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Data Analytics – A Philosophical Perspective

Data Analytics – A Philosophical Perspective

Data Analytics – a latest ‘buzzword’ in the market, which everyone claims to be using. Yes, it is somewhat true because decision making is indispensable to our lives, but in a practical sense of the word those decision have to hold value in them and that comes when the choices we make are well informed.

Analytics as a tool has always been available, be it about deciding the valuation of a firm using expected monetary value where one tries to foresee the prospective progression of an institution and values it’s worth today, or how does one allocate the available money in different stocks to make maximum profits, or how should one market its products for maximum sales, or how should one expand its business, the footfall, the reach and so many things.

In my opinion it’s an ancient science, the numbers, the calculations, the formulae, all date back to the vedas and also texts from the western world. But this magical science of decision making has evolved enormously over time with the developments in the areas of statistics, computer science and access to large amounts of data.

I would term Analytics not as data science but as data ‘art’, and the practitioner not as data scientist but as data ‘artist’, because one has got to love the data first, feel it, give it a bath and then make sense out of it. As the musicians have their instruments, a data artist’s instruments in today’s world are the software which have massive computational abilities, you just have to put the right air in the form of data and it will literally sing for you.

The consonance of the notes is an outcome of ‘riyaz’ – Urdu word for music practice, and constant monitoring. Like a musician composes a piece of music, a data artist has to write a script to automate the process of learning the task of decision making. Like in every sphere of life experience makes us better, exposure to varied data and varied problems makes a data artist also more profound and competent in forming the actionable insights.

Google auto-completer, Facebook friends’ recommender, amazon products’ recommender, disease detection, rainfall forecasting, election results predictions and even the predictions of an alarming global emergency of rapid climate change and its devastating consequences are all possible by means of analyzing the data, by being truthful to it. The data has all the musical notes but they get the sound through the artist’s larynx, one does have to control the cadence of the music to get the right melody.

Like music, practice makes the data scientist perfect

Let’s talk about some of the techniques which I would say ‘ragas’ of this art form. Things can be as simple as studying the price-sales relationship for a commodity; to segment the customer base into several strata; to develop auto-pilot drones; artificially intelligent robots; and latest thing that has fascinated me is the retail chains like amazon go, what a marvelous thought! The root of all the available ‘ragas’ of data art is ‘regression’ which enables to study something that is unknown by means of something which is known, magic!, isn’t it?, and the hierarchy goes on to decision trees, neural networks, support vector machines, and so many complex advancements.

The complexity is introduced for better modeling of uncertainty as whenever the artist plays the music, it remains soothing to the ears. Hence Data Analytics – a combination of statistics and computer science is an art of making informed decisions, which has been adding value to the businesses, to the society and the mankind. It should be preserved, practiced and propagated to the generations to come, to have a more connected, more friendly, and an easier world order.

Abhishek K. Umrawal

Assistant Professor of Statistics, Department of Statistics, University of Delhi, Delhi, India

Adjunct Faculty of Predictive Business Analytics, Bridge School of Management, Gurgaon, India,

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