If you’ve never heard of the term data science, don’t worry. It’s a new term that only became popular in the 2010s. A decade ago, the job of a data scientist was nothing but a hypothetical idea. Recently, Harvard Business Review dubbed the job as the “The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.”
Still wondering what’s data science? Here is a brief explainer on the topic.
What is data science?
Just like how chemistry is the study of chemistry or how biology is the study of life, data science is the study of data. The website Getting Smart defines data science as “a set of methods and tools used to extract knowledge and insights from data sets which may be highly structured or very unstructured.”
What does a data scientist do?
Scientists come to significant findings through the testing and elimination of variables. Data scientists do the same but with data. They take huge data sets and try to find relationships between information. For example, with large data sets, doctors are now able to see the relationships between patients health with other variables like age, residential locations, nutrition, air quality, and so on. Rather than running one-on-one consultation when patients are already sick, doctors now can take large scale preventive measures like suggesting health policies.
Because data science is an inter-disciplinary act (meaning an act that requires collaboration or knowledge from multiple disciplines) data scientists aren’t tied to only one field. They’re required in almost all industries and will play a bigger role as more institutions start to rely on data to make decisions.
As the size of collected data in the world is becoming bigger and the sources of data are going public, analysing data is becoming a necessary skill.
Why should my child learn data science?
First of all, data science teaches children to be curious and analytical. When one learns the data science process, they learn how to analyse information and how to find relationships between them. It is natural for children to be inquisitive and ask why. Data science allows them to channel that attitude into exploring our world, filled with a wealth of data and opportunities for unearthing new insights and discoveries. Let them have fun asking all the possible questions.
Second, data science is key to the jobs of tomorrow. Coding has been the go-to activity for parents to provide the first step into the world of tech for their child. Unfortunately, even coding might get replaced by automation. Microsoft recently developed a system called DeepCoder that learned how to code through observing other software and repurposed codes for a different context. In the future, rather than hiring a team of coders, several coders (or even non-coders) could just describe a task, and DeepCoder could code it for them. So rather than just exclusively teach coding, children should also learn the creative aspect of tech.
Data science could very well provide the answer. In the words of John Oliver when he spoke to children about automation, to be employed in the future one would need to be able to do “a series of non-routine tasks that require social intelligence, complex critical thinking, and creative problem-solving.” Teaching children the data science process could help them achieve that very objective.
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