Post Made Community Wiki by S. Carnahan
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As others have suggested, your friend is getting it backwards. He's like a hammer asking what a carpenter is useful for.

Given a field (of mathematics, say), there are typically some fields that are more structured than it and others that are less structured. In mathematics, people often say the more structured ones are 'harder', and the less structured are 'softer'. For instance, in increasing order of hardness, we have sets, topological spaces, topological manifolds, differential manifolds, complex manifolds, complex algebraic varieties, algebraic varieties over the rational numbers, integral algebraic varieties. These are in a linear order, but if you throw in other subjects, you'll get a non-linear one. (p-adic algebraic geometry and Riemannian geometry immediately come to mind.)

(I think Gromov has some remarks at the end of an ICM address where he talks about this and gives other examples. Also, don't confuse 'harder' and 'softer' in this sense with what they mean in the sciences, which is essentially 'more precise' and 'less precise'. For instance, in science people say that biology is softer than chemistry. In fact, the two meanings are opposites because in science, more structured objects are less amenable to a precise analysis. But this typically isn't the case in mathematics.)

Now given a subject S and a harder subject H, it's usually true that most objects in S don't admit the structure of an object in H. For instance, most topological manifolds don't admit a complex structure. On the other hand, for the objects of S that do admit such a structure, their theory from the point of view of H is typically much richer than that from the point of view of S. For instance, the study of Riemann surfaces as topological spaces is less rich than their study as complex manifolds. You might say that softer subjects are broad and flexible and harder ones are rich and rigid. Mathematicians tend to view subjects that are softer than their specialty as general nonsense, and harder ones as excessively particular.

This is not to say that a soft field is easier or less interesting than a harder one. Even if it is true that the directly analogous question in the soft subject is easier (e.g. classify Riemann surfaces topologically rather than holomorphically), it just means that the people in the soft subject can move on and study more sophisticated objects. So they just get stuck later rather than sooner. For instance, over the past 50 years, a big fraction of the best number theorists have been studying elliptic curves over number fields. Now elliptic curves over the complex numbers are much easier (I think there hasn't been much new since the 19th century), so the algebraic geometers just moved on to higher genus or higher dimension and are grappling with the issues there, issues that are way out of reach in the presence of arithmetic structure.

Now my main point here is that soft subjects were typically invented to break up the study of harder ones into smaller pieces. (This is surely something of a creation myth, but one with a fair amount of truth.) For instance, the real numbers were invented to break up the study of polynomial equations into two steps: when a polynomial has a real solution and when that real solution is rational. I know very little about modern analysis, but I think that much of it was invented to do the same with differential equations. You first find solutions in some soft sense and then see whether it comes from a solution in the harder sense of original interest.

So the role of soft subjects is to aid in the study of harder ones---people usually don't ask for applications of partial differential equations to the study of topological vector spaces, but it's considered a mark of respectability to ask for the opposite. Similarly, no one talks about applications of engineering to mathematics. Since algebraic geometry is at the hard end of the spectrum above, there aren't many fields in which it is natural to ask for applications. Number theory, or arithmetic algebraic geometry, is harder and of course there are zillions of applications there, but that's not what your friend wants. Just about all mathematicians work in a subject that is softer than some and harder than others (and if you include non-mathematical subjects, then all mathematicians do). That's all good---it takes a whole food chain to make an ecosystem. But it's backwards to ask about the nutritional value of something that typically eats you.

[This picture of mathematics is of course simplistic. There are examples of hard subjects with applications to softer ones. See Donu Arapura's answer, for example. There are also applications of arithmetic algebraic geometry to complex algebraic geometry. For instance, Grothendieck's proof of the Ax-Grothendieck theorem, or the proof of the decomposition theorem for perverse sheaves using the theory of weights and the Weil conjectures. But I think it's fair to say that such applications are the exception---and are prized because of it---rather than the rule.]