Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

So I'm getting ready to sue the Japanese tax office because they forced me to pay more than what I think is my fair share of taxes on my stock options. It's a complicated issue. I've already paid, and I'm try to get them to pay me, not the other way around. Anyway, the point of the entry is not about my taxes. So, when you try to sue the tax office in Japan, what are you actually doing? Well, the judge, it turns out is probably going to be a tax office bureaucrat who is doing a short stint as a judge. The lower courts have judges most likely to be transfered back into the tax collecting group in the tax office.

Doesn't sound good for you if the guy who is supposed to be "fair" is someone who has spent, and will spend the rest of his/her life trying to collect taxes from you.

Then, I hear from my accountant that some of the tax agency guys are telling people who are filing claims against the tax office, "Why are you doing this? Don't you know you can never win against the government?" They all deny saying this later, but I heard this from a credible source. Well it is true. the government wins over 90% of the time. Statistically, this is true. But to have the gall to say that "you can't win." TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE FOLKS!

I recently had a discussion about privacy with another bureaucrat. I said that I would not be nearly as concerned about privacy issues in Japan if the judiciary were more functional and I could go to them with my issues later instead of having to pound on the bureaucrats to try to design a "fail-safe" system. He told me that the judges he knows were incompetent and that the judiciary were not in a position to understand the issues.

Now, I won't say that this is true of everyone in the bureaucracy, but at least some of these guys really think that they're in charge and laugh at the judiciary and quietly think the politicians are fools. Totally scary.

Allan Karl sent me suggestions and edits via a marked up word file. I've made some edits based on his comments and accepted his suggestions on grammer, etc. I've replaced the original file with the new file and put the old one here. I still have to integrate the Stigmergy paper, thoughts from Howard on the Public Sphere, more on the social issues, probably more detail on the discussion on democracy itself, thoughts from Steve Mann's paper, and a variety of other things. I hope to do this on my flight to SF this weekend and include these features in the next version release.

I think I've read a lot of the feedback including the criticism, but if I'm missing any more "features" for the next release, please let me know. Also, if anyone would rather comment on a word file, I'll be happy it to send you one. Would rather only have one out at a time so that I don't branch the word file.

Another question: Should I track the changes in a separate file/page? I wonder what the best way to do it is. Diff the files?

Thanks again to everyone contributing to this effort.

I had breakfast this morning at the Hotel Okura with Jack Wadsworth and Thierry Porte of Morgan Stanley. Thierry is the President of Morgan Stanley in Japan and Jack used to be President of Morgan Stanley in Japan in the 80's and was the Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia before he retired and started a venture capital firm with his son Chris called Manitou Ventures. (He is still Honorary Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia) In the 70's, Jack kicked off the high-tech IPO business by doing the Apple Computer IPO.

When you get Jack and Thierry together they can represent the history of Japan's relationship with foreign investors in Japan from the 80's to the present. Thierry's one of the people who knows Japan's problems the most, but is still trying to fix Japan's problems and encourage foreign direct investment. He's also on the board of the American School in Japan, the last place I ever graduated, and does a lot of work in the community in Japan.

The cool thing about Jack is that he loves entrepreneurship and technology and really "gets it." He recently joined Pixar's board, bringing him full circle with the Steve Jobs who he took public at Apple and who is CEO of Pixar. Jack is interested in Asia and has found some great partners in China and Taiwan, but is still looking for the "Kleiner Perkins" of Japan. Of course WE are the Kleiner Perkins of Japan, but there is no Steve Jobs in Japan. We talked about the lack of entrepreneurs in Japan, the lack of smart VC's and the problems we face in Japan. The valuations for Japanese companies are much higher now than their equivalents in Silicon Valley because Japanese VC's are still rushing to put money into the few good companies in the market and are cranking up the valuations and spinning things out of control. It's quite sad. We're now looking a lot more to Silicon Valley for new deals because of the quality of the entrepreneurs and the intelligence of the other investors in the market.

I give investment bankers a hard time, but Jack and Thierry always make me think again because of all of the value they've added to Japan.

I went to work in a hurry yesterday, running late from blogging, not knowing what I was supposed to do that day other than I was supposed to be wearing a suit. I pulled a piece of paper out of my pocket after meeting with my accountant which told me I was supposed to go to the Tokyo International Forum center and meet Kenta. When I arrived, I was suddenly immersed in the i-mode of it all. It turns out that 5 of the i-mode council members were supposed to be on a panel to talk about how i-mode is changing society and where it goes next. It was the 4th anniversary of the launch of Docomo's i-mode, the widely popular Internet enabled phone.

Natsuno-san, who runs the i-mode project with the support of Enoki-san, his boss at Docomo, talked about the news phones including the new i-mode phone that will have fingerprint authentication built in. He also showed off flash running on the phones. The panel was short (1 hr for 5 people). I did get to admit to everyone that when Natsuno-san came to me with the idea that NTT Docomo would make an Internet phone over 4 years ago, I told him that I thought that there would be no way it would be successful. I thought that NTT would not embrace an open platform and that technically it was pretty sketchy. Well, I was wrong. NTT Docomo did, for maybe the first time in NTT history, embrace outside content providers and the sketchy technology turned out to be simple and much more easy for people to implement than WAP and took off.

There were about 2000 people, all content providers. Most making money. That's impressive. i-mode is probably one of the ONLY Internet platforms in the world where the content providers are actually making money from monthly fees from users rather than advertising.

The party was probably the most expensive-looking and BIG party I've been to since the bubble days. There were jugglers, guys on stilts playing huge saxaphones, lots and lots of food, plasma displays all over the place, art, etc. EVERYONE was there. Schmooze was in the air. The NTT Docomo exec team has special business cards printed for the event with special assistants following them around with a box of name cards as they went around and greeted their guests. Yup. Reminds you of the good old days. ;-p

All in all, it was a nice celebration for one of the few industries in the IT space doing well in Japan right now. For now...

So I don't know how "emergent" this new Korean president is, but he is clearly much more aware of the Web than most world leaders. Korea has always been touted as leading Asia in Internet. It sounds like they are leading in Internet democracy as well.

The Guardian
Jonathan Watts in Seoul
Monday February 24, 2003
The Guardian

World's first internet president logs on
[...]
"The development of internet technology has changed the whole political dynamic in South Korea to an extent that the outside world has not yet grasped," said Yoon Yong-kwan, the head of foreign policy formulation in Mr Roh's transitional team. "It will affect foreign policy."

Korea has looked very progress recently. Having said that, I recently met with a fellow GLT who told me that they were throwing entrepreneurs in jail with fake charges just because they lost money for important people or pissed of the establishment. These stories sounded horrific and not what I would expect from a leading democracy. I don't know if these stories are true, but if they are, maybe this Internet enabled president will be able to change things.

Thanks for the link Khalid!