Why data science?

Data Science for kids - The genesis

We see data and data science exploding around us -- more and more businesses (and even governments) make decisions based on data, rather than qualitative analysis or expert views. Also, our way of thinking about things has turned statistical -- the answer to a question is not yes/no, but an effect size with a confidence interval, or stated simply, the likelihood (chance) of the answer being yes is some percent value (if you did not get either of these, take a data science course now...!). This has paid dividend -- both to understand the world better and solve problems which we couldn't solve earlier. Notably, it also helps individuals reason and solve problems better in their day to day life.

If we just take the economic value of data science, let alone the scientific or personalized value, our coming generation just needs to know it. We are facing a formidable demand for data scientists, but also it will seep into every discipline very much like use of computers. If we do not have enough people knowing it well, it will create inefficiency. Of course, those who know it and know it well, will do well for themselves and will be paid (vainly) much higher than the rest. These will also be our next generation of innovators.

One of the kids at our data camp asked me, which science is this - biology, physics, chemistry? I told her (really a her!) that it is a science which helps all the sciences you talked about -- and that is what is pretty much what is happening. Data science is in some sense a decision and inference science, a method, which helps to do quite a bit around us. Still, kids through K to 12 hardly have an exposure to it -- i guess their only exposure comes through some physics lab experiments or economics in high school. Unfortunately, a lot of statistics taught within math is about cramming formulas for mean, median and standard deviation!

We need to do be giving kids early exposure to data science -- the theoretical statistical part, often so beautiful! and more so, the practical -- being able to infer from data and predict. The second is more important, the first would only be for some romantics. We foresee that data science would probably become as ubiquitous as computer applications and programming -- pretty much every school has a computer lab and a computer curriculum today, which was probably non-existent pre the 80's. The same will happen for data sciences in the next five years. It will first start showing up in universities and independent training companies...

Who will take the lead to ready our students to learn to give objective data based (but vague!- confidence level) answers and do data-based decision making. Data science camp for kids is a beginning to inspire, motivate and co-build resources for this next revolution.

Varun, 2015
(Read a more detailed version here)


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