Vanishing Gradients

Episode 7: The Evolution of Python for Data Science

May 1st, 2022

Hugo speaks with Peter Wang, CEO of Anaconda, about how Python became so big in data science, machine learning, and AI. They jump into many of the technical and sociological beginnings of Python being used for data science, a history of PyData, the conda distribution, and NUMFOCUS.

They also talk about the emergence of online collaborative environments, particularly with respect to open source, and attempt to figure out the movings parts of PyData and why it has had the impact it has, including the fact that many core developers were not computer scientists or software engineers, but rather scientists and researchers building tools that they needed on an as-needed basis

They also discuss the challenges in getting adoption for Python and the things that the PyData stack solves, those that it doesn’t and what progress is being made there.

People who have listened to Hugo podcast for some time may have recognized that he's interested in the sociology of the data science space and he really considered speaking with Peter a fascinating opportunity to delve into how the Pythonic data science space evolved, particularly with respect to tooling, not only because Peter had a front row seat for much of it, but that he was one of several key actors at various different points. On top of this, Hugo wanted to allow Peter’s inner sociologist room to breathe and evolve in this conversation.

What happens then is slightly experimental – Peter is a deep, broad, and occasionally hallucinatory thinker and Hugo wanted to explore new spaces with him so we hope you enjoy the experiments they play as they begin to discuss open-source software in the broader context of finite and infinite games and how OSS is a paradigm of humanity’s ability to create generative, nourishing and anti-rivlarous systems where, by anti-rivalrous, we mean things that become more valuable for everyone the more people use them! But we need to be mindful of finite-game dynamics (for example, those driven by corporate incentives) co-opting and parasitizing the generative systems that we build.

These are all considerations they delve far deeper into in Part 2 of this interview, which will be the next episode of VG, where we also dive into the relationship between OSS, tools, and venture capital, amonh many others things.