|By William Schmarzo||
|February 18, 2017 04:00 PM EST||
My son Max is home from college and that always leads to some interesting conversations. Max is in graduate school at Iowa State University where he is studying kinesiology and strength training. As part of his research project, he is applying physics to athletic training in order to understand how certain types of exercises can lead to improvements in athletic speed, strength, agility, and recovery.
Figure 1: The Laws of Kinesiology
Max was showing me one drill designed to increase the speed and thrust associated with jumping (Max added 5 inches to his vertical leap over the past 6 weeks, and can now dunk over the old man). When I was asking him about the science behind the drill, he went into great details about the interaction between the sciences of physics, biomechanics and human anatomy.
Max could explain to me how the laws of physics (the study of the properties of matter and energy.), kinesiology (the study of human motion that mainly focuses on muscles and their functions) and biomechanics (they study of movement involved in strength exercise or in the execution of a sport skill) interacted to produce the desired outcomes. He could explain why it worked.
And that is the heart of my challenges with treating data science as a science. As a data scientist, I can predict what is likely to happen, but I cannot explain why it is going to happen. I can predict when someone is likely to attrite, or respond to a promotion, or commit fraud, or pick the pink button over the blue button, but I cannot tell you why that’s going to happen. And I believe that the inability to explain why something is going to happen is why I struggle to call “data science” a science.
Okay, let the hate mail rain down on me, but let me explain why this is an important distinction!
What Is Science?
Science is the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
Science works within systems of laws such as the laws of physics, thermodynamics, mathematics, electromagnetism, aerodynamics, electricity (like Ohm’s law), Newton’s law of motions, and chemistry. Scientists can apply these laws to understand why certain actions lead to certain outcomes. In many disciplines, it is critical (life and death critical in some cases) that the scientists (or engineers) know why something is going to occur:
- In pharmaceuticals, chemists need to understand how certain chemicals can be combined in certain combinations (recipes) to drive human outcomes or results.
- In mechanical engineering, building engineers need to know how certain materials and designs can be combined to support the weight of a 40 story building (that looks like it was made out of Lego blocks).
- In electrical engineering, electrical engineers need to understand how much wiring, what type of wiring and the optimal designs are required to support the electrical needs of buildings or vehicles.
Again, the laws that underpin these disciplines can be used to understand why certain actions or combinations lead to predictable outcomes.
Big Data and the “Death” of Why
An article by Chris Anderson in 2006 titled “The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete” really called into question the “science” nature of the data science role. The premise of the article was that the massive amounts of data were yielding insights about the human behaviors without requiring the heavy statistical modeling typically needed when using sampled data sets. This is the quote that most intrigued me:
“Google conquered the advertising world with nothing more than applied mathematics. It didn’t pretend to know anything about the culture and conventions of advertising — it just assumed that better data, with better analytical tools, would win the day. And Google was right.”
With the vast amounts of detailed data available and high-powered analytic tools, it is possible to identify what works without having to worry about why it worked. Maybe when it comes to human behaviors, there are no laws that can be used to understand (or codify) why humans take certain actions under certain conditions. In fact, we already know that humans are illogical decision-making machines (see “Human Decision-Making in a Big Data World”).
However, there are some new developments that I think will require “data science” to become more like other “sciences.”
Internet of Things and the “Birth” of Why
The Internet of Things (IOT) will require organizations to understand and codify why certain inputs lead to predictable outcomes. For example, it will be critical for manufacturers to understand and codify why certain components in a product break down most often, by trying to address questions such as:
- Was the failure caused by the materials used to build the component?
- Was the failure caused by the design of the component?
- Was the failure caused by the use of the component?
- Was the failure caused by the installation of the component?
- Was the failure caused by the maintenance of the component?
As we move into the world of IoT, we will start to see increased collaboration between analytics and physics. See what organizations like GE are doing with the concept of “Digital Twins”.
The Digital Twin involves building a digital model, or twin, of every machine – from a jet engine to a locomotive – to grow and create new business and service models through the Industrial Internet.
Digital twins are computerized companions of physical assets that can be used for various purposes. Digital twins use data from sensors installed on physical objects to represent their real-time status, working condition or position.
GE is building digital models that mirror the physical structures of their products and components. This allows them to not only accelerate the development of new products, but allows them to test the products in a greater number of situations to determine metrics such as mean-time-to-failure, stress capability and structural loads.
As the worlds of physics and IoT collide, data scientist will become more like other “scientists” as their digital world will begin to be governed by the laws that govern disciplines such as physics, aerodynamics, chemistry and electricity.
Data Science and the Cost of Wrong
Another potential driver in the IoT world is the substantial cost of being wrong. As discussed in my blog “Understanding Type I and Type II Errors”, the cost of being wrong (false positives and false negatives) has minimal impact when trying to predict human behaviors such as which customers might respond to which ads, or which customers are likely to recommend you to their friends.
However in the world of IOT, the costs of being wrong (false positives and false negatives) can have severe or even catastrophic financial, legal and liability costs. Organizations cannot afford to have planes falling out of the skies or autonomous cars driving into crowds or pharmaceuticals accidently killing patients.
Traditionally, big data historically was not concerned with understanding or quantifying “why” certain actions occurred because for the most part, organizations were using big data to understand and predict customer behaviors (e.g., acquisition, up-sell, fraud, theft, attrition, advocacy). The costs associated with false positives and false negatives were relatively small compared to the financial benefit or return.
And while there may never be “laws” that dictate human behaviors, in the world of IOT where organizations are melding analytics (machine learning and artificial intelligence) with physical products, we will see “data science” advancing beyond just “data” science. In IOT, the data science team must expand to include scientists and engineers from the physical sciences so that the team can understand and quantify the “why things happen” aspect of the analytic models. If not, the costs could be catastrophic.
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor - all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
Mar. 25, 2017 01:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,411
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
Mar. 25, 2017 12:15 AM EDT Reads: 1,541
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
Mar. 24, 2017 11:45 PM EDT Reads: 623
Historically, some banking activities such as trading have been relying heavily on analytics and cutting edge algorithmic tools. The coming of age of powerful data analytics solutions combined with the development of intelligent algorithms have created new opportunities for financial institutions. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Sebastien Meunier, Head of Digital for North America at Chappuis Halder & Co., will discuss how these tools can be leveraged to develop a lasting competitive advanta...
Mar. 24, 2017 11:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,489
TechTarget storage websites are the best online information resource for news, tips and expert advice for the storage, backup and disaster recovery markets. By creating abundant, high-quality editorial content across more than 140 highly targeted technology-specific websites, TechTarget attracts and nurtures communities of technology buyers researching their companies' information technology needs. By understanding these buyers' content consumption behaviors, TechTarget creates the purchase inte...
Mar. 24, 2017 10:15 PM EDT Reads: 4,146
My team embarked on building a data lake for our sales and marketing data to better understand customer journeys. This required building a hybrid data pipeline to connect our cloud CRM with the new Hadoop Data Lake. One challenge is that IT was not in a position to provide support until we proved value and marketing did not have the experience, so we embarked on the journey ourselves within the product marketing team for our line of business within Progress. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Sum...
Mar. 24, 2017 06:30 PM EDT Reads: 2,618
Your homes and cars can be automated and self-serviced. Why can't your storage? From simply asking questions to analyze and troubleshoot your infrastructure, to provisioning storage with snapshots, recovery and replication, your wildest sci-fi dream has come true. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, will provide a ChatOps demo where you can talk to your storage and manage it from anywhere, through Slack and similar services ...
Mar. 24, 2017 06:30 PM EDT Reads: 4,123
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
Mar. 24, 2017 05:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,307
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ocean9will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Ocean9 provides cloud services for Backup, Disaster Recovery (DRaaS) and instant Innovation, and redefines enterprise infrastructure with its cloud native subscription offerings for mission critical SAP workloads.
Mar. 24, 2017 04:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,776
Have you ever noticed how some IT people seem to lead successful, rewarding, and satisfying lives and careers, while others struggle? IT author and speaker Don Crawley uncovered the five principles that successful IT people use to build satisfying lives and careers and he shares them in this fast-paced, thought-provoking webinar. You'll learn the importance of striking a balance with technical skills and people skills, challenge your pre-existing ideas about IT customer service, and gain new in...
Mar. 24, 2017 04:30 PM EDT Reads: 2,274
SYS-CON Events announced today that Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR), an industry leader in automated, scalable and secure networks, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Juniper Networks challenges the status quo with products, solutions and services that transform the economics of networking. The company co-innovates with customers and partners to deliver automated, scalable and secure network...
Mar. 24, 2017 04:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,043
Interoute has announced the integration of its Global Cloud Infrastructure platform with Rancher Labs’ container management platform, Rancher. This approach enables enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation and infrastructure investments. Matthew Finnie, Interoute CTO commented “Enterprises developing and building apps in the cloud and those on a path to Digital Transformation need Digital ICT Infrastructure that allows them to build, test and deploy faster than ever before. The int...
Mar. 24, 2017 04:30 PM EDT Reads: 546
VeriStor Systems has announced that CRN has named VeriStor to its 2017 Managed Service Provider (MSP) 500 list in the Elite 150 category. This annual list recognizes North American solution providers with cutting-edge approaches to delivering managed services. Their offerings help companies navigate the complex and ever-changing landscape of IT, improve operational efficiencies, and maximize their return on IT investments. In today’s fast-paced business environments, MSPs play an important role...
Mar. 24, 2017 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,120
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In his Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, will explore t...
Mar. 24, 2017 02:45 PM EDT Reads: 2,552
What if you could build a web application that could support true web-scale traffic without having to ever provision or manage a single server? Sounds magical, and it is! In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Munns, Senior Developer Advocate for Serverless Applications at Amazon Web Services, will show how to build a serverless website that scales automatically using services like AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, and Amazon S3. We will review several frameworks that can help you build serverle...
Mar. 24, 2017 01:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,550
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
Mar. 24, 2017 01:15 PM EDT Reads: 3,851
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
Mar. 24, 2017 12:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,867
FinTech is the sum of financial and technology, and it’s one of the fastest growing tech industries. Total global investments in FinTech almost reached $50 billion last year, but there is still a great deal of confusion over what it is and what it means – especially as it applies to retirement. Building financial startups is not simple, but with the right team, technology and an innovative approach it can be an extremely interesting domain to disrupt. FinTech heralds a financial revolution that...
Mar. 24, 2017 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 3,016
SYS-CON Events announced today that Loom Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2015, Loom Systems delivers an advanced AI solution to predict and prevent problems in the digital business. Loom stands alone in the industry as an AI analysis platform requiring no prior math knowledge from operators, leveraging the existing staff to succeed in the digital era. With offices in S...
Mar. 24, 2017 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 970
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on ...
Mar. 24, 2017 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,896