EDITOR: | December 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Data science creates new opportunities in cyberbusiness

| December 17, 2014 | 1 Comment

The Internet democratized information. How can you make money from this data?

librarianOver the last 20 years, the Internet has changed dramatically the way we interact with knowledge. The challenge is no longer about getting information; the new frontier is about sorting out a massive informational matrix to make money. A new scientific discipline, data science is emerging to offer countless new entrepreneurial opportunities to those willing to colonize this frontier.

The key point to understand is that we don’t know how to deal with the massive amount of knowledge at our fingertips.

On the first day of my Bachelor Degree in September 1979 I was tasked to write a paper about a topic: the comparative anatomy and physiology of shade leaves and light leaves. The prof suggested a reference, which my hundred and twenty colleagues and I noted dutifully in our paper notebooks. As soon as I could, I stampeded with my colleagues to the library, struggled with the card catalogue, and navigated the stacks to find out that a colleague had checked out the book. I asked for a recall. Was told to wait three weeks. Not to be outdone, I flirted recklessly with the librarian and it took me four weeks before I could rub my eager fingers on the cloth cover. And then I realized it wasn’t what I wanted. Back to square one. I learnt one thing: flirting with librarians does not guaranty success, and I was in the business of knowledge.

As I progressed toward my doctorate and then afterwards, I understood that the ability to seek and retrieve knowledge from the depths of libraries was the most significant discriminant for success. If you couldn’t figure out what others did and thought before you, there was a strong chance you’d crash and burn.

We were the privileged few tenants of an ivory tower and the virtuous librarians kept the hordes of barbarians at the gate.

Fast forward to now. The librarians have retired: any fourteen-year-old with a hand down his jeans has access to multiples of the knowledge I had access to during my grad studies. Now about the wisdom of knowing how to sort out knowledge.

At times the democratization of knowledge can be painful to take. It gives the right to Islamist militants to use the Internet to recruit westerners to fight the ISIL war in the Middle East. It is a neutral provider of a soapbox to anyone with a message, regardless of the message. In the old system, peer-reviews played a critical role in making sure that the new information was worthy of the scientific method and academic standards. Take for example this chap with a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry who makes a living as an investment advisor and who fabricated a dataset to support his point of view that climate change does not exist. The Internet provides him with a convenient soapbox to disseminate his information. In some ways he is an early data scientist.

But to experts the potential of data science is several orders of magnitudes greater. It is bigger than the hackers, the statisticians, or the technical experts. It is about asking the right question and coining the right approach to tease out a meaningful answer from the humongous Internet dataset.

A few months ago I was retained to provide data science support to a public company that had been slandered on Stockhouse by an anonymous poster. Contemporaneously to the posts, the short selling positions of my client’s stock increased ten fold, suggesting that the poster was positioning himself to take advantage of a drop in stock value to which he contributed. Through complex statistical analyses I created a model permitting to show that the poster had a hand in taking down the company’s market capitalization by several millions. I would hate to be on the receiving end of this kind of data analysis.

There are countless more applications for data science. I believe that those who can analyse data properly will emerge as winners.

NOTE: For fun, we have added a YouTube video called “The Library Cop” from a Seinfeld episode.

Dr. Luc Duchesne


Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>

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  • Asher Berube

    I think there is still much room for innovation on the distribution of information, some of these could prove profitable.

    Those that demonstrate the skill to identify and retrieve information will be increasingly valuable as the internet grows and develops.

    December 18, 2014 - 9:44 AM

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