Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

February 2003 Archives

Well, I'm leaving in 10 minutes for Narita airport to go to San Francisco. I look forward to seeing many of you in the Bay Area. I'm completely booked for the week I'm there, which is nice, since I will be seeing a lot of people, but not nice because I can't book any addition meetings. I need to spend more time in Silicon Valley. There's so much going on there these days. I'm sure I'll see many of you at the Stanford Law School - Spectrum Policy: Property or Commons? conference.

I'll be moblogging 'till I take off and should be able to moblog when I land with my Danger SK. So hopefully, I will "be in touch". I hope nothing important happens while I'm flying. If something happens, I hope it doesn't involve my plane.

My moblog is the first result on a Google search of "moblog" and I am feeling a bit responsible/irresponsible for not improving it much since it started. Hirata did the current template and although it doesn't work well in IE on the Mac, it works well on most browsers. It's light and simple. I don't have any good ideas about how to make it better... hmm...

BTW, we have an RSS Feed of the moblog. I don't know if it is a problem with NetNewsWire but when the name of the entry is the same (in my case "..." when I don't have a title) it doesn't go and retrieve the next picture.

Another insulting right-wing asshole, I guess

Richard Bennett posts inaccurately and insultingly about me

Mr. Bennett has a very dismissive and insulting way of engaging and is a good example of "noise" when we talk about the "signal to noise ratio". Adam has recently taken over the fight for me on my blog. My Bennett filter is now officially on so I won't link to his site or engage directly with the fellow any more. At moments he seems to have a point, but it's very tiring engaging with him and I would recommend others from wasting as much time as I have. A few of my favorite Bennettisms just so you get the general idea:
Richard Bennett
"Given that many of the advocates of "emergent" systems are also supporters of Saddam Hussein's government, I suppose this claim shouldn't be surprising."

"Geeks probably do think they understand these things despite the fact that they've never really studied them and couldn't give a coherent account of how any of these things work at a significant level of detail."

"The Well is a pay-to-play gated electronic community for Marin County-esque hot-tubbing, partner-swapping left-wing Democrats who thrive on self-deception."

In defense of House Majority Whip Tom Delay's comment: "John, we're no longer a superpower. We're a super-duperpower." he says:
Frankly, I don't see what the fuss is about. America does have a unique status in the world today, and DeLay's term captures it a lot more elegantly than "sole remaining super-power".
About an article in the Mercury News:
Editorial nonsense from Silicon Valley's paper of record is routine and unremarkable, but this seems to set a new standard of stupidity and arrogance.
IP ban warning has been served.

Aiming to expand its advertising network, Google is moving beyond selling sponsored links that appear alongside search results to selling similar links on partner sites, including on the pages of newly acquired Blogger.
If they do this right, which I assume they will, they will give part of the revenue to the blogger and and create a better revenue model to sponsor blogging.

Not to boast here, but I had this idea too. ;-) But as Carlos Ghosn says, execution is 95% of the work. Good job guys!

This evening was yet another surprising evening for me. After writing this morning about suing the tax office, this evening was my first day on the board of the National Tax Bureau's study group on IT and taxation. They served a yummy dinner which I mentally subtracted from the tax money they owed me... The irony of being threatened by some folks in the local tax office and being treated like an important expert by the head of the Tax Bureau was... ironic.

I kicked off the discussion part of the meeting with my opinion that the government should think of itself as a service and the taxes payment for those services. When you have a captive market, you forget that on one level, the citizens are your customers. When trying to think about how to tax stuff on the Internet, you have to think in terms of "how much value are we adding?", "what is it worth?", "how do we get paid?" It's probably better to think about the power law curve and marketing than to think about things in terms of the current tax framework.

My position is that consumption tax or a VAT tax should be levied since it is easier to track. Japan's consumption tax is only 5%. Dump all of those complicated taxes on things you can't track. Then provide services that you can charge for. If your services are not competitive, privatize them.

Many people think a national ID with a central record of all transaction are the way to go. I opined that a more distributed method that triggered payments on certain types of taxable transactions without tracking ID might work better and protect privacy.

Anyway, it was weird at the beginning, but turned out being a lot of fun seeing and thinking about things from the perspective of the Tax Bureau.

Recently banks began allowing people to use their basic resident ID code as a method of identification for opening bank accounts. This is exactly the "function creep" that I had been warning against and protesting in my activity against the basic resident ID code. I received a letter a few days ago from the director of local governments in charge of the basic resident ID code reporting that they have contacted the banking community and notified them that their activity was illegal and they should cease. (Sorry about the delay. I contacted him to make sure I could post a copy of the letter he sent me.) Yes! Nice job Inoue-san. If the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecom and continue to take a strong position to preventing the use of the national ID beyond the original scope and stick to the law that they drafted stating such, it would be a great thing that could let them turn all of the negative publicity of the national ID into positive publicity. I hope they stick to their guns and prevent other Ministries from using the basic resident code.

Many of my skeptical friends warn me to be wary, but I have to applaud positive acts for what they are. This was a great first step.

So I'm getting ready to sue the Japanese tax office because they forced me to pay more than what I think is my fair share of taxes on my stock options. It's a complicated issue. I've already paid, and I'm try to get them to pay me, not the other way around. Anyway, the point of the entry is not about my taxes. So, when you try to sue the tax office in Japan, what are you actually doing? Well, the judge, it turns out is probably going to be a tax office bureaucrat who is doing a short stint as a judge. The lower courts have judges most likely to be transfered back into the tax collecting group in the tax office.

Doesn't sound good for you if the guy who is supposed to be "fair" is someone who has spent, and will spend the rest of his/her life trying to collect taxes from you.

Then, I hear from my accountant that some of the tax agency guys are telling people who are filing claims against the tax office, "Why are you doing this? Don't you know you can never win against the government?" They all deny saying this later, but I heard this from a credible source. Well it is true. the government wins over 90% of the time. Statistically, this is true. But to have the gall to say that "you can't win." TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE FOLKS!

I recently had a discussion about privacy with another bureaucrat. I said that I would not be nearly as concerned about privacy issues in Japan if the judiciary were more functional and I could go to them with my issues later instead of having to pound on the bureaucrats to try to design a "fail-safe" system. He told me that the judges he knows were incompetent and that the judiciary were not in a position to understand the issues.

Now, I won't say that this is true of everyone in the bureaucracy, but at least some of these guys really think that they're in charge and laugh at the judiciary and quietly think the politicians are fools. Totally scary.

Allan Karl sent me suggestions and edits via a marked up word file. I've made some edits based on his comments and accepted his suggestions on grammer, etc. I've replaced the original file with the new file and put the old one here. I still have to integrate the Stigmergy paper, thoughts from Howard on the Public Sphere, more on the social issues, probably more detail on the discussion on democracy itself, thoughts from Steve Mann's paper, and a variety of other things. I hope to do this on my flight to SF this weekend and include these features in the next version release.

I think I've read a lot of the feedback including the criticism, but if I'm missing any more "features" for the next release, please let me know. Also, if anyone would rather comment on a word file, I'll be happy it to send you one. Would rather only have one out at a time so that I don't branch the word file.

Another question: Should I track the changes in a separate file/page? I wonder what the best way to do it is. Diff the files?

Thanks again to everyone contributing to this effort.

I had breakfast this morning at the Hotel Okura with Jack Wadsworth and Thierry Porte of Morgan Stanley. Thierry is the President of Morgan Stanley in Japan and Jack used to be President of Morgan Stanley in Japan in the 80's and was the Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia before he retired and started a venture capital firm with his son Chris called Manitou Ventures. (He is still Honorary Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia) In the 70's, Jack kicked off the high-tech IPO business by doing the Apple Computer IPO.

