Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.


Oki Matsumoto and I, with the help of Ichikawa-san of Keio University prepared a bunch of slides about what was wrong with Japan. Since I was bouncing around Europe having fun, I made Oki bring the printed slides to Geneva. Thanks Oki! We stuck the slides up on panels to make a booth for the Expo Bazaar during the GLT summit. We made 5-10 minute presentations to GLT's as the passed through the both and got feedback from them. I will post the presentation slides later, but the jist of our presentation was...

Japan was in trouble and needed reform, but because of the cost to the global economy of executing these reforms, it was very difficult. Also, the problems in Japan are rather well hidden and complex we tried to explain these issues. We focused on three points. Democracy, Diversity and Markets. Japan does not have any of these working well.

Diversity was necessary for markets and democracy and diversity included changing the educational system to allow a variety of respectable career paths including risk taking paths. The media needed to be more open and free to allow diversity of opinion.

Democracy required a more fair election system. It required a judiciary to help check the legislature.

Markets were important to reallocate resources. We needed a strong organization like the SEC to enforce rules in the markets. We needed corporate governance to create financial transparency.

We needed a lot of things. Yu Serizawa took notes of the session and I typed them up in random order. We will organized these notes and output them more formally after discussion with the rest of the Blueprint for Japan 2020 team in Tokyo, but for your reference, I will post the notes here as is.

Here is the powerpoint presentation of the slides for our booth.

Do we use the word revolution?

Minimize the risk of the revolution by having a blueprint

Democracy, Diversity and Market Driven

Q - Expectation for changes were high when Koizumi was elected, but did cause reform?

A - He set the mood and the atmosphere but he did not implement is not here to cause revolution.

Q - Is it going to take another 15 years?

A - Act now for the future.

A - Tipping point. It doesn't look like it's changing, but maybe we are closing on the tipping. What are the points of the disequilibrium that is pushing us to the tipping point?

Once we empower people, we may be surprised by the support from the public.

Q - How do we engage the young people who are in the end the stakeholders of the future? They will be the people leading and paying for the pension. Are they aware of the potential problems we are creating for them?

A - Media reform and education

A - Empowering

Q - Are the Japanese happy? We are rich and we work hard, but are we happy?

A - Our major problem is elders is they say, "you are demanding too much. Look at how far we have come since 1945." We would like to compare ourselves to the rest of the world, not our past.

A - We think we are rich, but we aren't. We are funding the $8t balance sheet debt.

Government is borrowing money from younger generation. They are insolvent.

Maybe get TV or newspaper to do poll of people about issues

Cause enforcement through SEC and Judiciary

Q - What happened 10 years ago?

A - Plaza Accord was US policy to force Japan to switch gears from high intensity growth and cause the bubble and the collapse (We've been driving on first gear for too long and Americans decided to wake us up in brutal way) Inability of commercial bankers and the process of using land as primary asset for loans and very little direct investment.

A - Around '85 shifting from land to building value. (For instance earthquake proof buildings)

Q - Can the global economy afford our reform?

2 Tier Society and lack of respect for entrepreneurs and risk adverse environment

All or nothing "shoganai" approach - introducing values that more commonly accepted

Q - Is the Japanese B/S really worse than the US?

In the end the government tapping on the private savings is a voluntary taxation and common in other countries

Q - Do Japanese really care about democracy?

Japan is an obedient society and system build to be controlled first by the Emperor and then the occupation so now no one is driving?

Too much democracy makes low GDP - See Latin America - maybe it worked until the global forces were open to Japan

Government served a purpose at the beginning but system failed to reinvest ourselves in the '70's

We should have known? Maybe US should have done something better than the Plaza According?

Q - What is your top priority? Is it fixing the capital markets? Is it increasing the inflow of capital? You can't change everything, but changing the capital markets is feasible, but so start there.

Comment from us - Japan isn't hooked in with the out side world.

The Japanese are not integrating with the external world from the perspective of free trade and media. Maybe Japanese language foreign media. Try to increase the engagement of Japan.

Fundamental problem that the structure does not allow change. Can we bypass by empowering individuals? (See Nagano-ken) Use ID to do polls?

Japan is a fake democracy with socialist culture. A true democracy would allow diversity of opinions, not the collusion between government and media. Government is not making policy but just allocating resources.

Yu - Collusion between all sort of other groups.

Q - What if there are no longer any resources to be allocated? What does the government do then?

Making a new post-industrial Japan. We need to dump manufacturing and shift to services, IT and Bio. How do we fix low productivity sectors?

