Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I had lunch with John Vasconcellos and we had an excellent discussion about trustworthiness, self esteem and leadership.

Lunch with John Vasconcellos

February 20, 1999

I had lunch with John Vasconcellos and we had an excellent discussion about trustworthiness, self esteem and leadership.

John is working on a paper called "For a New American Politics of Trust" and his thinking connects very well with my current thoughts on the importance of trust. I have re-written the article I am working on for the keizaidoyukai to incorporate some of these ideas.

John talks about self esteem as a very important human feeling. There are to contrary visions of human nature according to John. "We humans are evil monsters needing to be tamed," and that of Carl Rogers' "we humans are innately inclinded towards becoming constructive, life-affirming, responsible, and trustworthy." John says, "Both republicans' laissez faire and Democrats' command and control no longer fit us human, who we are, our way of being. Only collaboration fits, works."

About leadership, John says "The true leader is that person who, by the character of their presence, inspires other pesons to recognize, and to realize their innate capacity for becoming their own leaders." In particular, I was very interested in his notion of leadership in the context of ego, power, etc. John's definition, I believe is an excellent one. It works very well with my current position in Japanese society and works very well with my version of Timothy Leary's famous quote, "Question Authority, Think For Yourself and Act."

Yamagishi and Yamagishi intentionally did not talk about trustworthiness and rather talked about trust. After talking to John, I believe that trustworthiness and the believe that one is trustworthy is as important as trust and is much more difficult to manage and develop.

Finally, John's notions on self esteem helped me think about the crime. I am thinking quite a bit about crime in the context of computer crime law for the NPA. One's belief or non-belief in the basic nature of human beings changes completely the direction that one takes policy on crime. Shame and guilt driving obedience or self esteem driving trustworthiness.

On gun control, obviously John was anti-gun, but he was open to pro-gun arguments and believed that it was a very complex issue.

I was invited to dinner by John Brockman. Lots of "digital stars." I was probably the poorest person there.

Danny Hillis and Time

February 18, 1999

At John Brockman's "Billionaire's Dinner" I had a chance to talk to Danny Hillis Currently VP at Disney Imagineering R&D, formerly of Thinking Machines. Anyway, Danny is thinking about building a clock that will last for 10,000 years. We were talking about "Time" and I talked to him a little bit about the Japanese concept of "ma" that Takemura-sensei taught me. Takemura-sensei told me that the Japanese got their sense of time from water clocks from China instead of radial sun-dials so the idea of "ma" which means both space and time is more natural. Danny questions whether Japanese didn't have normal radial clocks very early. In fact, he thought that maybe the Chinese had normal clocks before the West.

Danny explained that he wanted people to wind the clock but to make the clock stop if unwound would probably not be a good idea so making the chimes need winding might be cool. He also talked about Ise Jingu, the temple in the Japan that is rebuild next to the old one regularly so the building is always fresh. I suggested a ritual where pieces of the clock were replaced regularly as a ritual so that every once and awhile, all of the parts were replaced. Like cells in our body. A pattern, rather than an object.

I asked Takemura-sensei to send me him paper which I forwarded to Danny. I also sent Danny a Edward Hall's Beyond Culture because he had not read about the idea of mono-chronic and poly-chronic time which Edward Hall describes.

Edward Hall talks about cultures which take time and space and put them in linear pieces. This allows scalable organized development, but is often not guided well by human common sense. In the middle east, time and space are not as defined. Often, bureaucrats in the middle east will have everyone come at once and they will do what they feel they need to do by their own priority rather than on a schedule. When they get too much work, the spawn another organization rather than scale the one that they have. In the West, you get large organizations, in mono-chronic cultures you get lots of small organizations. Anyway, interesting topic, great book.

Below is Takemura-sensei's paper on "ma".

