If it was 'plastics' in the 1960s, what is it today? Steve Lohr of NYTimes collects a lot of evidence for an unlikely candidate:
Ms. Grimes is an Internet-age statistician, one of many who are changing the image of the profession as a place for dronish number nerds. They are finding themselves increasingly in demand — and even cool.
“I keep saying that the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians,” said Hal Varian, chief economist at Google. “And I’m not kidding.”
The rising stature of statisticians, who can earn $125,000 at top companies in their first year after getting a doctorate, is a byproduct of the recent explosion of digital data. In field after field, computing and the Web are creating new realms of data to explore — sensor signals, surveillance tapes, social network chatter, public records and more. And the digital data surge only promises to accelerate, rising fivefold by 2012, according to a projection by IDC, a research firm.
Yet data is merely the raw material of knowledge. “We’re rapidly entering a world where everything can be monitored and measured,” said Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Digital Business. “But the big problem is going to be the ability of humans to use, analyze and make sense of the data.”