Data Science is a calling. You may not discover this for years, early on. The spreadsheet jockeys will come and go. The python whiz will be beaten down by repetition. The statisticians will gravitate to a more predictable and less ambiguous problem sets. The SQL script robot will seek a place in the corner, behind the “submit your request here” form.

Data Science is the cognitive skill of unconscious knowing. Symbols come naturally, you can’t explain why. Numbers have their own subtle hint of secrets hidden, just keep following the path, all will be revealed. Problems speak to you secretly in the language of a spatial topology.

This universal and timeless unconscious knowing was beautifully captured in the movie Hidden Figures (2017, 20th Century Studios). The story captures the drama of three brilliant African-American women at NASA — Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (played by Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monáe) — serving as the brains behind one of the greatest data science stories in history. Enough said, one of my top 10 data science movies.

We data scientists learn to scream. It is unconscious at first, felt as emotions exhibiting an uncomfortable feeling of “something is not right here”. This is what I call — “the topological gap”. It is the first conscious feeling on your part, acknowledging, albeit silently, that the world you understand, is not the same world in which your clients live.

You are now traveling in an alien land.

No One Can Hear You Scream In Outer Space.

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Photo by Roland Lösslein on Unsplash

The language you must learn along your data science journey is an uncommon dialect spoken among the GIS tribal communities. The creator of this topological lingua franca is Max Eggenhofer at the University of Maine (yes, that Maine, the land of Lobsters and ragged shorelines). When I first discovered Max’s work, he had me at “his MS is from the University of Stuttgart”. There is a something about the German language that is a powerful equalizer in both in Outer Space and in the Country of the Blind. You can read more about why I have this perspective here.

Dr. Egenhofer’s background is impressive, yet he is a very committed academic and GIS researcher. His interests include spatio-temporal reasoning, user interfaces for geographic information systems, the design of spatial database systems, and mobile spatial information appliances.

You and I must care about his research. He describes how the mental topology of a data scientist can learn to live in an alien world, a world where no one can hear you scream. I can think of a recent example of this silent scream, that of Dr. Fauci and his courageous commitment to science over ignorance in the fight against the novel virus.

#science #careers #data-science #learning #deep learning

There Will Be Times, When You Think No One Can Hear You Scream
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