When you get Jack and Thierry together they can represent the history of Japan's relationship with foreign investors in Japan from the 80's to the present. Thierry's one of the people who knows Japan's problems the most, but is still trying to fix Japan's problems and encourage foreign direct investment. He's also on the board of the American School in Japan, the last place I ever graduated, and does a lot of work in the community in Japan.

The cool thing about Jack is that he loves entrepreneurship and technology and really "gets it." He recently joined Pixar's board, bringing him full circle with the Steve Jobs who he took public at Apple and who is CEO of Pixar. Jack is interested in Asia and has found some great partners in China and Taiwan, but is still looking for the "Kleiner Perkins" of Japan. Of course WE are the Kleiner Perkins of Japan, but there is no Steve Jobs in Japan. We talked about the lack of entrepreneurs in Japan, the lack of smart VC's and the problems we face in Japan. The valuations for Japanese companies are much higher now than their equivalents in Silicon Valley because Japanese VC's are still rushing to put money into the few good companies in the market and are cranking up the valuations and spinning things out of control. It's quite sad. We're now looking a lot more to Silicon Valley for new deals because of the quality of the entrepreneurs and the intelligence of the other investors in the market.

I give investment bankers a hard time, but Jack and Thierry always make me think again because of all of the value they've added to Japan.

I went to work in a hurry yesterday, running late from blogging, not knowing what I was supposed to do that day other than I was supposed to be wearing a suit. I pulled a piece of paper out of my pocket after meeting with my accountant which told me I was supposed to go to the Tokyo International Forum center and meet Kenta. When I arrived, I was suddenly immersed in the i-mode of it all. It turns out that 5 of the i-mode council members were supposed to be on a panel to talk about how i-mode is changing society and where it goes next. It was the 4th anniversary of the launch of Docomo's i-mode, the widely popular Internet enabled phone.

Natsuno-san, who runs the i-mode project with the support of Enoki-san, his boss at Docomo, talked about the news phones including the new i-mode phone that will have fingerprint authentication built in. He also showed off flash running on the phones. The panel was short (1 hr for 5 people). I did get to admit to everyone that when Natsuno-san came to me with the idea that NTT Docomo would make an Internet phone over 4 years ago, I told him that I thought that there would be no way it would be successful. I thought that NTT would not embrace an open platform and that technically it was pretty sketchy. Well, I was wrong. NTT Docomo did, for maybe the first time in NTT history, embrace outside content providers and the sketchy technology turned out to be simple and much more easy for people to implement than WAP and took off.

There were about 2000 people, all content providers. Most making money. That's impressive. i-mode is probably one of the ONLY Internet platforms in the world where the content providers are actually making money from monthly fees from users rather than advertising.

The party was probably the most expensive-looking and BIG party I've been to since the bubble days. There were jugglers, guys on stilts playing huge saxaphones, lots and lots of food, plasma displays all over the place, art, etc. EVERYONE was there. Schmooze was in the air. The NTT Docomo exec team has special business cards printed for the event with special assistants following them around with a box of name cards as they went around and greeted their guests. Yup. Reminds you of the good old days. ;-p

All in all, it was a nice celebration for one of the few industries in the IT space doing well in Japan right now. For now...

So I don't know how "emergent" this new Korean president is, but he is clearly much more aware of the Web than most world leaders. Korea has always been touted as leading Asia in Internet. It sounds like they are leading in Internet democracy as well.

The Guardian
Jonathan Watts in Seoul
Monday February 24, 2003
The Guardian

World's first internet president logs on
"The development of internet technology has changed the whole political dynamic in South Korea to an extent that the outside world has not yet grasped," said Yoon Yong-kwan, the head of foreign policy formulation in Mr Roh's transitional team. "It will affect foreign policy."

Korea has looked very progress recently. Having said that, I recently met with a fellow GLT who told me that they were throwing entrepreneurs in jail with fake charges just because they lost money for important people or pissed of the establishment. These stories sounded horrific and not what I would expect from a leading democracy. I don't know if these stories are true, but if they are, maybe this Internet enabled president will be able to change things.

Thanks for the link Khalid!

As a result of a short, but useful discussion, I've decided to have have created a new RSS feed. Now I have four feeds for this site: RSS 1.0 Full Text Feed, RSS 1.0 Excerpt Feed, RSS 0.91 Full Text Feed, and RSS 1.0 Comments Feed. Now will someone create a way for people to post comments from the RSS clients?

Are long RSS items rude? More and more people are reading inside of news readers and not bothering to go to the blogs themselves. (My logs show this.) Should we put full text of the blog entry in the RSS feed, even if it's long? It will surely slow your refresh rate. Has anyone written a style guide for RSS feeds? It's a moving target, but I would be interested to hear about how readers and writers are designing their RSS feeds. Obviously, the people who are reading this in their RSS readers are going to have to get up off their butts and click on my blog to comment... ;-)

Inspired by Clay's claims about the power law distribution of blogs, I've been thinking and writing (with many others) about emergent democracy in the hopes that blogs will not create an elite ruling class, but will allow direct democracy to emerge from the chaos. The irony of my technorati and daypop rankings increasing because of this does not escape me. It feels good to get attention, and this feeling is the lust that drives people to stare at power law curve. Liz and I were chatting in IM about this today and she quoted: "One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them." So, who is the Frodo Baggins of the Internet? Are bloggers hobbits? Who can resist the power law distribution and try to create a more democratic process.

It is not just the Net that suffers from this. In my attempts to change Japan, Oki Matsumoto and I have been plotting the overthrow of the ruling elite. The problem is, to change anything in Japan, you have to be powerful and elite. Once you are powerful and elite, it is almost impossible by definition to overthrow yourself. We are thinking about setting up an organization with limited terms for leadership positions, mandatory retirement at a certain age (You can move on to the next platform.), and a variety of other measures to prevent people from accumulating too much power. I don't know about Oki, but I definitely have the "urge" to take control and lead this thing to the end. But I know from watching all of the others that it will eventually go to your head and you won't realize when you're not as smart as the "followers". It is only at this moment where I have enough power to organize, but not to control, that I must help forge the rules to prevent anyone from spoiling it for the rest of us in the future. I trust my ability to resist the urge to abuse power today, but history shows that most of us are not hobbits and this ability to resist becomes exceedingly difficult.

I would like to quickly point out here that competition is at the center of a healthy market and I would not want to question the value of competition where you have a mechanism to keep it fair. It is in power law distribution oriented situations where power accumulates beyond fairness. Bill Gates lives on the edge of this definition.

So, is lust for power uncontrollable? I don't think so. People have sexual lusts and they overcome them to make society possible. People lust for big SUV's but the US seems to be making it politically incorrect to fulfill this lust. We have lusts of many kinds, can't we try to condition ourselves away from the lust for power? Hollywood movies tend to reinforce the lust for power. Maybe it starts by changing the role models in society?

What is this leadership thing anyway? Dee Hock has a great piece about how leaders should focus on managing their superiors first and peers next and that the followers are the ones who manage the leaders. Emergent leadership is not about control or taking power, it is about ethics, integrity and holding together so that you are empowered by others. A system that promotes leaders quickly as necessary and destroys leaders who retain power for power's sake is what I want.

However, whether we promote good leaders or bad leaders depends on the people. The people will get the leaders that they deserve in such a system and the burden will be on them. (Which, I think is how a democracy is supposed to work.)

