A Small Ode To Data Science / by Antonia Antonova

"When you love what you do, the world opens up."

I jumped into Metis, a data science bootcamp in San Francisco, not entirely knowing what to expect. I knew the program was well-received. I knew data science was an emerging buzzword in industry. I knew I liked logic games and mathematics. I thought why not?

What I didn't know was how much I would love the daily (and do I admit - nightly) grind. 

I studied my passion in college, graduating with a Bachelor's in Philosophy. I'm not unfamiliar with the poet's famed afflatus, the furor poeticus, the divine madness of literary inspiration. I lived and breathed logic and literature for four years, trying to tackle any/every societal abstraction. My assignments involved attempting to prove and disprove the existence of God, arguing that the world is composed of singular then plural entities, investigating the logical limitations of consciousness. I loved what I was learning.

Yet still, in the back of my mind, something bugged me. Despite my dive into the world's metaphysical core, I felt like I knew nothing about its surface. I was trained in the art of thinking but had no concrete knowledge. I could argue my way to any conclusion, but couldn't figure out what conclusions were worth arguing for. 

Academia's departure from the "real world" is a common complaint, but the extent of modern philosophy's esotericism left me reeling. Who was reading the professor's work? What was it being written about? And why? Mathematics, literature, and philosophy seemed to me to be not so distant cousins competing to provide meaning to life; mysticism perhaps not far down the family tree. But was there a point to the exploration if no one but a couple hundred experts shared its revelations? The answers to these questions left me feeling more and more uncertain, and so I decided to take a break from the university. 

Entering the "real world," I began searching for logical abstraction in the work force. I thought of becoming an artist, then a writer; I worked in media distribution for a Buddhist film studio; I toyed with digital design. Nothing seemed to stick. Not long after graduation, I began worrying that the freedom of abstract thinking really had no place in the working world, other than in well... academia and the very intimidating industry of art.

But then came Metis. Silicon Valley quietly shadowing behind.

In the Romantic era, the concept of afflatus revived only to be tied to a new budding idea, genius. Emphasis on afflatus's mystical origin resulted in the historic meme of the harp as symbol for poets' possession by divine muse. And so, genius, as currently conceived, was born. A word to describe the mystical spirit that instilled individuals with unique and improbable skills; in particular, the spirit of place, community, culture, nation, and sometimes, divine circumstance.

I feel like I've somehow, very miraculously stumbled upon that space.

Okay, but wait a second...

Can it really be that I've discovered the "rush of unexpected breath" that renders poets and philosophers helpless in a night-sweat, coffee-stain inducing 60-hour-work-week bootcamp? Found my application of feverous abstraction in the oddly grounded and incredibly-dryly-named science of information? Felt divine madness living in a 'shared-living hacker house' bunkbed? Are these things even compatible?

Well, it seems they are. And it seems I have. 

But while the motivation and inspiration are my own, the genius is not. The spirit of place belongs to Silicon Valley and new educational paradigms, the start-up crazed young and old fueled by deep passions for radical ideas, beauty, design, art, caffeine, yoga and meditation, and the inconceivable belief that a better world is indeed within our grasp.

So very suddenly and incredulously, the eolian harp the poet played became a command line.