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How Data Science Will Improve Society

Data science, or extracting knowledge and insights from sets of data, is a field with the potential to seriously impact human society for the better. At the 2017 Propelify Innovation Festival, Justin Hendrix, Executive Director of the NYC MediaLab, moderated a panel with Frida Polli, CEO & Co-Founder of Pymetrics, Michael Won, Director of Analytics at Jet.com, and Hicham Oudghiri, CEO & Co-Founder of Enigma.com, about how we can use data science, and our growing collection of data, to make the world a better place.

Moving Beyond the Internet to Daily Life

Right now, the majority of data being collected and analyzed is used to optimize and improve the experience of the Internet. Think: creating relevant and targeted ads or improving search results on a website. But what if we started using data insights to improve the overall quality of human life?

“For me, the future of big data is where it starts helping us out in tangible day to day life,” Hicham said. “How traffic flows, how crops can be harvested, the manufacturing quality for drugs…that wave of economic activity hasn’t yet been viewed with the same amount of intelligence as search results on a website. And I think that’s where we have a lot of work to do.”

Frida agreed that data science has the capacity to help us solve major social problems, ranging from water supply issues to global disease outbreaks

“There’s so many places where A.I can help us make a more democratic, safe society,” Frida said. “And with democratization, anyone has the ability to start a company, and Millennials want to do well by doing good. I think there are many untapped applications to improve the conditions of people all over the world and to improve social equality.”

Regularization of Industries

Artificial intelligence, big data, and the Internet have already dramatically affected how we conduct business and handle the daily activities of life. Ten years ago, to apply for a credit card someone had to go into their bank, meet with a banker in person, and physically fill out forms. Today, anyone with access to the Internet can apply for a credit card in a few minutes. This automation and speeding up of processes was the first wave of humans using A.I. and big data to improve business functioning. Hicham predicts the second wave of improvements will be the regularization of systems to solve entrenched problems.

“Right now, every bank portrays its information differently, every factory counts inventory differently. But in the future, these things will become regularized,” Hicham said. “In the future, networks of players and similar companies will band together to use a collective effort around available data to solve common problems.”

As more and more data becomes available to us, companies will be able to crowdsource this information and work together to solve big industry issues.

Data Science and Entrepreneurial Opportunities

Data science is a growing field, and offers extraordinary opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators to seize on. In particular, Michael believes there are two great niches in data science for entrepreneurs to jump in on:

“From an entrepreneurial standpoint, I think there’s enormous potential for new companies to help businesses with data governance in two ways,” Michael said. “First, there’s how to keep data clean, and then also speed. We can store significant amount of data, and we have tools that let you work fast with that data, but how can we get even faster?”

Data science offers ample chances for entrepreneurs to positively impact the world – and their bottom line. Bring on the innovation!

Watch highlights from Frida, Hicham, and Michael's panel at the 2017 Propelify Innovation Festival:

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