What Makes a Radical and Revolutionary Technology?

Former US Chief Data Scientist

February 13, 2018

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Dr. Dhanurjay “DJ” Patil shared how much good can be accomplished with an understanding of data science and sharing information at Tuesday’s BYU Forum. He shared many examples of how analyzing databases helped people, communities and the nation.

Patil emphasized the incredible advances in technology that have happened in just the last decade. Technology brought us instant, real-time, on-demand, one-day shipping and more. Students can still remember growing up with paper maps, cord phones and not being able to DVR a favorite television show.

“We have seen a technology revolution take place in our lifetime … in literally just a decade!” Patil said.

Patil argued that data is behind the revolution. When he was the U.S. Chief Data Scientist, the mission statement included the charge “to responsibly unleash the power of data to benefit all Americans.”

Patil focused on what responsibility to all Americans looks like, because this technology revolution is not happening for everyone.

“A technology is neither radical nor revolutionary unless it benefits everyone,” said Patil.

The way technology can help everyone is to have data and databases shared, in a secure way, so people can learn from their own and other’s processes.

Data is used to look at what is actually happening, who is actually involved, and then applied in the most efficient way to help others and improve lives, Patil said.

There are 11.4 million Americans who cycle through about 3,100 jails and stay an average of 23 days. The technology revolution is not helping these people nationwide, yet.

Patil suggested the police force could have access to a database that is securely shared with local healthcare facilities. Then, when an officer arrests someone, she or he could check the database for the best place for that individual. If the arrested person has been cycling through jail, the database would reveal that and the person could be taken to a rehab facility or mental health institution instead.

Patil said an area in Florida recently implemented a similar system. The result? Two jails were closed.

“We have to make tech work for us, not against us,” said Patil.

Another situation data-sharing could be implemented in is medicine. Patil said the problem is that the main database is fractured across thousands of databases. The solution has probably been found, but the data needs to be compiled and shared in order to recognize it.

“When we empower people with data, we find that they do amazing things,” said Patil.

Patil told several stories about people with medical problems who discovered the benefits of dating sharing and collaborated with others to find answers and sole problems. People are mapping the cracks and declines in sidewalks for people in wheelchairs, finding other families with similar diseases, and looking for cures to cancer.

Patil emphasized that he only told stories of people being helped, because that’s what data science and technology is for.

“No matter how much technology and data we use, it’s about people first,” said Patil.

He introduced three core principles for utilizing this technology revolution:

  1. People are more important than data.
  2. Data is a force multiplier.
  3. The time to engage is now.

Here’s how to make a radical tech revolution happen:

  • “Dream in years, plan in months, evaluate in weeks, but always ship daily.” Be proactive and productive every single day.
  • “Prototype for 1x, but build for 10x, and engineer for 100x.” Make the problems you are solving reach more people.
  • Ask: “What’s required to cut the time in half? What’s required to double the impact?” Make your efforts really count.

“When we ask these questions we see radical transformation in the ideas that take place,” said Patil. “All of it is wide open for all of you to take action and find solutions.”

(Summary taken from news.byu.edu)