Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

P504iS01289.jpgSo yesterday's discussion with Hiroo Yamagata and Lawrence Lessig went well. It was a lot of fun and I think a constructive discussion. Hiroo was in good form. But he usually is... in person. ;-) He had written something negative about Mr. Ikeda in the afterward of translation of "The Future of Ideas" and had gotten in a dispute with Mr. Ikeda. He had just finished the battle and I guess they have both gotten over it now. Maybe Hiroo was just tired from that. I do generally agree with Hiroo's position, although maybe not the way he said it. I think Mr. Ikeda and others had inferred that Larry was against privacy policies. In a mailing list Mr. Ikeda had said that my efforts to stop the National ID were futile and that we didn't have any privacy anyway. The struggle for privacy is a struggle of data structures and can be achieved without destroying the end-to-end nature of the Net. It think it is simplistic to equate privacy with control of the Net. I just finished reading Hiroo's English translation of his afterward. It's quite good. He should post it on the Net.

Hiroo Yamagata
Freedom is supposed to be a good thing. People say Communism died and Freedom prospered, so freedom should be good. But when you ask these people to explain the actual benefits of freedom, hardly anyone can give you a meaningful answer. This isn't (necessarily) because they are stupid. It's because freedom itself doesn't do anything. Freedom is just an environment that allows you to do something.

We talked about the issues from the book and the Japan context. When is going to happen to physical layer, code layer and content layer in Japan?

Are the wires, the spectrum and fiber going to be opened up in Japan? It sure looks like we're headed that way. The government seems quite incapable of stopping the ADSL players from eating NTT's lunch and there is serious discussion of opening up the spectrum.

The code layer is a mess. I talked about the National ID and the fact that lack of understanding about the architecture of the Net is causing Japan to launch itself into a direction without much discussion about the policy of code. We talked about how many people talk about end-to-end, but don't really understand it's high level political ramifications. On the other hand, it's better to have people believing in it and writing code with that philosophy to fight off the circuit-heads who try to make the Network smart and make connections look like circuits. I think education and discussion about the political ramifications of architecture and code are essential, but having a lot of people educated with the right philosophy vis a vis network architecture, security, privacy, and free software (even if they don't understand all off the political issues) is better than nothing.

Content... We don't have MS or Hollywood and most patents and copyright extensions hurt Japan economically. It is very frustrating that Japan tries to "harmonize" with the US and doesn't realize that if they are going to give up something that is a net loss for Japan, they should negotiate for something in return. This is at the government level. At a more basic level, I think Japan should try to run an end-run around these guys with some new idea about how to deal with content. I guess the fact that Sony has a content business in the US and that big Japanese technology companies have "figured out" the patent thing puts these guys in a neutral to hostile position on this issue and doesn't help move this forward...

I gave a copy of Dogs and Demons to Hiroo who knows the construction industry well. It will be interesting to see what he thinks of it.

I think the Japanese are very non-active right now and has Hiroo points out in his afterward, Japan didn't have "the Framers" like Thomas Jefferson who "got it" to inspire the legal professionals to pound the table like Larry. I think it's going to take a lot of luck to get it right in Japan... but for better or for worse, the "other side" is not very smart either so we just MIGHT get lucky. Does this sound depressing?

Had the Lessig's, Jiro Kokuryo, Sen, Yoon and Neeraj over for Thanksgivings Dinner. Didn't cook the turkey ourselves this year so it wasn't a REAL Thanksgivings, but it was better than no turkey.

Sen and Yoon... Thanks for doing all of the work.

Funny thing is, I'm seeing Jiro Kokuryo at the i-mode council, Neeraj at a meeting and Larry for an interview tomorrow night. Small world... or maybe just narrow taste in friends. ;-p

I am embarrassed to admin that I had scanned The Future of Ideas by Lawrence Lessig, but had not READ it carefully. I find I do this with books where I know the author's position quite well in an area I know something about. I KNOW that the book is worth reading, but it feels like patting myself on the back. I tend to like reading books written by the enemy. ;-) Anyway, enough lame excuses. Tomorrow, I have a magazine article discussion with Larry and the translator of The Future of Ideas Hiroo Yamagata, who as I've said before, is an intelligent, but ruthless fellow. Hiroo is a menace to those who are unprepared, but is probably one of the most thoughtful people in this space... Anyway, now that I finished the book, I am prepared for tomorrow...

So about the book... everyone has probably read it already so I probably don't need to write a lame book review, but if you haven't read it, I can now urge you to read it. Larry talks about spectrum, code, and content control and calls them the physical, code and content layers. This is exactly how I think of these issues and how everyone should think of these issues. Although he addressed it in his last book, Code, Larry doesn't have time to talk about privacy in this book. I believe that identity and privacy are also important and probably represent for me the other BIG issue.

I had thought through most of these issues already in great detail so the logic was easy to follow and the detail and facts have added new ammunition to my arsenal. What was also interesting was Larry's continued pursuit of balance both politically and technically. When you are under public scrutiny, balance is very important to protect being attacked by people you are trying to change. The difficulty of taking a balanced view is that the message is difficult to deliver, you can sound wishy/washy and at the end of the day, you will end up being attacked by both extremes, the moderates apathetically fading into the background. Or at least that is my experience.

Maybe it's because Larry is a law professor, but he is able to navigate the detail and the logic well... But as the issues become more and more complex and one realizes that the government and public opinion become more and more obtuse, one ends up becoming VERY despressed as Larry appears to be by the end of the book.

I think Larry's mission, shared by most of the intelligent people that I know is one of the most important missions today. The commons and innovation are threatened by the old power structures which are more and more able to stay in power than ever before. I believe that a similar struggle is going on in the field of energy technology. Big oil protecting its interests and waging war.

Innovation in information technology and energy (See ECD) has the power to solve many of the problems we face today, yet this innovation is faced with great resistance. The public, which at the end of the day is the only group capable of causing real change, sits watching apathetically. How depressing.

I've been meaning to try to aggressively blog with my new phone and Justin's article and his phrase "moblog" pushed me over the edge. My guys set up this "moblog" for me. It's still a test site, but you get the idea...

Tanaka-san's office is in a see-through case in the waiting room of the prefecture building.
Tanaka-san greets our team
Presenting our vision to Governor Tanaka and the division heads
Today, Seki and I visited Nagano with Goto-san and Yamazaki-san of the Ministry Economy Trade and Industry special region group. This special region project was created by the central government to allow local governments get waivers on regulations and laws in order to build new businesses.

My pitch was/is heavily influenced by the discussion with David about who should run the network and Larry Lessig's thoughts on The Commons. I talked about trying to get an experiment going in Nagano involving VoIP, high powered 802.11, UWB and non-phone number based voice calls. (No Australian ENUM please!) With Tanaka-san's no-compromises reform position and the support of the reformists inside of the bureaucracy, I think we might have a chance of creating an interesting network in Nagano where voice will be free, and high powered WiFi and eventually UWB will allow networks to propogate without relying on the phone company. This is quite a subversive project, so please keep this confidential. ;-p