Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

The second workshop I attended was "The Creative Edge: How Do You Maintain it?" run by Miha Pogacnik, the Cultural Ambassador for The Republic of Slovenia. Miha, violin in hand, deconstructed a Bach Fugue passage by passage. He explained the musical elements and got us to really hear each transition. Then he created a narrative while scribbling on paper the image. It started with a tough command/control image (teenage feelings), pressure, dropping out, networking and communicating, love, chaos (middle age crisis), breaking through, questioning, returning to identity, rising up and finally rebirth and integration. It was really beautiful. I'd never had music deconstructed, much less such a wonderful narrative. I'll never listen to Bach or any other classical music piece in the same way.

I found that these images of the various phases were very useful in thinking about the transitions in my life. The idea of chaos, breaking away, questioning and returning back to my identity resonated with me a great deal. This process also reminded me of Chungliang Al Huang's Tai Ji class that I took where he helped us understand how there were a variety of types of energy and learning how to move between and transform the variety of energies helped you build your own energy and identity.

Good stuff.

Lou Marinoff, who I first met at Davos did the session on Wisdom. Lou is the one who convinced me to learn more about the Soka Gakkai and someone who I've grown to respect a great deal. This was the first organized session with Lou that I'd ever attended and it was truly great.

Here is the outline of the workshop:

  1. The ABSs of Virtue: Aristotle, Budha and Confucius
    • The cardinal virtues: Courage, Temperance, Justice, Wisdom
    • The pace of virtue in the global village
  2. Linkage with Richard Olivier's and Miha Pogacnik's workshops
    • Courage is implicated in leadership
    • Temperance is implicated in creativity
  3. Focus on Justice and Wisdom
    • Justice: doing the right thing at the right time
    • Wisdom: understanding what is right
  4. Eleven ways of being right
    • Main strengths and weaknesses of contending ethical systems

He started out the session by telling us that Plato thought a lot about the definition of what is Good and couldn't answer it. The idea was that if you could figure out what was Good you could determine what was Right. After you could judge what was Right, Justice could be rendered.

Aristotle said that Virtue is the Golden Mean between two extremes. It was all about balance. "Rational" comes from "ratio". The idea was to triangulate from two extremes of vice. For example, Courage is the mean between cowardice and rashness.

Buddha said that Virtue is the practice of the Middle Way. Temperance means neither Abstention nor over-indulgence but rather, moderation.

Confucius said that Virtue is the application of the Tao (the Way), striving for balance and harmony.

Hegel talked about transcendence which means to simultaneously negate and preserve. For instance, someone who is courageous becomes independent of his/her nationality, religion, ethnicity, gender, etc. while at the same time allowing the person not to renounce his/her nationality, religion, ethnicity, gender, etc. This is true of all virtues.

The main philosophical task confronting inhabitants of the global village in the 21st century is to transcend their most lethal, destructive and counter-productive differences. The inculcation of virtues conducive to this end requires global education reform. Such reform is much less costly, and much more longer-lasting than every form of coercion. Neither sovereign governments, nor organized religions, nor academic institutions, are able to bear sufficient responsibility for supporting or implementing global educational reform. this responsibility falls to global business interests, to the WEF, and to the philosophical practitioners on the ground.

Then came the Eleven Way of Being Right.
  1. deontology - rules tell us what is right and wrong
  2. teleology - The end justifies (or sanctifies) the means
  3. virtue ethics - goodness comes from virtues, which are like habits
  4. humanistic existentialism - what we choose to do determines what we value
  5. nihilistic existentialism - "God is dead." And we killed him. So all moral bets are off.
  6. analytic ethics - "Goodness" cannot be defined or analyzed
  7. correlative ethics - every right entails an obligation, and vice-versa
  8. sociobiology - ideas of "right" and "wrong" are motivated by our genes
  9. feminist ethics - women have different moral priorities: e.g. ethics of caring
  10. legal moralism - if it's legal, it's ethical
  11. meta-ethical relativism - each situation has its own unique ethical dimension

  12. We discussed the relative merits and weaknesses of each of these ethical systems. Lou also pointed out that there were MANY more, but these eleven were a good place to start. The idea was to try to get to justice. Justice being defined as doing the right thing at the right time. Lou also pointed out that many people like the notion of doing the greatest good for the greatest number. Turing and other pointed out that this utilitarian method was inherently flawed because one can not maximize a problem for two variables. You could strive to cause the greatest good or strive to affect the greatest number, but not both. Interesting perspective...