I saw an interesting entry about emergent terrorism.

This brings us to emergent totalitarianism, or emergent terrorism. At first they may not seem susceptible to analysis as emergent phenomena, since by definition totalitarianism is a command system, and the greatest terrorist threat today demands obedience (at least nominally) to a strict and inflexible code of behavior. Yet many have noted how the decentralized network of Al Qaeda makes it difficult to cripple or destroy. This is not the first time they have been discussed as an emergent system, yet I think it's important to study their dynamics as deeply as possible if civilization is in a war to the death with them - we must know their strengths and weaknesses better than they know ours. And if we are truly to pit emergent system vs emergent system (rather than command vs emergent as the communists did economically) it must be at least in part us rather than our government who think about it.
I have always believed that terrorism is emergent in a lot of ways. Steven Johnson points out in his book, Emergence that not all emergence is good. I think Danny Hillis once pointed out that destruction works to beat up an ordered system such as US troops in Desert Storm, but has difficulty fighting chaos, such as terrorism. So how do we combant chaotic emergent threats? David discusses this in his Art of Peace entry a bit. I think you have to understand the conditions that cause the emergence as well as the the nature of the "units". I think one of the big problems in our quest to understand terrorism is that we think that "they" are not humans. "How could humans hate America? How could humans try to hurt us?" "They're evil, so they're not human in the same way we are human." Well, "they" are among "us".
WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 — The possibility of war with Iraq could unleash acts of anti-American violence in the United States or overseas by individual extremists who do not belong to Al Qaeda or other Middle Eastern terrorist groups but sympathize with their grievances, intelligence and law enforcement officials say.
I think the more quickly we decide that we are humans fighting humans and focus on the conditions that cause terrorism, the more effectively we will combat it. I think that using force and "order" against a chaotic system is a mistake and destined for the same results as the mayors who built "projects" to "get rid of" the slums. If you don't change the basic conditions through emergence, you'll never win.

A story about how Ivan, a meme, is created by Alice and makes his way through weblog space. I wrote this little story to try to illustrate how microcontent cruises through blogs. I try to include all of the applications and services that I use regularly when I blog. It's probably a good place to start in inspiring me to make my glossary. If anyone notices any technical mistakes or things I should add to make this story more interesting, I would greatly appreciate it.

Alice had been thinking about Ivan, the idea, for a while. At 2am, Ivan was ready and Alice popped open the sleeping PowerBook by her bed and opened Kung-Log, a client for posting entries to Movable Type. She typed Ivan into Kung-Log. She selected Ivan's category, clicked a button to include the song she was listening to on iTunes and clicked "post". Kung-Log connected to Movable Type running on her server AliceBlog. Kung-Log talked to Movable Type in metaWeblog API which allowed Kung-Log, who grew up in another neighborhood, to explain to Movable Type exactly what Ivan was, who wrote Ivan, and what category he should be in. Movable Type took Ivan and put him in MySQL, a database also running on the server. Movable Type then went to work. Movable Type called all of the Templates together and called all of the other microcontent who would be neighbors of Ivan (which Ivan was now one of) and got them together and rebuilt all of the relevant html and xml files of AliceBlog. Movable Type also connected to and a few other sites and talked to them in XML-RPC to let them know that Ivan had just been added and AliceBlog updated. Because Ivan was the newest microcontent on AliceBlog, MovableType put Ivan prominently on the top of the index page, included him in all of the category pages and even gave him his own html page and put a permalink to that on the top page. Ivan also ended up in the RSS file. The RSS file is an xml file, which included Ivan and a bunch of other microcontent. Ivan was very well defined with metadata including who had written him, when he was written, a picture that Alice had included to help explain Ivan and even a link to an explanation of the picture.

Bob was a big fan of AliceBlog. Bob lived in Tokyo and was running Radio Userland on his PC. He had his news aggregator page open. Radio Userland knew that AliceBlog had been updated because had added AliceBlog to the changes page as soon as it had received notice from Movable Type that Alice had updated AliceBlog. Bob saw Ivan and was quite impressed. He clicked "post" next to Ivan. Ivan showed up in a new window and Bob typed a few extra thoughts into the window and clicked "publish". Ivan and Bob's comments were saved in the Radio Userland folder on Bob's PC. Radio Userland called up the Templates and rendered all of the files just like Movable Type did, except it did this all on Bob's PC. Then, Radio Userland upstreamed all of the files to the cloud where BobsBlog lived. Suddenly, BobsBlog included Ivan, a link to Ivan on AliceBlog and some thoughts from Bob. Radio Userland also let know that BobsBlog had been updated.

Charlie liked the design of BobsBlog and always visited BobsBlog first when he accessed the Internet. He saw Ivan on BobsBlog and thought Ivan was really cool. He noticed that Ivan was from AliceBlog, which he had never been to. He clicked on the link to AliceBlog and thought AliceBlog was really neat. He decided that other people should read AliceBlog. AliceBlog had a button that said, "blogroll me". He clicked the button and a script ran on his machine to take AliceBlog's address and send a message to to include AliceBlog in his blogroll. Charlie'sBlog knew to get an updated version of Charlie's blogroll every time someone looked at Charlie'sBlog and include it in the page and now AliceBlog was on it. Charlie also wanted to write about Ivan so he went to his Blogger page and copied Ivan into the window, added some comments and clicked, "publish". Suddenly, Ivan was on Charlie'sBlog and in Charlie's RSS file which live on Blogspot, a server run by the same people who make Blogger.

Dave was a very busy guy who liked Charlie's stuff, but didn't have time to surf the web. Dave ran NetNewsWire on his Mac. Every 30 minutes, NetNewWire went to all of the weblogs that were on Dave's list and picked up the RSS files from the weblogs. Since the RSS files included information about when Ivan was added, NetNewsWire knew that Ivan was a new piece of microcontent so NetNewWire highlighted Ivan as he came in. Dave hit the space key and NetNewWire diligently flipped through all of the new microcontent. Dave was really excited to see Ivan. Dave clicked "Post to Weblog" on NetNewsWire. Dave actually had a lot of weblogs that he wrote for and NetNewWire could post to any of them, even though they all ran different weblog systems because all of the weblog systems talked in an API that NewNewWire could communicate in. Dave decided to post it to his Movable Type weblog, DaveBlog. He added some comments and clicked "post". Just like Alice's Movable Type, Dave's Movable Type rebuilt DaveBlog, and sent an XML RPC message. Dave's Movable Type noticed that AliceBlog was a Movable Type weblog so it also sent a trackback to Ivan on AliceBlog. Movable Type over at Alice's server received the trackback and rebuilt AliceBlog to include a link to DaveBlog's permalink of Ivan in the trackbacks section of Ivan on AliceBlog. Now everyone who saw Ivan on AliceBlog could also see Ivan on DaveBlog, who was older and more interesting because he had additional comments from Bob, Charlie and Dave.

In several hours, Ivan was all over the place. Blogdex was crawling all over the web and noticed that everyone had links to Ivan. Blogdex compared the number of websites linking to Ivan with the number of websites linking to other microcontent and realized that Ivan had more links to him than any other microcontent. Blogdex updated its page and put Ivan on the top of the list with a link to a list of all of the weblogs that had links to Ivan.

Technorati, was also crawling the weblogs and noticed a lot of links to AliceBlog. The number of weblogs linking to AliceBlog had increased significantly since Ivan was posted and the total number of weblogs as well as the total number of links to AliceBlog were higher than any other weblog so Technorati put AliceBlog at the top of the list.

