It’s All About Attitude

On May 1st, the Danbury Area Computer Society held it’s monthly meeting, and it was my honor to give a talk there about The Future. This was the twenty-sixth year in a row I have shared my thoughts at DACS. Andy Woodruff wrote a synopsis of the talk which follows below.

Dr. John R. Patrick presented his thoughts about how “attitude” shapes our approach to technology and how we use it. He has long recognized that our “attitude” affects whether we embrace technology and use it effectively … or overlook the opportunities that it offers.

John has written four books that all revolve around “attitude”, and he is currently writing a fifth book. In each book, he analyzes a particular field, such as the internet. He reviews how we currently utilize technology in that field, and he describes how we can better utilize existing technology and develop new products.

In this presentation, John reviewed all of his books and pulled together common threads. He is clearly an optimist about how we can use technical tools to solve problems and improve lives. He thinks about these opportunities, both about how individual people can utilize a better “attitude” and how we as a society can utilize a better attitude.

Attitude booksIn his first book, Net Attitude: What It Is, How to Get It, and Why Your Company Can’t Survive Without It, John provided his perspective about the Internet, including its state at the time he wrote the book and how he expected it to grow. He published the first edition of this book in 2001 and an updated edition, Net Attitude: What it is, How to Get it, and Why it is More Important Than Ever, in 2016. John is indeed an expert about the internet, as he was a founding member of the World Wide Web Consortium (the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web) and served as IBM’s Vice President of Internet Technology.

John discussed Amazon as an example of a company run by someone with an effective “attitude”. He met founder Jeff Bezos in the 1990’s, and he was impressed with Jeff’s attitude. Jeff opened Amazon’s doors in 1995, and today it is the largest online retailer in the world. John said “There’s nothing glamorous about Amazon’s website; it just works.” Amazon management clearly developed the website to serve customers. In contrast, many other companies’ websites do not work well or are hard to use. Amazon prospered, due to its attitude about the website and many other aspects of technology in retailing.

In the second book, Health Attitude: Unraveling and Solving the Complexities of Healthcare, John describes how attitudes of patients, providers, payers, and policy makers have led to a United States healthcare system that is expensive and does not serve all of the population. When John retired from IBM in 2001, he joined several boards including at Danbury Hospital. He says “It was an eye opener. I was appalled by how manual things were. There were Post-it®notes everywhere.” John quickly recognized the healthcare field was ripe for an improved attitude about technology. This could reduce the time necessary for the manual steps, such as situations where staff needs to enter the same information separately into two computer systems. John studied healthcare and completed a doctoral degree in the field. He sees many areas where new technology can help patients directly and reduce costs. As an example of a new device, he described an inexpensive EKG device that connects to an iPhone and performs a basic EKG. A patient can use this device to monitor their own health.

In his third book, Election Attitude – How Internet Voting Leads to a Stronger Democracy, John makes the case for improved technology for voting. He noted that in our last two presidential elections, there were 100 million people who could have voted but did not. Why not? He said this is partly because of the effort and time involved in going to a voting location. He advocates the use of electronic voting via the Internet, as is already done in Australia and Estonia. He believes this would be much more attractive to millennials. Hence the use of electronic voting would change the demographics of the voting electorate, by including more young people. Why have we been slow to adopt changes to voting systems? John said the slow pace is due in part to incumbents who “don’t want more people to vote” and therefore undermine efforts to improve these systems.

John described an improved voting method called Ranked Choice Voting (or “Instant Runoff”). In this method, voters rank the candidates in order of preference. If no one has won more than 50 percent of the vote after the first count, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who chose the eliminated candidate would have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots would be re-tabulated. The process continues until one candidate wins a clear majority and is declared the winner.

The Ranked Choice Voting method therefore allows a voter to select a third party candidate as his or her top preference, eliminating any concern about “spoiling” the vote of one of the top two candidates. This voting method would clearly have been impractical or impossible to utilize in past generations without computerized machines. Now that computers are available, John suggests we go ahead and utilize this better method. It is currently being used in Maine and in 15 cities, but it has not yet taken hold on a larger scale.

In his fourth book, Home Attitude: Everything You Need To Know To Make Your Home Smart, John describes home automation methods and devices. He has this equipment at his own home; it includes voices that speak to him and lighting that turns on gradually to awaken him. John said home automation technology “has gotten to the point where it’s affordable”. Again, the decisions around home automation revolve around attitude. He suggests each person can recognize how much and exactly what home automation he or she wants. The system can be geared for enhanced security or for convenience or for enjoyment. In John’s home, a voice tells him the weather, for his convenience. Music plays automatically, and the automatic music selections are determined differently on Sundays for his enjoyment.

In the past, John has given DACS presentations about the individual topics of most of these books. In tonight’s talk, he reviewed all the books and showed the common theme about “attitude”.

John formed his company “Attitude LLC” in 2001. Interested readers can visit his website, to find his books for sale and join his mailing list for “weekly e-briefs”.

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