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Should Data Scientists Also Learn Social Sciences & Humanities

Should Data Scientists Also Learn Social Sciences & Humanities

Srishti Deoras

Combining data science with humanitarian sciences is not new. Many courses across the world are offering a blend of computing science and data science with humanities. As more institutes prefer to cross-train computing student with social sciences, it is quite intriguing why such a blend has become so popular. 

There are many experts who believe that there is a need for a new field called society and technology interaction that infuses courses and technicalities to inculcate social skills in those dealing with fields of computer sciences and data science. 

Why Is There A Rise In Popularity Of These Courses? 

When it comes to computing fields, experts believe that there is a need for training that equips candidates about social good and teaches them to value critical thinking. They are vouching for engineering programs that cultivate respect for other kinds of experiential expertise. The idea of these courses is to provide science and technology studies, communication, sociology, anthropology, political science, cognitive science, and digital humanities, to name a few.

Another argument is that to be able to successfully implement technology, it requires socially-wise engineers. It is highly important to more socially responsible and inculcating ethical judgement to implement technologies in an ethical way. There have been many instances in the past where technologies such as artificial intelligence have been brought in use for unethical use and purposes. A course on these subjects could teach tech workers to have a better understanding of ethical vs unethical, thereby creating a more responsible tech team in the future. 

The idea behind these courses is to empower citizens, civic organizations, and advocacy groups to take collective action. Such courses are slated to show more progressive growth and deal with issues at hand with more inclusive solutions. It will equip them to overcome the challenges in a more effective way. 

It is the need of the hour to become an active technological citizen which does not essentially mean the ability to code. It also means that he/she should be able to ask questions about how the code is going to affect work, life and community. It is about taking accountability of the work being done. 

Such courses will help engage in real problem-solving tactics while pushing the efficiency and practicality of the project to a whole new level. It is advisable for developers to work with experienced groups on “human-centric” design, which is much more than just the average Silicon Valley resident.

Courses That Teach Technology + Social Sciences

There are several courses now that make it possible for tech geeks to opt for academics in technology + social sciences. MSc in Social Data Sciences, a course offered by Oxford University is one of the most popular courses. It provides the social and technical expertise needed to analyse unstructured heterogeneous data about human behaviour, thereby informing our understanding of the human world. 

The idea behind the course is to help put better use of data which is generated digitally through various platforms. It is to ensure that one understands how data can be put to work and used in understanding crucial issues around social sciences, policy-making, economic behaviour, ethics, the social value of data and more. 

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As the course description notes, it involves developing the science of these social data, creating viable datasets out of messy, real-world data and developing the tools and techniques to analyse them to tell us something about the world, through explanation, prediction and the testing of interventions. 

There is another course called MSc in Social Science of the Internet by the same university that provides students with an in-depth understanding of the social science concepts, theories and methods required to undertake rigorous empirical quantitative and qualitative research and policy analysis about the social implications of the Internet and technology. With this course, students can participate in innovative and pioneering research projects where computer science tools and methods are used to ask questions in the social sciences; or which use social science methods to understand computer science.

In India, there is B.Tech in Computer Science and Master of Science in Computing and Human Sciences by Research (5 years Dual Degree) offered by the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad. The idea of this course is to bridge the divide between technology and human sciences. It makes the student proficient in computer sciences with cross-disciplinary research capabilities which compare with the best in the world. It equips students in the rigorous methods and deep understanding of the human sciences, while at the same time equipping them with state-of-the-art computer science knowledge.

Our Point Of View

As technological advancement is reaching newer heights, the ways these technologies are being deployed can have various challenges. For instance, with an increase in the dark use of AI such as deepfakes and deepnudes, it has put the field at a huge risk. We recently also covered a story on how other technologies such as facial recognition and AI-based citizen scoring have potential risks on humanity. If courses such as the ones mentioned above are implemented at a larger scale and are made mandatory, most of the chaos around the ethical use of AI and related technologies may see a visible decline in the coming future. 

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