Alice had an RSS feed that Technorati created just for her which included all of the people who linked to her. At the office, she had a PC that was running FeedReader which received this Technorati feed and showed all of the people linking to her in little balloon windows on the bottom of her desktop. She was really excited. She could see Ivan growing into a meme and spreading across the world. Since so many people were linking to AliceBlog and to Ivan, Google ranked Ivan at the top of the page rankings. People who were searching for information about ideas similar to Ivan found AliceBlog and left comments about Ivan on AliceBlog. These comments became a dialog on AliceBlog about Ivan. She saw some particularly interesting comments about Ivan so she collected quotes and links from all of the weblogs and opened up Movable Type from her browser at the office and created Ira. Ira was even smarter than Ivan and was sure to be a big hit.

Evan, who tracks ideas like Ivan and Ira and is writing a paper about the subject drags them from AliceBlog onto NoteTaker and puts them in his outline with other ideas about Ivan and Ira. He selects, "save as web page". NoteTaker posts the whole notebook including the new entries for Ivan and Ira and they become part of Evan's online notebook, which is structured by topic, rather than by time like most weblogs. Evan also saves the notebook as OPML and emails it to Frank and Greg. Frank uses OmniOutliner and is working on the project with Evan. Frank is able to open the OPML file and add it to his OmniOutliner outline. Greg, a Radio Userland user, opens the file in Radio Userland and saves it to his outlines folder. ActiveRender, renders the OPML file into an html file with javascript to allow viewers to manipulate the outline and Radio Userland upstreams the nifty outline to GregBlog.

So, I've been told again that my weblog is really hard to understand. (By a non-blogger). The person said that if I could make it easier to understand, it would have so much more value. On the other hand, my blogging community network seems to be expanding and I generally get positive feedback. So what's one to do?

On the one hand, the blogging community is accelerating and as the tools become second nature, we begin to take many things for granted. The blog is a conversation about many things that only bloggers really understand and with inside jokes and keywords whose explanations span many blogs. On the other hand to most people my blog is a just a web page that is getting more and more strange.

Is there a good solution? Is there a blog that does a good job being just a web page, while at the same time being a great blog? I guess Boing Boing is great fun for the casual viewer, but is a great blog. On the other hand, it's less of a conversational blog and more of a micro-content/link blog, it seems to me.

Any thoughts?

In my paper and throughout the "happening" I have argued that we are similar to ants in that blogs are exhibiting a emergent intelligence beyond that of the individual blogs. This is one of the few points that people seem to feel strongly divided about. Liz Lawley blogs

Liz Lawley
But I did still manage to extract key concepts from what we discussed. Key among them was the rallying cry among several participants that "We are not ants!" What does that mean? Well, we were discussing Steven Johnson's book Emergence , in which he discusses the emergent behavior/intelligence in environments like ant colonies. The problem, several of us noted, is that ants do not have much self-awareness, while people do. (Yes, I know, that can be argued on many levels. Let's take it as a given for now.)
Steven Johnson describes the ant-like aspect of blogging much better than me in his blog.
Steven Johnson
The objection revolves around the fact that humans are both more nuanced than ants in their assessments of the world and their decision-making capacity, and that they're capable of understanding the dynamics of the larger system in ways that ants cannot. As Adina Levin says, "The atoms of ant action are simple: pick up crumb, bring crumb to ant colony. The atoms of human action are more complicated: identify people and groups interested in opposing Total Information Act, encourage people to persuade local congressperson."

I think there's a lot of validity to the distinction, but I still think there's value in thinking about ants in this context. To me, when you're talking about emergent democracy in the online world, the equivalent of the ant is not the individual human, it's the software. The atoms of human action are indeed incredibly sophisticated ones, but the atoms of software that enables those actions to connect in new ways are much simpler. It's more like: "follow this link, connect this page to other pages that share links, look for patterns in the links." The decision-making process that leads one human to link to another person's page is indeed more complex than the instinctual actions of ants following pheromones, but the decision of the software to manipulate those links, and learn from them, is much more like the way ants behave ---- or at least it could be, if we choose to build it that way.

In my comments section of the emergent democracy paper, Howard Rheingold says to think about he public sphere, Ashley Benigno, says "Instead of being viewed as enablers, the tools come across as drivers of a process. Ultimately, the human experience is missing from the picture." and she blogs about it on her weblog.

So there are two very important but separate issues here: the will of the people and the social aspect of what's going on and what it means and what we can do and the tools, architecture and the way the tools interact with each other to create a feedback mechanism that increases the signal to noise ratio and encourages intelligence. They relate to each other, but the tools for thinking about these two aspects come from different disciplines and the key will be to try to allow these two disciplines to cross-pollinate and add value to each other, rather than scaring each other away.

So here's an update on my activity in protesting the National ID in Japan.

I've gotten A LOT of negative feedback (All of it indirect. I would be SO MUCH EASIER if they would just talk to me directly, rather than critcize me behind my back.) from the IT community, vendors, peers, professors, etc. about my position to support the anti-National ID campaign. However, the people at the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Post and Telecom who are in charge of the National ID have actively solicited my involvement in trying to "fix" things. I think part of it is to try to use me as "cover". The Minister frequently refers to the fact that he has a "panel of experts" working on the security and privacy issues. At that level, I've been somewhat co-opted and am criticized by my peers. At the working level, I have spent hours with the bureaucrats convincing them of the importance of privacy and the thinking behind better architecture and software. We are now preparing one of the most extensive reports on privacy with the help of many of our friends in the US, Canada and Europe and will be translating all of the material into Japanese. This may be the first report of its kind in Japanese.

The National ID bill says that the National ID number cannot be used for anything other than the processing of local government paperwork. I asked on the record during the study group whether this number would be used as a taxpayer ID. They told me "no." The media, however, are reporting that banks are using the National ID as an identifier, that the police are thinking of using the National ID, they are thinking of using the National ID in passports and that they are considering using the National ID as a tax payer ID as well. The Minister recently told the banks that they should stop using the National ID.

Yesterday, I had a very frank discussion with the bureaucrat who is in charge of the National ID. I told him that I had heard that "it's starting" and that everyone was starting use the National ID for other things beyond the original intent of the bill. He told me that they were not going to budge from their position and that they would resist expanding the scope of the National ID. He said that they did not HAVE to create a bill for the National ID in order to build the network, but that they did so to try to make sure there was a public debate. I'm not sure if I buy this completely, but it sure did spark a debate. He said that because of the way the bill was written, anyone using the National ID would have to change or amend the bill and that they couldn't do it without permission, which he wasn't going to give. I told him that this would be a great opportunity for the Ministry to show it's credibility by striking down the various proposals to use the National ID for other things if they were sincere. I agreed to try to let them convince me that they were sincere and that if I were convinced I would try to convince others.

After spending time with the folks from the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecom, I'm starting to get a sense that maybe they're not the "bad guys." They don't understand a lot about technology and are very focused on local government and supporting infrastructure. I think it's actually the Financial Services Agency, the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry and a variety of other Ministries who are pushing for expanding the scope of the National ID and that the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs and Telecom is sort of "in the dark" on a lot of this stuff. Focusing on them may be the wrong approach. Supporting them in holding true to their promise to limit the use and bashing all of the other people trying to piggy back on their ID system may be the more effective approach. I'm going to have to investigate this more.

One of the biggest problems with my position against the National ID is that it continues to grown and morph into things that have negative effects. My position is that a National ID without a method to limit the scope of its use, without a watchdog organization, without an ethical privacy framework including "privacy impact assessments" when building new stuff around it was irresponsible and increased risk. I am not so concerned about the security of the current ID system, which is quite limited in its scope, but rather, the data structures, architectures, and additional systems that might try to use this number scheme in the future.

