viewed in the more general context. There is room in mathematics for crazy unique examples that don’t fit a pattern and very general theory. But there are no “heirs” to Ramanujan, because mathematics doesn’t work that way. The fact that Ramanujan’s name will always be linked to Deligne (a mathematician of a quite different sort, to say the least) is testament to that.