"ma" is time and space in Japan. Before 645 AC(Taika no Kaishin) in Japan, Time idea and concept is nothing. After Taika no Kaishin (like a Tennoh-empelor renessance), time idea begun from Roh-koku(chinese water clock). water colock is just space time. Following my text, please take a look.

best, Mitsuhiro Takemura


"ma" by Mitsuhiro Takemura

It was 9 winters ago, when I visited the McLuhan Program at the University of Toronto to work, with director Derrick de Kerckhove, on the video conferencing project to link France, Canada and Japan. Derrick was repeatedly trying to project the metaphor of the Japanese "Ma" ("interval") onto the time difference and gap in image transmission that arises in long-distance communications. It was indeed interesting that he had focused on the structure of "Ma", which includes both time and space, but I wonder to what extent people are conscious of the concept of "Ma" in Japan today. Although I was born in Japan, I stood speechless and maintained a vague distance in the face of the French-Canadian Derrick's enthusiasm. In response to this unexpected word "Ma" I recalled the decisive difference in sound structure between East and West debated by John Cage and the contemporary music scene in the 1970s, while experiencing the pleasure of suddenly incorporating the conceptual door and inner world of Japanese traditional aesthetics represented by Noh or the tea ceremony.

Cultural DNA is an apt phrase, for there was a decisive experiential resource concerning Japanese traditional culture breathing inside me. Time in Japanese is written with the characters for time and "Ma", space with the characters for empty and "Ma", I suddenly thought of substituting the word "Ma" for media. To place an interval is to embody time, while the six-ma "Ma", applied to the Japanese "Tatami" room, allows one to instantaneously grasp space. For a long time in the West, people have questioned how this one word can express both time and space. The concept of the medium, the in-between, signifies the interval between time and space, and is similar to the concept of the web.

The function of the web, which weaves the internal world and unconsciousness of man, is the most important concept in trying to understand media. Until now, the massive, one-way media network has reflected, as the very word net implies, the ideology of capture, of rounding up the masses into a net. Hakim Bey, an advocate of the web and anti-copyright who had a decisive influence on cypher-punk, expresses with the word web not this type of net, but rather a web as a function of communication, actively weaving together the mutual intercourse of the scattered reference points of information. It could be compared to Sufi philosophy or the ambient "journey" woven together from nomads and nature.

In previous mass society, if you were excluded from the circulation system consisting of mass-produced advertisements and media devices it was difficult, even with superior content, to gain attention. The internet society, or the digital society, dismantles the circulation system that previously required a long duration of time and geographical expansion and infiltration. And as content and context instantaneously form a web of time and space, it produces a knot called"cyber-space/Ma" tying together time and space. In contrast to previous media circulation systems, which closed the gap between time and space, the web has already bestowed the flexible grid of "Ma" and a tribal response onto time and space. In this sense, freeware and web are truly new media systems in the context of cyberculture. The word network should now be converted to webwork.

The internet, by replacing the framework of the copyright with nomadic information, and by making the web, an interval of time and space, into a site of free intercourse, has been widely disseminated as media of a new dimension. It maintains a unique distance woven from webwork. Speed and delay, compression and expansion--such free editing is shaping current cyberspace. The time and space of the web, woven by countless tribes, is also the aesthetics of "Ma".

The fact that every year in Japan, June 10th is designated as "time day" is not well-known. The reason that this day was established as "time day" more than 70 years ago in 1920, is that over 1300 years ago in 671, during the Asuka Period, on April 25th of the old calendar (June 10th according to the solar calendar), the first water clock (rohkoku) was built in Japan. Today, people are not especially aware of this day, but in fact it was a tremendously important event in Japanese history. For until then there were no clocks in Japan, and the Japanese did not have any concept of time. Having only the concept of space as concrete existence appearing before them in reality, the Japanese were able to materialize the invisible, abstract existence of time through the water clock. The water clock measures time in terms of the quantity of water. Thus the physical quantity of accumulating water expressed time, which was understood as material quantity. In Japan, the concepts of ma and time have also included space ever since the appearance of the "rohkoku".

