Fabian Pascal

NoSQL, Big Data Analytics, and the Loss of Knowledge and Reason

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dbdebunker
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Data Doctor
Re: You're sort of right
dbdebunker   11/9/2016 5:17:25 AM
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I did not receive at the time of your comment notification of it so I was not aware of it and I just came across it late because I'm revisiting this post for a next post in response to a comment on it on Hacker News.

Jim's comment was accurate regarding the meaning of my post. However, I will also add:

1. I stand by my claim of a TREND to substitute training for education. The evidence for it is overwhelming. In order to be a scientist one must have a scientific education. I would argue that in the last 2-3 years a multitude of "data science" entrants did not have it. This does not mean that there aren't exceptions, but it's important not to let them distract from the rule.

2. Your comment about "geezers" is pretty revealing. OTOH ageism in the tech industry is rampant--once 45-50 age is reached, it becomes practically impossible to be hired--while OTOH job ads have little education requirements, but demand years of experience. In fact, what they want is immature youth with little education but years of experience--a rather glaring contradiction. Dismissing the experience that comes with age, particularly when it comes to work that requires scientific knowledge, is a costly mistake. Technology and innovation are fine, but if they are not soundly grounded they end up in all those failing startups and can bring a society down in the long run. We can see signs of this already.

 

 

Jamescon
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Re: You're sort of right
Jamescon   7/22/2016 8:36:34 AM
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@DavosCollective. Thanks for the thoughtful post. Welcome to the conversation. I think one of the issues at hand, and what may have inspired Fabian's blog, is that the term data scientist is being applied pretty freely. I'm sure there are people with the title out there who fit the general definition of scientist. However, there also are people who have been analysts their whole lives and they adopt the data science title because it's the hot thing. Plus, their employers, some recruiters, and even some educators are getting pretty casual with how they use the title data scientist. It's the type of thing that happens when any business/tech concept becomes popular. (Just consider the ongoing discussion here on the site about "real time". All of us might know it's important but the individual definitions range from sub-second to 24 hours).

I suspect that all of us have occasionally used the titles analyst and data scientist kind of casually and interchangeably. I think that's human nature, not a slap at white-coated, highly educated scientists.

 

DavosCollective
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Re: You're sort of right
DavosCollective   7/22/2016 8:06:05 AM
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It's true there's been a lot of new vocationally focussed entrants to the tech education market, companies like code school, treehouse and code academy. The MOOC explosion of courses from like likes of coursera, edx and udemy is also a new phenomenon.

Vocational education is not a new thing though, and it's not yet substituted thoery focussed education, and likely never will, in spite of the fears of geezers senior industry people who think that younguns are getting out of doing the hard yards, or that their years of schooling and toil are being undermined by these mythical millenials. This myth that millenials have overinflated opinions of themselves and expect their first role to be CEO is just so tiresome, and thoroughly untrue. I know, I work with plenty of them and I can tell you they are as high achieving, studious and hard working as any other generation. The same sledges are hurled at every youth generation. The trope is boring, let it go.

It's plain curmudgeonly to talk about the "the constant atrophiation of human intellect". There's always been stupid people and smart people, what's changed? The base level of knowledge has increased, the number of subject areas to study has increased, literacy and numeracy levels have increased. All this in spite of soap operas and reality television and social media playing havok with entropy. 

Back to your comments about vocational training. To learn the art and science of programming, you need both computer science foundations (theory) and you need to learn language syntax and toolsets (vocational). Take the sponsor of this forum as example. SAS is a proprietary set of software pacakges that require training to gain expertise. If I go for a job requiring SAS then it certainly helps if I have a stats or maths thoeretical background, but what if that was taught in the context of matlab or R or something not SAS? Some of it is transferable yes, but tools have idiosyncrasies you can't learn without training or experience. Of course, having all three of theory and training and experience is what leads to expertise.

I work at a leading quant company and we certainly don't hire people who've done a 2 week bootcamp and have no degree. The graduate intake program has a quantitative degree as a prerequisite (actuarial, physics, comp sci etc). Vocational courses and certifications are great, but only as an adjunct to education and/or experience. When looking at candidates, the most valuable qualification is experience, then degree, then certification / vocational courses, in that order. If you have all of the above then even better. If you're a grad, well, you have no experience so the degree is most valuable at that point in your career. Professional association membership, well that's great too.

I completely agree that forethought is important, and generally with most of your points, but have to take issue with this statement:

"When real science education still existed, it drilled into me that science is all about knowledge, reasoning, and forethought"

Firstly, real science education still exists, and that statement is exactly what I mean by curmudgeonly. It just detracts from the other excellent points you make. 

Secondly, that definition of science doesn't do it justice. Contemporaneous knowledge is limited and changes when new information becomes available. In short, it's fallable. That's the strength of science, that in the long run it marches forward. Sure, it's not true in the short term because people are stubborn, but in the end the prevailing theory changes. There's very few laws in science; it's mostly thoeries, conjectures and hypotheses. The results of which is knowledge that is "true" not in an absolute sense but to the best of our current understanding. Having knowledge is useless by itself; it's important to have but is powerful when coupled with the ability to integrate new knowledge, to change your mind.

Science based on reasoning in its various flavours is important, yes; it was the entirity of the scientific method pre-renaissance, but philiosophers of science since then have acknowledged the flaws in reasoning. It's possible and quite common to have an entirely logical premises yet arrive at a fallacy. Reasoning is a good starting point, but is often disproved by rigorous application of the scientific method, i.e. the results of well designed, robust and repeatable experiments. 

The fourth paradigm of scientific discovery: data ( ref Tony Hey) takes the scientific method a step further. Perhaps machine learning over impossibly large (for a human) datasets can derive useful factors that we couldn't possibly arrive at with foresight alone. Of course we then have the arduous task of proving and validating those factors, but the point stands: foresight is not everything. Too much focus on foresight leads to waterfall approaches, where an iterative continuous improvement approach leads to better outcomes. Foresight alone as a methodology would only work with perfect and complete knowledge of everything including the future.

In summary, I take issue with your conclusion that "vocational training is substituted for education" and your statement about "the constant atrophiation of human intellect" and your allusion that "real science education" was exclusive to your generation and by extension, you.  It takes away from the good points you make about NoSQL not solving any new problems, and new fads being applied as magic bullets for every problem. I regret that this forum doesn't allow me to post links to references to support my refutations.

Thanks for this post, it gave me the opportunity to write this reply and along the way re-read some interesting things about the philosphy of science, epistemology and logic.

bulk
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Data Doctor
You're sort of right
bulk   7/8/2016 2:17:11 PM
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I have to admit that the education surrounding IT profesionals seems to be falling off. It's becoming more of a vocational training path then one of true education. And that's scary. 

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