I do not have a strong position on the current privacy bill as it relates to private enterprise and I don't think that the media's right to investigative journalism should be limited at this point. I am only concerned that the part of the privacy bill that outlines the use of personal information and databases by the government is very weak and without much substance.

My problem is that people seem to think I am against using IT in government, pushing for stronger government control of private enterprise, questioning the security of the National ID system and blowing the risks out of proportion, using ignorant politicians to put undue pressure on the bureaucrats, trying to make money by scaring the public and selling security solutions and generally being stupid and unfair...

So my current action items are:

Sit down with the non-techie activists and make sure that they are focused on the important issues and not on the emotional issues that are not relevant. ("Cows are 10 digit numbers, why are we 11 digit numbers!" or "I don't want to be a number!")

Talk to the vendors who are criticizing me and figure out whether they are confused about my position or whether they are trying to sell some weak system and fear a privacy impact assessment.

Talk the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecom into taking a strong stand on privacy issues and combating publicly and legally those who attempt to abuse their infrastructure.

Educate the public about privacy enhancing technology, educate MYSELF about privacy enhancing technology, and try to support its development and deployment.

Engage in a global debate about privacy issues in general and make sure Japan is in sych with the rest of the rational world. (If there is any left.)

Ernie quotes a new blogger friend of his, Steve Covell. He calls it the three stages of blog awareness

Ernie the Attorney
"OK, a couple of weeks ago I knew nada about the subject of blogs. Here is my take on the 3 stages of blogging:

1) There must be something to blogs because so many people are into it, but I don't have a clue.

2) OK, it does seem kind of cool and there is much, much more to it than I expected. I just don't see any really practical applications.

3) Oh my God, the things I can do with this are coming to me faster than I can keep up with."

Actually, there is at least another stage:
4) Oh, no. I'm addicted to blogging...

You are addicted to blogging if you answer "yes" to at least 3 of the following questions:

Do you think about everything in terms of whether it will make a good blog entry?

Do you keep your computer in standby mode beside your bed and wake up at 2am to blog?

Do you skip lunch and blog instead?

Do you accept speaking engagements or make travel decisions based on whether they will make good blog material?

Do you have your RSS newsreader open during meetings and keep hitting "refresh"?

Do you sit around trying to figure out how you can redesign your job so you can blog more?

Do you think blogs will suddenly cause an emergent democracy and save the world?

An op-ed that I drafted with the help of everyone here and here (with a final re-draft by Pamela from WEF) just ran. They cut my "special thanks" section...

The Internet, and the "blogs" (Web log services) in particular, provide opportunities for the passive Japanese public to wake up before the catastrophe. The Internet is also a way to enable the youth of Japan, currently silenced by the older generation and destined to get stuck with supporting them, to speak up and organise themselves before it is too late. This is critical both for themselves and for Japan as a whole.

You need to register to read the article online... Thank for all of your help with this everyone!

web_sharing_home.gifNoteTaker 2003 is a very groovy outliner that does lots of cool things like publish to the web, voice annotation and all kinds of other things that I haven't figured out yet. They shipped version 1.1 yesterday. Guess what. It does OPML! I griped about the fact that it didn't do OPML, before when I tried the previous release. Maybe this will be the "missing link" in my personal information management struggle. I've just bought it, installed the contextual menu and will try it out. Will report later after I've used it about, but just wanted people to know that it was out.

I just uploaded some photos that I took in during my tour of Chiba with Governor Domoto. This moblogging process was a bit more complicated than usual. I took my Hasselblad 205 FCC and most of my lenses. I shot both negative and positive film. I then processed them at a lab and had them scanned to PhotoCD format. I imported them into iPhoto, cropped them, enhanced some of them and uploaded them to my iMac web page from IPhoto. The worst part of the process was the PhotoCD part. I had read on the web that PhotoCD works well with negatives, but most of the scans turned out sort of washed out. On top of that, they cost more than $10 per photo to scan. (Still cheaper than professional scanning.) The iPhoto "enhance" feature worked well on the pictures with the busy pictures, but did not work with the pictures with simple objects and few colors. Anyway, if you're interested, the pictures are available as an .mac album.

I received the following email on the GLT list from Matthew.

Date: Tue Feb 18, 2003 12:01:37 AM Japan
To: GTL's
Subject: Truth, Childish Behaviour and War

1 Truth
The French maintain that Saddam is "a spent force", the Americans are saying "millions may die"; both leaderships have access to the same data on Iraq, but the statements are contradictory. Maybe neither is lying, but surely the "truth" is more than the mere absence of a lie? Doesn't the "truth" means telling things the way they really are without distortion or exaggeration? The lowest point for truth in the Iraq debate was the UK's "intelligence report" which contained bits of an old doctoral thesis pirated off the Internet (with the language altered slightly to make it more exciting).

A London magazine had this to say at the weekend "As war approaches, it will be safest to assume that every statement issued by Washington, London or Baghdad is absolute nonsense".

2 Childish Behaviour
To make things worse, Western leaders have started to use the language of the school playground to describe each other and their respective countries.

3 War
War is a serious issue and needs to be treated with a little more respect, I think this is the main reason why 5 million people protested against war on Iraq at the weekend.


I think the key phrase is "War is a serious issue and needs to be treated with a little more respect". This war is a VERY complicated issue. In fact, it is a COMPLEX issue. It highlights the fact that our representatives CAN NOT understand or communicate the issues. The attention span of the mass media is like the movie Memento and can't remember what it was saying a few minutes ago. It is a structured process breaking down as a chaotic world engulfs it.

I argue in my emergent democracy paper that maybe blogs will enable a process of demoracy similar to the way ants, slime molds and brains "think." The difficulty is that we humans think we're pretty smart and don't trust things that we can't understand or think for ourselves. That's what trust is for. You have to think locally and trust that everyone is doing that. Then you can build a network where no one node knows the whole of it, but it works. Dee Hock who writes about chaordics designed the Visa network to be this way. So if you're an ant, how do you know if your colony is smart? I guess if you're happy, that's a good sign. How do you measure emergence?

Maybe this war is a good opportunity to test whether the war blog debate, the mass media debate, the UN debate or the US government's own internal thinking is the smartest. How do we measure this? I guess you can't... but maybe we can examine the "quality" of the debate.

Blogstreet just launched a new tool that uses Java to let you view your Blogstreet "neighborhood" and click on your neighbors to expand and see their neighborhoods, etc. You get the idea. The tool is on their site and the developer, Veer, blogs about it.

I think the tools is fun, but two notes. I don't know my neighbors very well, but maybe that's not the point. Maybe it is about who I SHOULD know... It would be neat to be able to view Technorati data this way. Also, although it is fun, I'm not sure exactly how useful these visualizations are when you're in high-efficiency, I'm-too-busy-to-eat-lunch-because-I'm-blogging mode...

