Big Data is the New Bile

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Data Scientists & Royal Physicians share a dark obsession. 

Black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood were four fluids that made up the body’s dataset. Physicians looked for patterns in the dataset to understand a patient’s personality and well being. Disease was thought to come from an imbalance in the data.

In 1685, King Charles II had a stroke. His royal physicians immediately set to work to save his life. They drained him of 2 cups of blood, performed enemas , and rubbed ointments of pigeon dung and powdered pearls. They shaved his skull and pressed burning hot irons into him. He really got the full treatment. Charles fell into convulsions and died. (source: The Clockwork Universe)

In the 17th century, a peasant had a better chance of survival if they couldn’t afford doctors.

Were these doctors medieval quacks, alchemists, or snake oil salesmen? It is easy to dismiss them as incompetent, so let’s explore a different theory: They were data scientists.

Alan Laidlaw