Education needs to change to help allocation human resources to post-industrial Japan.

We need the "foam" like the backward high jump. What enables this change?

Q - Japanese recognize entrepreneurship in foreigners…

A - Japanese are partial to foreigners and keep the engagement partial

Need to open up to the world

Q - Need to be more confident in the world

A - How do you produce more confident people

A - Need to shift away from brand name and cause self-esteem - education and societal values - tend to rely on big names instead of something new - exclusive and not inclusive society

Wake up on reality of immigration - need to wake an integrate them

Are we happy or are we unhappy - figures and reports. 50% of people are unhappy with their jobs. Why can't we express the unhappiness

Double income had to be applied to agriculture so we allow subsidies which are anomalies. Japanese story is all about anomalies.

Can the world afford real change in Japan.

It is so complicated and so intricate. Where is the tipping point?

Japan Inc. doesn't work except for industries that aren't regulated.

Some things are changing. More entrepreneurs…

It's not true that people are not interested in Japan. For instance, pop culture…

No longer an economic argument

Stunned by the ignorance by outsiders on Japan

System locked into equilibrium. Can't get out of it... Diversity is push it.

Pressure points, where?

Is it a leadership issue?

Can we make the pain of not-changing bigger than the pain of change?

What are the gains of changing, not-changing. Acknowledgement of the present problems. Reckoning.

Just finished an intense weekend in Geneva at the Global Leaders for Tomorrow Summit 2002. This was one of the best conferences I've ever attended. The Global Leaders of Tomorrow is a group of 100 or so people under the age of 37 that are chosen by the World Economic Forum every year. Then for 3 years or so, these leaders attend an annual meeting in September in Geneva and a meeting at Davos during the WEF Annual Meeting. By the time you "graduate" you end up with quite an interesting network of friends. The group is very diverse. There are probably around 40% women and 40% non-business people. Geographically, members are from everywhere. Afghanistan, Africa, Arab countries, Europe, Asia, Australia, etc. We have some rather important government officials as well as successful business people. It really shows how young people are able to rise much more quickly in other countries than in Japan. This year, the only two members from Japan were me and Oki Matsumoto. I think there are more Turkish women who are members than Japanese... This is the first year I attended the summit. The meeting at the Davos annual meeting was less focused because the WEF Annual meeting was going on at the same time. Since this summit is just for the GLT's it was much friendlier and more focused.

Also, the meeting took place in the headquarters of the World Economic Forum. The location was beautiful. It is situated on the lake across from the WTO and the UN. The building was a very nice design. According to the staff, the cost of the office is still less than the average office cost in Geneva.

This year, Oki and I were in charge of setting up a booth called "Blueprint for Tomorrow's Japan Task Force" and I was the Rapporteur for the brainstorming session called "Rebuilding Modern Politics: Can the System Fix Itself?". I originally thought that the rapporteur was the facilitator. I thought that rapping was like... you know. rapping... Anyway, I found out later that the Rapporteur was supposed to listen, take notes and write a report! I quit college because I hated taking notes and writing reports...

As the rapporteur of this session, I was supposed to take notes on a brainstorming session facilitated by Ted Halstead, President and CEO of the New American Foundation, a think tank, and Philippa K. Malmgren, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, National Economic Council, USA. There were about 11 other participants. The description of the topic was:

Public interest continues to wane in almost every industrialized democratic country. What needs to change in terms of political priorities, accountability, ideology, organization and leadership in most democracies? Will the next generation of leaders be able to reverse the trend from within existing political frameworks?

The discussion went all over the place with a variety of plans like creating an international organization to consult to new democracies and a variety of ways to wake up the voters and chase away the bad politicians. With the help of everyone, I tried to boil the discussion down into some concrete issues and things that we might be able to do to address these issues.

Here is a draft version of my report that I submitted to the World Economic Forum. I think and edited version of this will end up in the briefing package for the participants of the forum next year.

Different problems in different countries

There are "mature democracies", "emerging democracies", and "waiting democracies" in the world. Each country has a variety of problems and there is no single "plan" to "fix" every democracy. Too much focus on the GDP can undermine a country's democracy. Too much focus on the democratic process can undermine the economic development of a democracy.

There are issues common to most democracies and some practical initiatives to address these issues.

Issues faced by most democracies regardless of the stage of the democracy

Control of agenda by extremists

In most democracies, for a variety of reasons, extremists have control of political agendas.

In the United States, the two party system and the ability of extremists in the parties, the religious right in the Republican Party and the minorities in the Democratic Party are able to exercise power through the ability to mobilize people while the moderates are not active and don't vote.

