Talking Data with Lt. Commander Data: Part 1
By Sachin Kulkarni, Executive Vice President – Head of Commercial & Specialty Insurance and MGA, Americas at Xceedance
As the vehicle got closer to the station, I sat with my eyes wide open mesmerized by the darkness that surrounded us and Earth across on the right rising above the horizon. I was still unable to believe this was happening – a visit to the space station where Starfleet Academy would conduct training for the cadets. And, if that itself was not a mind-blowing experience, I would soon be speaking with Lt. Commander Data. For those who may not know, Lt. Commander Data happens to be a Soong-type android and the first and only one to ever enter Starfleet.
I walked, puzzled, on how gravity was being controlled to simulate walking on earth. My mind was simultaneously trying to absorb the sights and sound on the space station and which of the many questions would I ask Lt. Commander Data: his perspective on technology and science, his experience of being an android amongst humans and a Klingon, his desire to be human, and his fascination about Sherlock Holmes. Would I be able to get them all in? It was a good thing indeed that he had the rather uninteresting information on the person (me) meeting him beforehand.
The door opened and there he stood, looking outside at vast expanse and turning to see me enter. With his inimitable smile, he walked over and shook my hand: “Pleased to meet you, I’m Lt. Commander Data. Call me Data.” Shaking his hand, I replied “Pleased to meet you and thank you for agreeing to meet me. I’m Sachin and most call me Sach.” We exchanged pleasantries and quickly sat down by the window, overlooking the launch pad transport ships that carried goods and equipment between the space station and Earth.
Me: “Lt. Commander Data, how was it to serve on USS Enterprise as an android amongst humans and other species?“
Data: “Call me Data, rank is unnecessary *smile* Humans inherently are not very comfortable when it comes to adapting to something new or a change. My presence on the ship initially was nothing different – there were those who thought I would be replacing them, there were a few who felt there was no need for an android like me to be entrusted with certain responsibilities, and then there were those who saw me as someone who can enable their day-to-day work. Lt. Commander Geordi, for example, was able to use my processing skills to assist him in engineering tasks. What greatly helped my presence being more accepted was the approach taken by Captain Jean Luc Picard in leading and managing change.“
Me: “What was the difference between the computer on USS Enterprise and you? Weren’t you both from a technological perspective one and the same thing?“
Data: “It was more at a level that we both operated. If you were to look at the data challenges that the insurance industry faces today it is because they operate on two levels – operational and analytical. Operational data services business capabilities enabled by microservices keeping the current state and addressing specific needs. Analytical data which is temporal and aggregated view of facts of business over time that gets modeled over time to provide retrospective or future-perspective insights.
That is where I was different from the onboard USS Enterprise computer which was more computationally powerful than I but would only answer questions asked. I on the other hand would be able to derive insights from what was presented.“
Me: “So is there anything that can be done to address these inherent challenges that you have identified with data and insurance?“
Data: “The current state of technology architecture has created a level of existence where operational data and analytical data are integrated yet separate. This separation has led to continuously failing ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) and an increasing number and complexity of data pipelines. Data pipelines that are constantly moving data back and forth between the two realms.
The advent of data mesh architecture which recognizes the differences between operational and analytical – topology of data, different use cases, personas of the data consumer is one approach to bridge this gap.“
Me: “Wait, are you telling me that there is an approach we can already adopt”
Data: “Young man *smile* I don’t think you have ever taken a spin on Type 15 shuttlepod, correct? Let us go on small ride and at the same time we can talk about data mesh. There is a gentleman I greatly admire, Martin Fowler1, and his views on the same would be a great learning.”
And with that we started our walk to the launch pad, with my head eager to learn more about data mesh and my heart excited at the prospect of taking a ride in a shuttlepod.