What is data science?
It is much easier to say what it is not, it is not science or ‘a’ science, or a ‘type’ of science, if such a thing as a ‘type’ or ‘kind’ of science is even possible. It is not a field of inquiry or topic area of research in science. All science is data science in the sense that all science uses parts of some of the tools that fall under the rubric of “data science” to analyze data that is generated by the experiments that are conducted in that particular field or, in the case of purely theoretical fields, to analyze data sets that are relevant to the theory. So called data science is a tool of science, nothing more. A useful and powerful tool to be sure but science could and did get along just fine before the advent of the age of “data science.” Statistics and mathematics have always been useful tools for the scientist and they always will be, calling them data science does not make them science. More recently, powerful computers, and clever algorithms have greatly expanded the insights to be gained from even the most mundane of data sets. That said, using computers running algorithms to analyze data is not science, computers are still only tools of science and thus not science. A good, though imperfect analogy is a calculator in mathematics. It is a very useful tool for doing math, yet there is no field of “calculator mathematics.” Yes the analogy fails in many respects but I think the point of the example is clear, a tool of a thing is not the thing itself and never can be.
Wait a minute, but it’s call data ‘science’, why would they call it data science if it isn’t even science?
You would have to ask them but I don’t believe it is out of malice or genuine disregard for the standards related to how things are named. Rather I believe it is mostly out of ignorance and just a little bit of hype hope and status envy.
What is hype hope? and status envy?, envious of the status of actual scientists you mean? But that makes no sense, scientists no longer have any real status in society.
Slow down there son, one thing at a time. Don’t blow your load just yet.
Blow my load?
Your didn’t hear that from me little Timmy, you heard it from your mother.
OK pops, whatever you say, but you never answered any of my questions, what is hype hope?
Hype hope is the feeling of optimism many people feel when they modify an existing word or phrase by adding another word or phrase because they think it will make the original thing more interesting, more legitimate, and perhaps most important able to generate more clicks and/or attract more eyeballs, or more students, or more grant money, etc. Usually the term or phrase added is a tech buzzword like social network or artificial intelligence, however almost any term of phrase can generate hype hope in the right circumstances. In the case of data “science” the hope is that by labeling it a science it will be taken more seriously by the academic powers that be, more people will want to study it, and ultimately more grant money will flow to the schools where such programs are housed.
Sure but status envy, I mean come on dad, you are a scientist, I know you have no status, I see how you are treated every day, no one respects you, nobody really even likes you, how could anyone be envious of that?
Ouch Timmy my boy that was pretty harsh, but also very true. I may not be the best example but in fact many people still respect science and scientists. I know it is hard to believe but the majority of people still trust them and believe that the work they do is important and for the betterment of society and all mankind. It is one of the few professions left of which that can be said. I am getting choked up just thinking about it. No field in technology has that level of respect or status. The buzzards in silicon valley are jealous of this fact and feel slighted and more then a little hurt. There is nothing a technologist craves more than having his ego stroked and nothing he hates more than seeing people besides himself getting stroked off. Like leeches they have been trying to latch on to respectable science at least since the mid 1990s. Believe it or not but at one time computer science was a well respected and admired field of scientific endeavor. Researchers in the field published papers, had conferences with technical sessions, had labs and graduate students, etc. To some extent it still exists but even computer science has not been able to totally escape the pernicious influence of the tech utopians and the silicon valley bro-tastic mentality.
Wait a minute, that’s the end, awkward much?
Sorry Tim my boy but I am plumb out of thoughts at the moment but be sure to tune in next time for another installment of FAQs about the future, next up online “universities”. This one is going to be really special. As a Udacity and Udemy alum (Go fightin Udes!) with multiple nanodegrees to my name, I have loads to say about these totally legitimate and not at all money grabbing scam online “schools.” See you in the future!