On the other hand, in the European concept of time, space maintained a different meaning. It is the history of the sundial, which follows a graduated row of numbers according to the movement of a shadow. Of course the sundial, which tells time according to a shifting shadow, maintains no concept of quantity as in the case of the water clock. The shadow that was at the previous notch becomes a shadow in the current position, and in the next instant will become another shadow, thus inscribing the passage of time. There is no reflection of the concept of space, but rather a progression along a row of numbers.

The Japanese"Ma", which had grasped space and even time in terms of quantity, has captivated many Western intellectuals as the mysterious spiritual structure of Japan, and has given rise to various accounts of the Japonesque, from the strange worlds of the rock garden of Kyoto's Ryoanji to the tea house.

Currently, the media of the inter-world called the web is weaving a new articulation with the traditional aesthetics that constitute the resources of Japanese experience and sensibility. The digital web, spreading across the earth like a nervous system, is evoking great changes in the physical world, in communication and the formation of communities in cyberspace, as well as in the industrial, economic systems which will be revolutionized by the digital network. We are facing the question not of how to design the completely new electronic world of cyberspace, but rather how to embody it. The historical experience and knowledge that human beings and the natural world have woven together will become an important factor in the design of this new ecosystem of information, the new world that has appeared on the earth, unaffected by gravity and whose concepts of time and space cannot be evoked by the old media. The emergence in the real world of an imaginary real society, in which unrealizable worlds are produced without end, conceals the complicit relationship of desire between human beings and the media. What we must consider seriously is the fact that media is the reflection of man's limitless desire. In the next generation of desire-designing media, we will need to discern an exquisite interval that reflects life-sized bodies and cultures.

An article I prepared for the Inter-Pacific Bar Association about Cyber Arbitration.

For the Inter-Pacific Bar Association Newsletter

February 4, 1999

by Joichi Ito

Technology, Security and Cyber Arbitration

As the technical advisor for the Cyber Arbitration program held at the IPBA annual conference in Auckland last year and for the Cyber Arbitration program to be held at the IPBA annual conference in Bangkok this year, I am responsible for providing assistance and advice regarding the technical requirements of the Cyber Arbitration programs and providing guidance as to what the future will hold for Cyber Arbitration. In this article, I would like to discuss the technology used at the Auckland program, future technical possibilities, and various security concerns related to Cyber Arbitration.

Auckland Cyber Arbitration Demonstration

At the IPBA annual conference in New Zealand, we conducted the Cyber Arbitration demonstration using PictureTel video conferencing technology, which is widely used internationally. PictureTel has many configurations with various quality levels. We chose to use the 128K system, which is equivalent to two ISDN channels, because ISDN is either deployed or is being deployed in most countries and is the most common transmission speed used for video conferencing today. The purpose of using such technology was to give a true-to-life example of what a Cyber Arbitration might look like using widely available technology. Because a videoconferencing bridge was used to allow split screen multi-point video conferencing this also caused an inevitable delay in sound and picture transmission since the bridge has to decode everyone's video signals and create a multi-screen signal to send to each participant.

Cyber Arbitration and the Internet

Although the Auckland Cyber Arbitration demonstration showed that an arbitration using multipoint videoconferencing technology was feasible even given the low-level of current widely available technology (and, per force, will be much more feasible with the rapid advance of the general level of technology), one of the critical issues highlighted by the demonstration was cost. ISDN, telephone and leased lines offer dedicated circuits which allow high quality communications, but the cost of creating a network of high speed ISDN connection worldwide for several hours can become prohibitive.

This is where the Internet comes in. The Internet promises to lower the cost of communications by allowing multiple users to share circuits, making communications much more efficient, thus lowering the cost. Nevertheless, at present, one of the primary problems with trying to conduct video conferencing over the Internet is that the Internet is what is called "best effort" connectivity. On the Internet, one traditionally does not have a dedicated circuit, but instead, shares the circuit with everyone else who happens to have their routes going over the same lines. When any segment of the chain of routers, leased lines or servers that one would go through to reach each other gets crowded, the connectivity slows down and video frames freeze up and audio starts to cut out. This sort of "lossy" video is now quite common on the Internet, but is used primarily for non-critical or entertainment applications. It is absolutely inadequate for the requirements of a real Cyber Arbitration, and is why we were unable to demonstrate a Cyber Arbitration using the internet in Auckland.