The referendum process in California that was initiated in part to try to bypass the extremist in the legislature has ended up being used primarily by the extremists.

In them Middle East, the extremists have taken charge of the agenda on both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides.

Lack of choice of politicians

The two party system and the electoral system in the United States does not give people a choice of alternative politicians.

The inability to displace incumbent politicians and the unwillingness of politicians to allow succession in other countries limit the choice of politicians.

Most politicians are professional politicians and it is difficult for new politicians to enter the process.

Lack of participation and apathy by young adults and moderates

Young adults and moderates do not vote in most countries.

In the US, polls show that most young people are independent, neither Democrat or Republican.

Lack of ideology in politics

Most politicians lack ideology and are focused on special interests and the interest of powerful extremists. There are few politicians willing to risk their political careers for strong policy or ideological views.

Initiatives to address issues

Better legislature

We must improve the quality and the behavior of politicians.

Encourage more politicians willing to risk their careers for ideologies and policies

There are several ways to encourage politicians to risk their careers for ideologies and policies and to encourage people willing to take these risks to become politicians.

We must encourage more non-professional politicians to become politicians or join public services.

There are several specific policies that would help.

Pay politicians more money

Currently, the cost of campaigning and the low financial incentives for politicians and public servants hinder people without the sufficient financial resources from become involved in politics. In addition, the funding requirements cause politicians to rely on funding from special interest groups.

Change election system

The election systems in many countries make it difficult for independent or new politicians to be elected. The "winner takes all" electoral college in the US forces a choice between the two parties and independents cause votes to be distributed between similar candidates diminishing their ability to win.

In other countries such as Japan, the numbers of seats in the proportional system is not balanced and cause certain regions to be unfairly represented.

"Instant run-off"

The "Instant run-off" system which has been enacted in California allow voters to vote for several candidate in order of priority so that votes from candidates which can not win can be diverted to the second choice candidates improving their chances of winning creating a more fair outcome.

Mandatory voting

Several countries have implemented successful mandatory voting. Mandatory voting will cause the moderate and the young to vote diminishing the ability of the extremists to control the election process.

Bypassing legislature

In many cases, it is impossible for politicians to resist the extremist forces and it is necessary to bypass the legislature and empower the people to organize and affect policy directly.

Technologies and methods to empower people

New technologies provide access to information and ability for the people to be empowered to learn and organize themselves into forces to back policies.

In the Middle East, The Peaceworks Network has reached people directly through multiple media forms and polled them on political issues providing a public view of the opinions of the public. These views of the public provide feedback to the public and also legitimize the moderate position of the public. This can provide politicians hampered by hardliners a position of strength when taking the moderate stance.

Media is essential component for empowering individuals

The media is an essential element in inclusion of the public in the political process and in empowering the public to take action. Liberating the media in a nation is essential, but the practical methods for such liberation is unique in each country.

Howard just opened him weblog about Smartmobs. Cool!

A Website and Weblog about Topics and Issues discussed in the book Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution by Howard Rheingold

Smart mobs emerge when communication and computing technologies amplify human talents for cooperation. The impacts of smart mob technology already appear to be both beneficial and destructive.

found this in Marc Canter's Blog

Memories of General Magic
A long time ago I offered to develop for a hot startup called General Magic. I was going to do the work for free. I wanted to explore a new platform. They turned me down, saying they already had enough developers. Yesterday they announced they are shutting down the company. Now no one knows if one developer's software would have made the difference, but it's been known for a long time that exclusive platforms die and inclusive ones have a chance. It's why the Mac worked and Lisa didn't. If you're lucky enough to get a gazillion dollars invested behind your ideas, never say no to a developer. They might have the next VisiCalc, Lotus 1-2-3, PageMaker or Mosaic.

I myself (I was still kind of famous then) was sent to talk to Steve Perlman - who has gone on to prove that he's quite a case unto himself - about Telescript 2.0 and the future of multimedia and General Magic. Basically Steve would have nothing to do with me. He wouldn't even answer my phone calls. Oh well.

I remember when Megan Smith who was working at General Magic took me to see Marc Porat. I was really excited about General Magic and tried to find some way to work with them since they had some licensees in Japan, and I had actually given a high level presentation to NTT about General Magic before their deal with them... Marc seemed very uninterested in seeing me and told me he didn't need any help.

There were so many people who were excited about General Magic and there were really a lot of cool people working there. It's really too bad they weren't more open technically and socially.