As we usher ourselves into the future it is hard not to become lost in our own success. The pride and satisfaction of achieving something, of letting the universe know that we amount to more than just cosmic dust.
So, as I sit here at the tail end of my data science boot-camp I cannot help but regret my failures.
My grandfather, Kwon Oh-Sang, was born before Korea was two nations. He moved north with his father for reasons I do not know. When Korea was split along the 38th parallel his refusal to renounce his Christian beliefs endangered his life, but he was unable to return south and he lived underground for many years. During the Korean war he escaped to South Korea and settled down with grandmother. After a time, following his children, my grandfather immigrated to the United States. The last to arrive and yet first to become a U.S. citizen, my grandfather was a tenacious and determined man.
For the past few years, his health had been in decline. I learned that he had MAC Lung Disease, most likely from his years spent underground in North Korea. Always weighing less at each family function and eating smaller and smaller portions, by the end, his body was skin and bones. The contrast of concave and convex forms formed by bones not flesh left him unrecognizable.
My grandfather was 1 of 163,000 people who died yesterday. A number in a distribution; a man easily reduced to a single digit.
As data scientists, we carry out the unthinkable but necessary task of reducing the irreducible. In order to understand the world around us, we abstract it. Taking all the characteristics we can find and parsing them into features to be fed into a model to optimize. With each step removing ourselves from the truth that each number is not just a collection of digits.
Data Science is a wholly necessary field. It has helped us better understand the world and systems that we inhabit. But we should remember to be thorough, for with every step we lose sight of the truth that though we may be optimizing numbers, hidden within each number is an untold story.