Although I'm enjoying dragging Doc and Dave around and watching the other blogs wiggle as they follow Doc and Dave around the screen. It's particularly fun in show "all" mode where there are a lot of blogs following them around... ;-)

Thank everyone for all of the constructive feedback and support in getting my thoughts to where they are. This was a community effort and a great example of emergent democracy itself. I've posted version 1.0 of the paper. I'm going to get the translators started on this. I missed various points that came up in the email dialog. I hope I can integrate them in this paper or work with everyone on the next paper. I'm happy to continue to get suggestions for version 2.0. It was a bit rushed since the publishers are on my case to get this finished, on the other hand it probably wouldn't haven't gotten this far so quickly if it weren't for the pressure. ;-)

I just received this email and downloaded the book. It's great.

email from Ryuichi Sakamoto
From: Ryuichi Sakamoto
Date: Tue Feb 18, 2003 6:37:49 AM Japan
To: Joichi Ito
Subject: Dear Friends

Dear friends,

recently one of my friends went to Iraq to meet the people and see their lives.
Soon after he came back he published the book "On a small bridge in Iraq"
which just came out in Japan.
Please see the pictures of the Iraqi people and their lives.
Those are beautiful pictures.
Can we bomb them, the people just like us?

Please go to
and download the English version of the pdf file.

Ryuichi Sakamoto

In other news, Six Apart, LLC acquired a fax machine Saturday.... [Six Log]


I just finished the day pounding away at my emergent democracy paper. I am very tired. Today was the deadline. It's 1000 words short and I'm so tired, I think the conclusion is quite weak. I'm going to beg them to give me another day... It's about 5000 words now. If anyone has the interest and the time to take a look, I would greatly appreciate comments. Since I still have 1000 words to write, I can elaborate on any of the points really.

My thesis is basically that weblogs will allow the net to exhibit emergent behavior and properly used, this will allow us to create a new form of global democracy. I think the community of toolmakers is the key to getting this done.

Here it is in html.

Clay and Ross, can I use the images from your papers?

Google, which runs the Web's premier search site, has purchased Pyra Labs, a San Francisco company that created some of the earliest technology for writing weblogs, the increasingly popular personal and opinion journals. [...] How Google manages the Blogger software and Pyra's hosting service may present some tricky issues. The search side of Google indexes weblogs from all of the major blogging platforms, including Movable Type and Userland Radio. Any hint of proprietary favoritism would meet harsh criticism.
This is going to be tricky. Is this good news for people using other blogging software or bad news?

I wonder if the discussion at Supernova had anything to do with increasing Google's interest in blogs.

I've finally started working on my paper on emergent democracy. It basically tracks the "Happening" but it will be for a non-blogging crowd so I will have to describe blogging and a variety of other things we take for granted. I'm going to write it in OmniOutliner and will render it with ActiveRendere and upstream it to my Radio page.

I posted this back in 1998, but I'm going to post it again. Tocqueville was a Frenchman who visited the US and wrote a book called "Democracy in America" in 1835.

Alexis de Tocqueville
From time to time, indeed, enterprising and ambitious men will arise in democratic communities whose unbounded aspirations cannot be contented by following the beaten track. Such men like revolutions and hail their approach; but they have great difficulty in bringing them about unless extraordinary events come to their assistance. No man can struggle with advantage against the spirit of his age and country; and however powerful he may be supposed to be, he will find it difficult to make his contemporaries share in feelings and opinions that are repugnant to all their feelings and desires.

It is a mistake to believe that, when once equality of condition has become the old and uncontested state of society and has imparted its characteristics to the manners of a nation, men will easily allow themselves to be thrust into perilous risks by an imprudent leader or bold innovator. Not indeed that they will resist him openly, by well-contrived schemes, or even by a premeditated plan of resistance. They will not struggle energetically against him, sometimes they will even applaud him; but they do not follow him. To his vehemence they secretly oppose their inertia, to his revolutionary tendencies their conservative interests, their homely tastes to his adventurous passions, their good sense to the flights of his genius, to his poetry their prose. With immense exertion he raises them for an instant, but they speedily escape from him and fall back, as it were, by their own weight. He strains himself to rouse the indifferent and distracted multitude and finds at last that he is reduced to impotence, not because he is conquered, but because he is alone.

Sounds pretty lonely. Luckily, being a leader today doesn't mean you're along. In fact, you're just one of the catalysts. I felt a bit strange leading the emergent democracy "Happening" when we were trying to find emergence where there was not supposed to be a leader or a pacemaker. Mitch mentioned that management as defined by Dee Hock was about being lead by the group and managing things above you. (versus the tradition notion of management being something that leaders do to followers) You're a leader as long as people look to you to be the catalyst. So, I wonder... Do leaders "emerge"? What does leadership have to do with Clay's power law discussion? My sense that people who are "different" and express their point of view will be discovered when society needs that point of view. It's like some antibody or some catalyst waiting for the right situation to be useful. This is very different from the single source of power/power broker sort of control oriented leadership. The old way to lead was to find the source of power, take it over and then control. Now maybe it is to find some point of view, feel strongly about it and blog blog blog. Be the difference that makes a difference.

Joi called it a 'happening' which is quite appropriate as it happened in several media at the same time.
I called the meeting, but actually someone else first called it a "Happening". I think it was Ross. Does anyone remember? Anyway, I think that's the right word for it too.

BTW, for all of you who didn't participate in the first two calls, it may be hard to understand why we are all so excited about a simple conference call. I think the multi-modal aspect and the integration of the Wiki is a new and exciting development. Ross does a good job explaining it on his blog.

The hinge on my 15 inch TiBook broke. The Powerbook display was hanging on from one hinge. I had to write a paper. My 802.11g base station had just arrived. What to do. I always use the opportunity of giving forward as my excuse to buy new stuff. So, I went out and bought a 12 inch PowerBook G4. I copied the system from my 15 inch to my new computer using Carbon Copy Cloner, which is one of my favorite utilities. No go. The new machine didn't recognize the system. I did a fresh re-install and randomly dragged folders to the new machine that looked important. That worked, but took way too much work. Anyway, I'm switched and have set up my 802.11g connection at home and I love it. I just uploaded a 1.7MB QT movie to my blog. zip... Done. ;-) I'm sitting here gloating instead of writing my paper on emergent democracy which is the excuse I gave myself for making such an impulse buy. Better get back to writing.

I've posted a two movies clips I took at the anti-war parade in Shibuya. The first one is a 1.7MB QT movie of the Japanese drummers and the second one is a 780K QT movie of the big black flags of the anarchics waving in the air walking down Koendori in front of the Marui department store. I imagined that we were marching for the overthrow of the Japanese government for a moment. ;-)

It was dark so I used the infrared nightvision mode on my Sony video camera to capture the scene
Went to the anti-war parade in Shibuya today. It was the biggest protest of its type that I've been to. (Although I think the gay and lesbian parade I went to with Kara and Megan was bigger and more fun...) I heard that it was the first protest that circled through the Shibuya route completely before the last team had left, making a full circle.

We were the bloggers against war. We were stuck between the semi-left wing Asian group and a bunch of strange folks with messages on their umbrellas. Later, we ended up next to the Japanese drummers, which was much better. I guess they wanted to do this at the same time all over the world so Japan got stuck after dark. We were a pretty diverse group. I liked the Japanese drummers, the anarchists with the BIG black flags and the "Love not War" folks.

It was pretty interesting and mayb 20% of the people were really having fun. Regardless of the logic, I think it is definitely more fun to be against the war than for it.

Recently I've been getting email and comments in my blog pushing me to try to elaborate on my position on the war or to engage in the debate. I don't want to right now. I have several reasons.

1 - The War with Iraq is very important, but I have many things that are important to me and committing to taking a strong position and defending it would undermind my ability to cause a revolution in Japan, think about North Korea, run my business and try to understand democracy.