Nevertheless, high quality video transmission and video conferencing is currently being tested around the world. Using high speed lines with special routing technology, Internet service providers will be able to guarantee bandwidth to users requiring high quality and high speed lines. Applications are being developed to allow personal computers and hardware from many vendors to communicate using open standards, thus lowering the price of video conferencing equipment. It is likely that, over the next several years, it will be quite common to find video conferences being conducted over the Internet at quality levels equivalent to, if not superior to the quality currently being achieved using 128K ISDN and PictureTel. Until such time, however, it will still be of benefit to use the infrastructure and technology available to us today to work out many of the legal and procedural issues that we can identify only through actually conducting Cyber Arbitrations.

The Internet and Security

One of the primary concerns in the age of open networks is security. E-mail and other internet communications (such as the types that would be necessary to conduct Cyber Arbitrations) are typically transferred through several servers and travel over open networks. It is a trivial matter for even a minimally computer-literate individual to, for example, intercept and even replace e-mail while it is traveling between a lawyer and his client. In the age of advanced digital technology, wiretaps are not conducted by people "listening" to phone calls, they are conducted by voice recognition software which can scan thousands of connections or scan stored conversations in databases. E-mail is searched by keyword or intelligent pattern matching software that can search through and organize billions of pages easily. Not surprisingly, therefore, thousands of computers which serve mail are penetrated each year and corporate espionage on computer networks has become a growing concern and a real threat.

This is why cryptography and digital signatures are essential to ensure the integrity of a Cyber Arbitration system. Digital signatures using public key cryptography are becoming more and more widely used. Digital signatures allow e-mail or any other form of electronic message to be digitally signed by the sender and for that signature to be verified by the recipient. Digital signatures are typically authenticated by a certification authority ("CA"). The CA uses some method of identification verification and then certifies the key which is used to sign documents.

Using public key cryptography, documents can also be encoded in a way that allows only the holder of a particular key to decode and view the document. Public key cryptography is unique in comparison to other forms of cryptography in that the key used to encode (encrypt) the document is different from the key used to decode (decrypt) the document. The key used to encrypt the document is referred to as the public key and the key used to decode the document is referred to as the secret key. By distributing one’s public key widely, anyone who receives the public key can then send confidential encrypted documents to the holder of the secret key without fear of the un-encrypted (plaintext) data falling into the hands of unauthorized viewers.

In combination with digital signatures which use the same public and secret keys as public key encryption technology, public key technology allows people to conduct private and authenticated communications over the internet. It also allows the creation of tamperproof documents and allows electronic documents to be presented "in writing" which can not be modified without breaking the digital signature associated with the document.

The risk that a public key that you believe belongs to a trusted colleague is not actually the correct key is supposed to be managed by the CA. The problem with the CA is whether one can trust the CA. Companies running CA's are not infallible and possibly more importantly, they are overseen by government agencies which may be incentivized to allow forgeries or deception to occur in order to collect information about unfriendly governments, organizations or individuals.

A CA managed by the IPBA with an identification verification procedure which is open, capable of being audited, and conducted face to face at the IPBA’s annual meetings could easily become one of the few trusted forms for authentication of keys. Such an authentication mechanism could be used not only to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of Cyber Arbitrations, but also could be used to manage membership, standardize document execution, store and date evidence, conduct encrypted telephone and video conferencing, and a myriad of other applications.


New technology will allow international arbitration and negotiation to become faster, more efficient and less expensive. Although procedures and law will have to be developed and modified as technology develops, many of the issues (including security issues) will only become apparent as these new technologies are deployed and tested by real lawyers and arbitrators. This is why continued research and development of a Cyber Arbitration system by the IPBA is so important to ensuring a bright and new technological future for international arbitrations. The IPBA is in a unique position to create a testbed for developing a workable Cyber Arbitration system and should not let this opportunity slip from its grasp.

