October 2014

Letters From The Editors

By Paul Ramirez

Paul RamirezAs actuaries, we are constantly immersed in a sea of data. We likely spend more time with Excel than with our significant others. This is part of the job description; it is an inherent part of our job. However, data and analytics are starting to spread into mainstream culture. History tells us about the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution.

Some have taken to calling the current era the information revolution. In the last few years, it has been amazing to see how data and analytics are exploding in popularity. A few weeks ago, I stumbled on a webpage that popped up on my Facebook news feed titled, “The Largest Vocabulary in Hip Hop.” The creator of the webpage took the first 35,000 lyrics from a number of different rappers, counted up the unique words, and visually plotted the results. Fantastic. I would provide the link, but it’s very, very slightly NSFW (not safe for work) due to explicit language.

Another example of how analytics are becoming more prevalent in popular culture would be to follow the career of Nate Silver. Nate Silver is a statistician who has been a rising star in the analytics community for the last few years. He is best known for predicting the winner of 49 out of 50 states during the 2008 presidential election, as well as accurately predicting the winner of all 50 states during the 2012 presidential election. In March, Nate’s website fivethirtyeight.com was purchased by ESPN, and he was named editor-in-chief of a website now featuring more than 20 contributors. The website features articles on politics, economics, and sports with an analytical slant. There probably would have been no demand for content such as this as recently as five years ago.

As professionals skilled in quantitative analysis and data manipulation, actuaries are well positioned for this data-driven era.

Paul Ramirez, FSA, MAAA, is a health actuary at Allstate Benefits. He can be reached at paul.ramirez@allstate.com.