2 - Most of what can be said is being said. It reminds me of high school debate. We had hundreds of note cards supporting or debunking various positions. Debate was about choosing and presenting a variety of positions about certain points. Both teams had 99% of all of the arguments already worked out. It was just a matter of hashing things out. I read the war blogs and it seems like just recycling of the same information over and over again. I'm not interested in hearing about the war unless it is new information. Calling me names and pushing me harder will not change my position on the war. I also do not have much to add at this point. I don't have much first hand information and it would be reiterated arguments already made. I don't see the point.

3 - Most of the sources of information are not trustworthy and have a variety of complex agendas. The issue itself is VERY complex. I think that ANYONE who is completely convinced either way either has access to information that I do not have or is a fool. I do not take strong positions on issues where I don't know the facts for sure and where it is too complex to predict the outcome.

I have decided to be against the war after listening to a variety of people who I trust and who have thought about this a lot. I had the opportunity to meet Colin Powell at the World Economic Forum in a small group with the Global Leaders for Tomorrow two years ago. I developed a great deal of respect for him. His speech at Davos this year was the most convincing argument for the war that I've heard. All of the pro-war folks are not nearly as convincing and I've already heard the argument about the UN resolution from Powell so I don't need to hear it again and again. I've also spent time with a journalist who I respect very much who is also pro-war. He was also very convincing. I've talked to experts on foreign policy, university professors, bloggers and a variety of people who I trust. My feeling after hearing all of the arguments is that there is no obvious position. So, when in doubt, my position is, don't kill people. Also, I believe that the US one of the best democracies in the world and that we should all push the US to hold the link and maintain its integrity. Judges face cases where they KNOW the defendant is guilty, but throw it out due to technicalities. Rules are rules. First-strike, torture are bad no matter what the reason. Due process should be protected no matter what the reason. If you let these principles slip, you're losing what you're fighting for. I'm not going to go into any more specifics in this entry because for every argument, there is a counter-argument.

So my fear in taking the anti-war position is that we may be allowing another Hitler to happen. Having said that, Sadaam does not have nearly the support or the power the Hitler had so we still have time. We are allowing the bin Laden to unite the Arab/Islam world against the US with this war and strange bedfellows are united. This is dangerous. We are also pushing Sadaam to strike first. The cost of a long war on the global economy and the difficulty of "running Iraq" is immense and I dread the thought of a drawn out US occupation of Iraq. That's what's on my mind.

So my humble position is to let the inspectors continue, work through the UN, get the rest of the world on board with a "smoking gun" and talk to the rest of the Arab nations more for ideas about hot to unseat Sadaam.

PS If you are going to warblog spam my blog, please comment on this item if possible. I won't delete or censor war comments to other entries, but I think it's bad taste to turn EVERY discussion into a discussion about Iraq.

Frank Boosman's rather lucid arguments FOR the war.
Interesting cross-blog debate

The Meta Network and the Electronic Networking Association were just about where it all started for me. My first real company was MDG Japan, a company that distributed Jcaucus (a Japanese version of the Caucus groupware product that MDG was marketing). The ENA was the first computer networking conference where we really started hashing a lot of the issues involving the scaling of online communities. We're still talking about a lot of the same things though... hmm...

Lisa Kimball
2003 is our 20th anniversary year for The Meta Network!

We are planning many festivities - including a linked-up set of celebrations the weekend of March 22-23.

We're also looking for artifacts, copies of conversations from the early years, and reminders of some of the highlights and special events we've shared on MetaNet.

If you have something to share or would like to know about special events, join the ANNIVERSARY conference on MetaNet and join the fun!

I'm a Webby Judge in the "community" category. We're nominating sites first. If anyone has suggestions, please post them here and I'll take a look. Thanks!

tia.jpgGood show US democracy! Now if you can just shut down that war of yours.

Is there still a pulse in the badly injured body of American democracy? Cynics will say that it will go underground, but I choose to believe that the US Congress has succeeded in shutting down the ultra-panoptic Total Information Awareness program -- the scheme to protect Americans from tyranny through total dataveillance of our every move. I say yay. Maybe those telephone calls you and I made to our Congressional representatives made a difference.
Virtually without dissent, the House conferees accepted a bipartisan Senate provision written by Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, and Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, stipulating that the program cannot be used against American citizens. The conferees also agreed to end research on the program — in effect shutting it down — in 90 days unless the Pentagon submits a detailed report on the program's cost, goals, impact on civil liberties and prospects for success against terrorists. What this means, in effect, is that if the program continues at all, it will be as a low-intensity research project under close Congressional supervision.

We just had a "happening" on "emergent democracy". (A conference call about blogs ;-p ) It was great. On the call were Clay Shirky, Ross Mayfield, Pete Kaminski, Gen Kanai, Liz Lawley, and Sébastien Paquet. One of the great things about blogs is that it accelerated the the conversation on the web and increased the bandwith. Phone calls are even faster. We decided that this format was useful. Happenings should happen when some blog meme starts to pick up speed and reaches escape velocity. We are going to try to develop this form of communication as an extention of blogging but use other tools such as Wiki's, chat and IM. We are going to do another 7am Sat Tokyo time. Click Here to see what time that is in other time zones. We will be continuing our discussion on emergent democracy, but will be testing this "happening" method of communication.

Send me email with your IM address and blog URL (if you have one) if you want to join the next one.

Sebastien Paquet made a topic exchange feed. You can send trackback to:
and they show up in this RSS feed

Please trackback your entries about emergent democracy and read the RSS feed to keep track.

I plan to attend the anti-war demonstrations on February 15th in Shibuya, Tokyo. This is likely to become the single largest day of protest in world history.
I'm going too. Thanks for the tip Karl-Friedrich. Should we try to organize a blog mob? Who else is going? Is there a poster party before?

I'm going to miss Live from Blogosphere where Doc says they will talk about all of the stuff rippling out of Clay Shirky's comments about blogs and the power laws. Drat. I'm in Tokyo... AND I need to write a paper this weekend. I want to write about democracy and the emergent behavior of blogs. So, I have a plan which may or may not work. I am going to set up a phone bridge for 7am Tokyo time tomorrow morning. You can see what time that is where you live from this table. If you're interested in joining me in my quest for some answers and some thoughts, send me email including your real name, any IM accounts you use and your phone number and I will send you the bridge number and a passcode. I promise I will upload my notes here.

I am particularly interested in emergent behavior of blogs, is there a higher level order developing in blogs because of their 2-way linking nature? How should we measure and visualize this behavior? Are power laws relevant to this line of thinking? Will this change the nature of democracy and media? If so, how?

I know this, short notice, self-centered mini-conference is a bit... well, selfish, but this is an experiment in whether I can use real-time voice to make up for my physical distance from y'all.

Just got this via email. Don't know who wrote it. Thanks Michael!
Bush has a new song.... he composed it himself.... Must be sung to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands":

If you cannot find Osama, bomb Iraq.
If the markets are a drama, bomb Iraq.
If the terrorists are frisky,
Pakistan is looking shifty,
North Korea is too risky,
Bomb Iraq.

If we have no allies with us, bomb Iraq.
If we think someone has dissed us, bomb Iraq.
So to hell with the inspections,
Let's look tough for the elections,
Close your mind and take directions,
Bomb Iraq.

It's "pre-emptive non-aggression", bomb Iraq.
Let's prevent this mass destruction, bomb Iraq.
They've got weapons we can't see,
And that's good enough for me
'Cos it'all the proof I need
Bomb Iraq.

If you never were elected, bomb Iraq.
If your mood is quite dejected, bomb Iraq.
If you think Saddam's gone mad,
With the weapons that he had,
(And he once p*ssed off your dad),
Bomb Iraq.

