Sunday, March 23, 2014

Our generation and the age of big data

 
Troy James Palanca was chosen to give this response speech in behalf of the DLSU February 2014 graduates.
 
Today, we enter what our elders have always called "the real world." We were all headed there inevitably – this world where we will have to tug at more than just our parents' heartstrings to put food on the table. To those whose futures appear clear and untroubled, congratulations. But for the rest of us who feel uncertain and anxious about the world of work and family, let me try and speak on our behalf.
 
I graduate with degrees in Economics and Accountancy, so you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I’m a numbers guy. Like many of us who were influenced by our professors, I’ve become a big fan of research, too. I think it's really great when people take a step back from what they call 'common sense' and say, "Wait a minute. Let's also try and think scientifically about the best way to do this first." Still, as I think about our prospects entering the workforce, I can’t help but imagine how our future bosses might react to the ways of our generation – trying to predict demand with factors such as the weather, or implementing an accounting system that tracks every peso in the treasury even if withdrawn by the owner of the company himself.

I feel that it won’t be long before many of us reach the point of deciding against doing what we believe is most effective, in favor of doing what our bosses prefer to see. After all, the reason we call it the "real world," is because it’s not like our textbooks – it’s messy, unreasonable, and unpredictable.

Fellow graduates, most of us have been trained in an evidence-based environment, where every action, solution, invention, or argument has to be based on solid reasoning, not just intuition; where the solution to increased competition is to innovate, and not to ask that friend in government to do us a favor, and where policy should be based on careful weighing of costs and benefits to all of society, not merely on the interests of the largest backers.

Previous generations may have gotten away with it, but our generation is coming into the age of "big data," where everything in business and government is driven or complemented by quantitative analysis of very large data sets, the kind we could barely imagine twenty years ago.

We can now predict what movies a person would most likely watch next by matching him with people of similar interests. Roll call data for Congress can easily determine who among our lawmakers spend more time socializing than legislating. Books and publications can now be scanned for plagiarism. Your phone can warn other commuters of heavy traffic so that they can avoid the route – something we will surely need in the coming years. This is the age in which our generation of graduates has been trained.

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Author: TROY JAMES PALANCA

Troy James Palanca graduated magna cum laude with the degrees Bachelor of Science in Applied Economics and Bachelor of Science in Accountancy from the De La Salle University in Manila. From Legazpi City, Albay, he was awarded a Star Scholarship from the University, and will be awarded the Student Leadership Award and Best Undergraduate Thesis upon graduation. Currently reviewing for the CPA Board Exams in May 2014, he has taken a part-time job performing data analytics and visualization at the Department of Finance’s Fiscal Intelligence Unit. 

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