Last night I went to an event at Twitter’s Singapore HQ, in the curiously beautiful CapitaGreen building. (That’s yet another glass and concrete cuboid in the Central Business District, but with an enormous red and white flower sprouting from the roof.) I was there to take part in a panel discussion of data science, in front of a crowd of random Meetup geeks.
Going into this I was a little concerned. Talking about data science can be a lot like dancing about architecture, to misquote Frank Zappa. Either you’re going to go into vast amounts of technical detail and lose most people entirely, or else dispense a series of platitudes without any great depth or meaning. Every once in a while we don’t go to one of these extremes, but in my experience that’s a great rarity.
Still, it was stress free for me; I got to turn up, sit and watch while one of Twitter’s team showed off some of the stuff they’re doing with conversational analytics, and then I sat on a stool for 45 minutes next to two other analytics professionals, talking in broad terms about the things we have to do.
I felt like a real contrarian though, given my position on most things was that you shouldn’t get too excited about data science, and the thing you should be excited about is when data science gets so ubiquitous that it’s really boring, and therefore you should be questioning why you’re so psyched about the event you’re at. People laughed. I wonder if they were laughing at me or with me.
I think I can’t have said anything too controversial, because it wasn’t as if the good people of Twitter chased me from the room, brandishing flaming torches and telling me I’d never work in this town again. I even got a bag of Twitter swag, and I’ll never say no to something with a corporate logo on it.
Afterwards, I got to talk to a few people about other topics, and got onto the fun subject of replacing people with robots (a hard mountain to scale, given we know how to make humans on a mass scale and they can be just as, or more reliable, than robots in many cases), the joy of cloud services as a callback to 1970s bureau computing, and then I came home. Another night of thought leadership over and done with.