Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Interestingly, I found this on Mitch Ratcliffe's blog. Now I'm reading US blogs for Japanese news.

Mitch Racliffe
I wonder what Joi Ito thinks about this approach.
Ministry wants techs to go it alone - The Asahi Shimbun

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is looking for ways to motivate technical experts working for large companies to start up their own businesses.

The measure is an attempt to make more efficient use of skills that remain underutilized in corporations.

The ministry intends to establish a 10-member study group comprising academics and industry experts this month. The group will discuss specific rules and measures for supporting technicians who are willing to set up new companies. The results will be compiled in a March report.

Well, I think people's first impression is probably the right one. Sometimes these study groups are interesting to participate in, but usually no one reads the reports. It may end up turning into funding, regulatory waiver laws or something like that, but it won't change the basic underlying reason people don't spin out of big companies. Big companies are comfortable, low risk, still relatively high returns (big retirement bonuses) and very prestigious. There is a survey by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor that shows that in 1999, people asked whether "people around you respect entrepreneurs" 90% of Japanese answered "no". Almost 100% of the people interviewed in Spain and about 80% in the US answered "yes". Why? Because, you have to be damn stupid or a loser to not keep your cushy job in a big company. Japan is still low-risk / high-return for people following the "elite" path. There's not much a committee can do about this, and most people are already aware of this.

Stall with young priestesses selling charms
Ever since I was co-CEO of Digital Garage, I participated in a common practice in Japan which involves going to the local shrine, paying them for a ritual blessing and receiving a variety of charms for protection and good businesses which you display in your office. After the ritual, our tradition was to go to the office and slam full glasses of sake and say our New Year's resolutions. (And get wasted.) This year, our pragmatic chairman Jun moved that we don't do this anymore. We took a vote and decided not to pay the Gods. Having said that, the only official way to dispose of the charms from last year is to return them to the Shrine to have them ritually burned. So I gave a little money, took a sip of the ritual sake with my small team of charm returners (again, scenes from The Lord of the Rings come to mind...) So, we'll see what happens to our business this year without "protection."

code.jpegA bureaucrat that with whom we have had numerous debates suddenly visited my office today wanting to talk. Gohsuke had told him to read Lawrence Lessig's book, Code. The bureaucrat read the book over the holidays and wanted to see me right away to tell me about it. (Today is the first day of work after the Japanese holidays. He said he, "got it." He liked the book very much and finally realized the scale and the context of the issues we had been debating and now understood what we were talking about. This story has several lessons... Focusing on specifics before you share a framework is futile; a well written book by an important person (the bureaucrat insisted on confirming the social status of Lessig) can change everything; the "meta-discussion" is less threatening than specific issues with responsibilities and associated budgets. ;-) Anyway, thanks Larry!

So here goes my first poll... (thanks for the pointer to micropolls Jason!)
Do you like the current style with larger default fonts better than the old smaller font style? YES=40 / NO=46

(of course it doesn't concern you RSS feed people...)

Alex posted a comment in Lessig's blog that since Japan has an over 90% conviction rate, it didn't matter that you are guilty until proven innocent. ToastyKen else said it was because the government prosecutes only when they know they are right. Both have some truth. The problem is that judges are reviewed by the bureaucrats and their careers depend on not rocking the boat. It is NOT an independent judiciary.

I found an interesting paper about this. Too bad I can't download the whole thing.

Ramseyer & Rasmusen
Why Is the Japanese Conviction Rate So High?

J. Mark Ramseyer (Harvard Law School)

Eric Rasmusen (Indiana University)

Conviction rates in Japan exceed 99 percent -- why? On the one hand, because Japanese prosecutors are badly understaffed they may prosecute only their strongest cases and present judges only with the most obviously guilty defendants. On the other, because Japanese judges can be reassigned by the administrative office of the courts if they rule in ways the office does not like, judges may face biased career incentives to convict. Using data on the careers and opinions of 321 Japanese judges, we conclude that judges who acquit do indeed have worse careers following the acquittal. On closer examination, though, we find that the punished judges are not judges who acquitted on the ground that the prosecutors charged the wrong person. Rather, they are the judges who acquitted for reasons of statutory or constitutional interpretation, often in politically charged cases. Thus, the apparent punishment of acquitting judges seems unrelated to any pro-conviction bias at the judicial administrative offices, and the high conviction rates probably reflect low prosecutorial budgets instead.