By the way, it’s a great tv show. Check it out on Netflix.
Seriously, though. The “data scientist” is currently heralded as one of the greatest career innovations of this century. Orange Is The New Black would never have achieved such success without the work of these individuals per se.
So who are they? What does it take to be one? Why are they so lucrative?
Well, quite honestly, all of us are data scientists. Only now did we decide to make it something legitimate and a
viable known profession.
Think of it this way- everything around you is a source of information. I wake up at 8AM and choose to have egg whites instead of a stack of waffles. Now, let’s look at this from a nutritional level (because let’s be honest, who would forgo waffles?) Put simply, egg whites contain a little more than 50% of an egg’s protein, almost none of the fats/lipids which is contained in the yolk, and <1% of the carbohydrates. Compare this with waffles. (I don’t know about you, but I enjoy a nice dollop of ice cream on mine.)
Quite crudely, that’s data. Granted, I’ve also used past experience and knowledge to aid in my decision making (which is another part of data science), but clearly, there is something quantifiable in my breakfast. We’ve all made decisions and observations like this sometime in life.
So what’s different? We know it exists, we measure it, and we want to harness it.
Data exists in everything. Only now are we obsessed with sensing and measuring how it manifests into our daily lives. Also, only now are we enamored by the knowledge we can gain from its sheer quantity. A true “data scientist” is very aware of this fact.
Alright, so what do they do professionally? Honestly, the diversity of the field makes it hard to account for them all, but essentially, the goal (in my humble opinion) is to apply the scientific method to the study of data and synthesize something from doing so.
As such, it’s very much a melding of the “sexiest” jobs out there- librarians, statisticians, and the recent computer scientist. A spectrum of flavors can then be added: business, entertainment, medicine, public policy…it’s an infinite list. Where should we invest our money? What makes a tv show successful? What’s the most effective diagnosis? How can people benefit from a new social program? If data exists, then a data scientist is waiting to be discovered to provide insight.
They parse through big sets of data. They forecast. They organize. They oversee operations. They can do nothing but state the obvious and mean everything for a company because that’s what we need.
The advent of ubiquitous computing in tandem with sensor augmentation necessitates these individuals. Our ability to record data makes it possible to organically understand phenomena. It’s currently our job to see what we can make out of it and advance.
Because right now, it’s the style. And it’s probably here to stay.