Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

President Barack Obama and Joi Ito PhotologPresident Barack Obama and Joi ItoThu, Oct 13, 04:01 UTC

This year, the Shuttleworth Foundation asked me to be the honorary steward of the September 2016 fellowship intake. This meant that I would help review and recommend the people who would receive the Shuttleworth Fellowship which funds the fellow's salary as well as their project up to $250,000. It's one of the most interesting and successful fellowship programs that I know for funding unique, provocative and unconventional individuals and their ideas. I'm a huge fan.

We saw some great applications and I was really happy with the three fellows selected for the round that I worked on, Achal, Isha and Ugo. Through the process I got to know their work quite well and I was excited to get a chance to meet Isha when I was in New York last week.

Isha Datar works on cellular agriculture research, the science of growing animal projects in cell cultures instead of farmed herds. It's a very new field with a lot of challenges including questions about how to make non-animal based nutrient systems, how to make it taste good, how to make it energy efficient, how to scale it, etc. At her non-profit organization New Harvest, Isha is working on the core research as well as funding and coordinating research across the world. What's exciting and important to me is that she's decided to do this in an open source and collaborative non-profit way because she and her colleagues believe that the field is still very early and that it would be advanced most effectively through this non-profit structure.

Neha Narula wrote a post on Medium last Monday about the MIT Digital Currency Initiative at the Media Lab (DCI) and her new role as the Research Director. Also on Monday, TED posted her talk on the future of money, which I think is one of clearest "what is Bitcoin" explanations I've seen. I saw her a few days later and did a Facebook Live conversation with her which I've uploaded to YouTube, SoundCloud and iTunes.

Neha has been working as a member of the DCI for awhile now, but in this new role, she will drive the technical research agenda of the DCI and help coordinate research inside of MIT as well as in other academic institutions and in the broader community. She comes with a solid technical background with a PhD from MIT in distributed systems and previously as a software engineer at Google. Neha and the DCI have already been actively engaged in research, development and teaching in digital currencies, blockchain and related fields, but with Neha's leadership, I'm hoping that we can continue to ramp these efforts up as well as increase collaboration and engagement.

Neha lead the creation of a website for the DCI where you can learn about some of the projects and people involved. Also, as I wrote in a Medium post on September 6, Brian Forde, the director of the DCI will be transitioning out of that role.

There seems to be some sort of general rule that technologies and systems like conversations on the Internet, the US democracy (and its capture by powerful financial interests), the Arab Spring movement and many other things that were wonderfully optimistic and positive at the beginning seem to begin to regress and fail as they scale or age. Most of these systems seem to evolve into systems that are resistant to redesign and overthrow as they adapt like some sophisticated virus or cancer. It's related to but harder to fix than the tragedy of the commons.

I want to write a longer post trying to understand this trend/effect, but I was curious about whether there was some work already in understanding this effect and whether there was already a name for this idea. If not, what we should call it, assuming people agree that it's a "thing"?

Conversation with Adafruit »

I recently visited and had a conversation with Limor "Lady Ada" Fried and Phil Torrone of Adafruit. I first met them about ten years ago at SxSW. Limor is an MIT grad that we're super-proud of and Phil is an amazing pioneer in communications, hacking and many other things. Phil and Limor are two of my most favorite people and I aways get giddy just getting a chance to hang out with them. We discussed making, electronics, business, manufacturing, hacking, live video and more. They've been doing live video daily for the last 10 years or so and are...

Conversation with Seth Godin »

Seth Godin has taught me so much about communications, leadership, publishing and life that I thought that it was important to stream my conversation with Seth. As usual, it was a great conversation. Seth is on the Media Lab Advisory Council. I streamed it to Facebook Live and posted the video to YouTube and audio to SoundCloud and iTunes....

Conversation with Danny Hillis »

Danny Hillis is the inventor of the Connection Machine, Co-Founder of the Long Now Foundation and visiting professor at the Media Lab. We were at a dinner recently where Danny asserted that the world could be simulated by a computer. I asked him to come to my office so I could extract this idea from him into a video. We talked about the ability to simulate the universe digitally which obviously leads into the future of artificial intelligence, quantum physics, "why are we here" and lots of other interesting questions. Apologies for the crappy sound and video. My default...

Conversation with Bob Langer »

Bob is the most cited engineer in the history of the world. He is an MIT Institute Professor (there are usually only 12). He is also (lucky for me), a friend and a great mentor of mine since I met him in 2013 at my first Red Sox game with David Lucchino who introduced us and invited us to the game. Bob is a great example and mentor for so many people. I recently got a chance to catch up with him and hear about his story and talk about things like peer review and the future of science....

Conversation with Sultan Al-Qassemi »

Sultan is the most interesting person I know in the United Arab Emirates. I met him in 2010 or so, soon after I had moved to Dubai. He had just been asked to "take a break" from his job as a journalist at The National, the main national newspaper, for being controversial. I helped him get started on Twitter and he taught me about the culture and politics of region. He is now a Director's Fellow at the Media Lab and a good friend and advisor. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with him and get an...

Conversation with Julia Reda, MEP and Pirate Party of Germany »

I learned about Julia Reda reading Kaz Taira's blog post about her visit to Japan for a Movements for Internet Active Users (MIAU) meeting. Julia Reda is a Member of the European Parliament representing Germany, and she also serves as a Vice-President of the Greens/EFA group, president of the Young Pirates of Europe and a member of the Pirate Party of Germany. She is was the rapporteur of the Parliament's review of 2001's Copyright Directive. We set a Skype call and some of the EU's secret conversations about copyright leaked just as the call was starting so we used...

Conversation with Daiko Matsuyama and The Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi »

Daiko Matsuyama is the Deputy Head Priest of the Taizoin Zen Buddhist Temple. Tenzin Priyadarshi is the president and CEO of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT and Director of the Ethics Initiative at the MIT Media Lab. The three of us are all friends but had never had met together so we decided to try a 3-way Skype streamed on Facebook Live to talk about Daiko's new book he was asking me to blurb. Unfortunately, the book is only in Japanese so far. We talked about meditation, Zen, the mindfulness movement and Buddhism....

Conversation with Martin Nowak »

Martin Nowak runs the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard. At a recent meeting at his Lab, I heard him describe the history of life on earth in fascinating way using evolutionary dynamics. At another meeting over dinner, Danny Hillis and he disagreed on whether you could model the universe on a Turing machine - in other words, can we simulate our "run" our brains or the universe digitally. I decided to ask Martin over to my house to see if I could extract these two stories. I streamed the conversation on Facebook Live and tried to clean it...

Society in the Loop Artificial Intelligence »

Photo by wp paarz via Flickr - CC BY-SA Iyad Rahwan was the first person I heard use the term society-in-the-loop machine learning. He was describing his work which was just published in Science, on polling the public through an online test to find out how they felt about various decisions people would want a self-driving car to make - a modern version of what philosophers call "The Trolley Problem." The idea was that by understanding the priorities and values of the public, we could train machines to behave in ways that the society would consider ethical. We might...

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