By Joichi Ito


  1. Nobuo Miyake, Esq., The Future is Now: The IPBA and Cyber Arbitration, IPBA Journal, September 1998, pp. 16-18
  2. David F. Day, Esq, Conducting the Electronic Arbitration, IPBA Journal, September 1998, pp. 19-20
  3. Jasna Arsic, International Commercial Arbitration on the Internet, Journal of International Arbitration, pp. 209-231

Release Notes

  1. Draft Version 1by Joichi Ito February 3, 1999
  2. Edited by Joseph Gourneau February 4, 1999 for submission to IPBA
  3. Edited by Joichi Ito February 16, 1999 for web publication (In particular, modified the 128K = ISDN edit by jg and re-included the bibliography)


Copyright 1999, Joichi Ito

Talk at Waseda University

January 19, 1999

by Joichi Ito

Low Cost of Global Connectivity

Characteristic Models Examples
Borderless, Distributed Network "Out of Control" and no more sovereignty of nations IETF, Offshore Data/Tax Havens, TLD problems, Global Finance, Global Markets
Too Much Information Attention Economy Portals, Internet Traffic Model
Low Cost of Collaboration Non-Capitalist Asset Development, Online Communities


High Context Information/Media Products -> Services Copyright, Cygnus , Agent Disintermediation, News Feeds
Convergence of Telecom Services Large Scale Open Networks, End of Single Purpose Networks End of Telephone Companies (IP Telephony), End of DBS/TV


Evolution of Value and Exchange

The Market   The Firm   Community
Physical Assets Intangible Assets Social Assets
Metal, Food, Books   Process, Management, Risk, Copyright, Patents   Trust, Brand, Creativity, Open Source Software


Japan and the US

  • Reason for American Dominance in Information Businesses and Branding
    • Risk Valuation and Risk Taking
    • General Trust (Yamagishi)
    • Government Funding for Academic Aesthetics (Open Source Community)
    • Scale
  • Probable Future
    • Dominance in Japanese IT Industry by US
    • Japanese Companies to Service Foreign Interests
    • Leverage Cultural Assets to Add Value
    • Educate Next Generation
  • Risks
    • High Costs and Closed Markets Make Japan Undesirable
    • Japanese Companies Compete in IT Markets and Fail
    • Cultural Assets Lost and Collapse of Common Knowledge
    • Assets Spent on Bad Risks


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Arrow, K. J. The Limits of Organization Norton, 1974
Barnard, Chester I. The Functions Of The Executive Harvard University Press, 1938
Chandler Jr., Alfred D. The Visible Hand : The Managerial Revolution in American Business The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996
Goldhaber, Michael H. The Attention Economy and the Net First Monday
Granovetter, Mark The Strength of Weak Ties - A Network Theory Revisited Marsden, P.V., and Nan Lin, Social Structure and Network Analysis, Sage, 1982
Hall, Edward T. Beyond Culture Anchor, 1977
Simon, Herbert A. The Sciences of the Artificial, Third Edition The MIT Press, 1969,1981
Aigrain, Phillipe Attention, Media, Value and Economics First Monday
Blau, Peter M. Exchange and Power in Social Life John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1964
Fukuyama, Francis Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity  
Ghosh, Rishab Aiyer Economics is dead. Long live economics! A Commentary on Michael Goldhaber's The Attention Economy First Monday
Mauss, M. The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies W. W. Norton
McLuhan, Marshall The Gutenberg Galaxy : The Making of Typographic Man University of Toronto Press, 1962
Raymond, Eric S. The Cathedral and the Bazaar First Monday
Raymond, Eric S. Homesteading the Noosphere First Monday
Smith, Adam The Wealth of Nations The Modern Library
Yamagishi, Toshio and Yamagishi, Midori Trust and Commitment in the United States and Japan Motivation and Emotion Vol. 18, No. 2, 1994