Monday, April 21, 2014

It's Official: Statistics is "Sexy"

If you've seen the new Captain America movie, you might notice that statistics (and data mining more generally) are featured prominently in the film. I can't imagine a more remarkable shift in the perception of statistics, which has historically been claimed to be "dull" or "boring" (a view that is at odds -- pun intended -- with that of any practicing statistician, past or present). In fact, in a 1998 talk the statistician C.F. Jeff Wu even argued that "statistics" should be replaced with the phrase "data science" in part to remove the negative connotations with data analysis and statistical theory!

Yet now more and more people are realizing that statistic is "hot," as exemplified in the following clip, in which Scarlett Johansson is suggesting that the superhero Captain America go on a date with -- yes! -- a statistician: 

And of course if a movie trailer isn't convincing enough to you of how the public perception of statistics has been shifting, I refer you to the Chief Economist for Google, Hal Varian, who has been saying (correctly) for years that statistics is the "sexy" dream job of the 2010s: