Problem-Solvers: DJ Patil

800px-Peter_Brantley,_Karen_Gifford,_DJ_Patil_and_Tim_O'Reilly

Peter Brantley, Karen Gifford, DJ Patil and Tim O’Reilly
Photo by Jōichi Itō
licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

DJ Patil was named as one of the world’s seven most powerful data scientists in Tim O’Reilly’s Forbes article of November, 2011.  He, in fact, co-coined the term “data scientist.” Most recently, he was named as a World Economic Forum 2014 Young Global Leader. What I particularly like about Dr. DJ Patil is his enthusiasm and promotion for projects that use big data to make the world a better place. In an article he published on LinkedIn today, he outlined some of the organizations other 2014 Young Global Leaders have started that capitalize on big data, including a company that harnesses the talents of data scientists to assist non-profits and a crisis text line for distressed teenagers that reaches them through their primary mode of communication. He also named government and health projects that will likely have beneficial impacts for millions.  

In a time when much of mainstream media focuses on data breaches, government spying, social media privacy issues, and use of data to target your political vote (all important topics!), it’s great to read and understand how we can use big data to help us, not just control us. There is much debate yet to be had about the acceptable uses of data, but we certainly can’t be fully informed if we only focus on the negative. DJ Patil reminds us that there are talented people who are both passionate about data and making the world a better place.

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a question-filled hiatus

Hello, Dedicated Readers!

How lovely to be back here again. A year’s break from writing was never imagined when I wrote that last post just over a year ago. But, I have been on such a journey this past year, a journey that may find its way in and out of these next months’ posts, because there were certainly many big and little, tangled and clear, simple and complex problems. Many questions were asked, pondered, and answered; some solutions were fashioned. And then the question, “Just what is keeping you from getting back to writing about ‘working well in the modern world’?” kept presenting itself evermore insistently. Answers were given, ad hoc testing was attempted, and finally we arrive at the answer of simply sitting down at the keyboard and floating these thoughts out to you.

Problems are questions. Questions are problems. Our ability to see and elucidate the questions and more questions and more and more is our never-ending search for understanding, meaning, love, the alleviation of suffering, the creation of abundance. We are blinded at each moment by many facets, the fact of our human self and our mind’s constructs being primary, and so we turn the problem this way and that, probing here, probing there; it is a lifelong task, indeed the never-ending task of humanity. If we are wise, we live the questions themselves, as the poet says. We find both our sorrow and our joy in the questions, our passion and our determination — in the questions. If we wait for answers before we began to live, we miss much of life altogether. And, then, when we are living the questions, in sorrow, joy, passion, determination, sometimes the answers, the resolution, the way comes to us and sits in our lap, quietly lights on our shoulder, wakes us suddenly in the middle of the night, or shows itself plainly under our microscope or in our notebooks because some blind spot has been finally adjusted. Passionate problem-solving is passionate questing and questioning, passionately living the problems themselves. How do we visualize a problem? We paint masterpieces that strike others in the human race over 100 years later with the agony of the human condition. We tell stories that are passed through the generations. We share drawings and thoughts and passions. Sadness and frustration. Discovery and abundance. This is passionate problem-solving. This is glorious life.

Back tomorrow.