    After we had these eleven ways of being right in our heads, we were told to identify a moral dilemma. We broke off into small groups and using these ethical models we tried to argue both for and against our solution to the problem and tried to justify the solution. It was a really interesting exercise and I found that the ability to discuss moral dilemmas with this framework made them MUCH easier to understand.

    If my classes in college had been like this, I wouldn't have dropped out.

The first panel was Richard M. Smith, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek moderating a panel of Newsweek coorespondents. The Panel was Stryker McGuire, the European Editor and London Bureau Chief, Joshua Hammer, the Jerusalem Bureau Chief and Richard Wolffe, the Diplomatic Correspondent in Washington DC.

I first met Richard Smith at the Sony Open Forum where his insights on what would happen if we went into Iraq was in hind-sight very accurate. I met Richard again at the Japan dinner at Davos this year. Richard is one of the most balanced, articulate and friendly newsmagazine editors I've ever met and I'm always impressed by his candor and insight.

The panel was really great. It was a very frank discussion on a variety of issues ranging from American politics, the Middle East to Tony Blair. One notable thing was that when I asked about the role of blogs and amateur journalism with a small "j", I think everyone acknowledged their existence and their importance, but probably thought of them still in the context of email feedback, etc. and didn't really "get" blogging. I cornered Richard afterwards and made him promise to spend time with me to let me go through blogging in more detail with him.

One very interesting thing that came up was the issue of the lack of coverage of important issues in "not so important" parts of the world. Richard discussed the difficult job that he has of trying on the one hand to provide news that people were interested in while at the same time trying to report on issues that were important that people did not feel were important to them. There was a discussion about how the further away culturally people were from you, the less likely you would "care" about them. Since most of the readers of Newsweek were in developed nations, Israel obviously "felt" more important to them than say, Africa. Having said that, Newsweek has reported more on Africa than most major US press. Listening to Richard talk about these decisions reminded me of the struggle that all politicians face -- need to gain public support on the one hand, while on the other having the moral obligation to push forward important policies that were either unpopular or seemed unimportant to most people.

Obviously, I believe blogs can play a huge role here and I've decided to learn more about issues in Africa so I can blog about them.

Today is the third and final day of the World Economic Forum Global Leaders for Tomorrow Annual Summit. This is one of my favorite events of the year and this year is the best one so far. This annual summit is a meeting dedicated to the GLT's. The GLT's are 100 people under the age of 37 from all over the world in a variety of fields who are chosen by the Forum every year. They are invited to the annual meeting in Davos, but also to this special summit in Geneva in the fall. Davos is pretty hectic and the staff are very busy with the main program so it a bit difficult to focus. This annual summit is great because the only the GLT's are here and the participants are the active members of the last 5 "classes" of GLT's. It's a great way to meet a huge variety of really interesting people you'd never get a chance to meet. Also, since you get back together every year for 5 years, you get to build a fairly special relationship with some of the other members.

The sessions so far have been great. I attended a workshop on wisdom and one on creativity. I'll blog about them in a few minutes.

Today, we're going to spend the morning with the Social Entrepreneurs. They chose eleven social entrepreneurs for 2004. "The eleven were chosen as outstanding examples of people who have identified practical solutions to social problems by combining innovation, resourcefulness and opportunity. Whether their organizations are constituted as ‘for profit’ or ‘not-for-profit’, their primary goal is social value creation."

I know all of this sounds a bit "exclusive" and I guess it is. However, It's amazingly valuable to me and I think potentially a very good thing. Building ties with people in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia. I come away feeling personally responsible for issues that I never thought concerned me. When Bill Clinton talked about poverty, Africa and the Middle East in his speech, it was impressive, but when you realize you have friends there who are working, struggling, fighting, the issues become much "closer to home."

I'm off to Geneva today to attend the World Economic Forum Global Leaders for Tomorrow Annual Summit. After that, I'm off to Menorca for a retreat, then off to a Boston via Barcelona. One night in Boston and off to another retreat nearby. I'm dropping by New York for the weekend and off to ECD in Michigan. Two nights in Michigan and off to SF for 24 hours and back here again. I feel like a UUCP email message. Apologies in advance to people I will be missing this trip. It's a pretty hectic trip and I'm already tired just looking at my schedule which is nicely booked in 1-2 hour meetings for the whole trip without a single party... I hope to make a more leisurely trip to the US with more party time soon.