If your corporate fraud is growin', bomb Iraq.
If your ties to it are showin', bomb Iraq.
If your politics are sleazy,
And hiding that ain't easy,
And your senates getting queasy,
Bomb Iraq.

Fall in line and follow orders, bomb Iraq.
For our might knows not our borders, bomb Iraq.
Disagree? We'll call it treason,
Let's make war not love this season,
Even if we have no reason,
Bomb Iraq.

habbo_hotel.gifNeeraj just launched Habbo Hotel Japan. I wrote about it before, but it is a cool 2.5D chat space where you can build your own room and play games as well. It's a shockwave and it takes about a minute to set up an account and it's free. It's less sophisticated than Sims Online, but maybe better because it focuses more on the community aspect. I sometimes have difficulty with Sims Online because the balance between gameplay and socializing is kind of difficult. Sometimes it feels like you're "in the way" of Sims trying to make money doing stupid repetitive tasks. Habbo (maybe because it's free) has a younger and more social population, generally speaking, although I HAVE met some nice people on Sims Online.

I'm Joi and Neeraj is NikoNiko in Habbo.

I'm a "Mentor" of the prefecture of "Nagano". I'm not sure exactly what that means, but it does mean that even though today was a national holiday, I spent the afternoon in the Nagano office with the Governor's staff giving advice with the other Mentors on a variety of plans that they had. Actually, it was fun. We are trying to set up a lot of interesting trials involving wireless network webs, community VoIP networks and lots of other rather subversive, but community oriented projects. Nagano is the home of Governor Tanaka, who I wrote about before.

After the trip to Chiba, Mizuka and I are thinking about moving to the countryside and just keeping a small apartment in Tokyo. The Governor's staff in Nagano said that they would help us look for places. I told them we were thinking of moving to either Nagano or Chiba. Nagano is closer, but it's colder. It's a bit classier than Chiba as well... but Chiba has an ocean. hmm...

vorschau.jpgI heard that there are more movies produced in India than anywhere else in the world. I saw a lot of Indian movies on my flight to India and have started to really enjoy their interesting style. Here is a very funny Peugeot commercial that looks like it was shot in India.

Thanks for the link Neeraj!

Great example of the media harnessing new technology. Now all we need is video. Interesting, this was EXACTLY the example I always used to give when I talked about the future of Internet and IT. This was also the example I gave to Chairman Shima of NHK to get him excited about getting online. It's a great feeling to see your "dreams come true." I also remember the news people who laughed at me. I wonder where they are? They're probably still editing tape in expensive studios instead of using a iLife on the Mac. ;-p

BBC News Online wants to report the world from your perspective.

And the digital revolution will help us to do that.

So, if you have been active with your phone camera, or any other digital camera, send us your pictures.

Thanks for the link Matt. Dan Gillmor talks about this too.

I did an interview with Irene a couple of months ago about the government's idea about bailing out small businesses. I blogged about how throwing it around or letting so called "experts" doesn't make sense. Having said that, we received funding from a government backed fund which is managed by professionals. Singapore also has a variety of well manged government funds. If the government is going to put money into the market, choosing the right people to run the fund is essential. The "old way" just greases the political machine. The difficulty is choosing the people who choose the companies and make the investments. Transparency is probably a good place to start. Incentives are also important. The devil is in the details and it's quite difficult.

Business Week
FEBRUARY 7, 2003
By Irene M. Kunii

Don't Stifle Your Entrepreneurs, Japan
The bureaucrats and politicians who have presided over a decade of economic woe need to encourage startups, not stymie them

Koizumi seems to understand that Japan can only benefit from more entrepreneurial activity. Now he needs to realize that serving up fresh pork isn't the way to nurture the young business leaders the country so desperately needs.

Clay Shirky has a very interesting piece about power laws. He explains that just as with everything else, some blogs get more attention and in fact, the 2nd place blog has 1/2 the value of the 1st place blog, etc. in a 1/n sort of fashion. If you plot this power law distribution, you find that 2/3's of the blogs are "below average" and that this sort of inequal distribution of attention is natural if you think of the way the system works.

Dave protests and says that blogs are different.

Dave Winer
To get an idea of what I'm talking about, skim Clay's article. How many of the weblogs he mentions have you heard of? I found that most of them were strange to me. So if we're hitting a scaling wall, why are these blogs becoming popular, even dominant, without any of us knowing about them? If we were all on a mail list together, believe me, we'd know the names of the people who dominate.
So I am reading Steven Johnson's book Emergence - The connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software trying to prepare for a 8000 word article I have to write for Illume on the future of information. I've been thinking about just this issue for the last month. I think that trying to connect the discussion about emergence with this issue is key to understanding how blogs are different.
Steven Johnson - Emergence
The technologies behind the Internet--everything from micro-processors in each Web server to the open-ended protocols that govern the data itself--have been brilliantly engineered to handle dramatic increases in scale, but they are indifferent, if not down-right hostile, to the task of creating higher-level order. There is, of course a neurological equivalent of the Web's ratio of growth to order, but it's nothing you'd want to emulate. It's called a brain tumor.
by definition, no page on the Web knows who's pointing back.
Self-organizing systems use feedback to boothstrap themselves into a more orderly structure. And given the Web's feedback-intolerant, one-way linking, there's no way for the network to learn as it grows, which is why it's now so dependent on search engines to reign in its natural chaos.
So as the former Chairman of Infoseek Japan, I use to think about this power law and tried to figure out ways to get EVERYONE on the net to hit the Infoseek top page. We were able to route a significant amount of the Net's traffic through portals because the web pages weren't self-organizing into anything intelligent enough to sort itself out.

Blogs are different. Although the search engines and metaindexes are useful, they are no longer the first place you go. I read my RSS news feeds before I go searching on a portal for news. As Dave says, don't know most of the blogs on the top 100 list and I don't care. We are organized into more intelligent communities and although there is a power law of sorts with respect to blogs that get a lot of attention, there are many local peaks. I think it looks much more like clusters of blogs with interconnections between communities. A lot like a strength of weak ties sort of map.

I'm going to focus on this for my paper. Any references to things I should read or any comments would be very helpful. Sorry to use you all as my editorial support team for my writing all of the time. ;-)

helping plant a tree with Governor Domoto at the Tokyo University Forest in Chiba.
Yesterday, we visited the Tokyo University Forest in Chiba. It was established in 1894 and has been vital in studying forestry issues. In the book Dogs and Demons, Alex Kerr writes about how the national policy to plant Cedar is misguided and is the cause and an example of many of the problems in Japan. He uses it as an example of bad bureaucratic policy and inability to change once something is on track. We talked a lot about the cedar problem. We saw sketches by researchers from the early 1900's trying to think about how to manage forests and increase productivity. This planning didn't look or sound nearly as stupid as it sounds in the book. Also, the problem with forests and big forest projects, is that they are quite difficult to change. The Tokyo University Forest is a multi-generational project and has some research projects that are now almost a century old. It seems understandable that the researchers in 1900 didn't realize that Japan would be aging and importing in 2003... So, the take-away for me was that although Kerr's book captures many of the facts, it didn't seem like the researchers were as ignorant, stupid or evil as you might think after reading Dogs and Demons. They are concerned and are trying to figure out what to do and there is the problem of a bureaucracy with a lot of inertia that they must deal with.

We talked about Japanese animism. In Japan, there is a concept of the Sato Yama which doesn't really translate directly into English. It's the small mountain forest which often has the spring where the river flows from. The community cares for the forest and the river. There is a great deal of Shito ritual involved. People used to make little shrines at the springs where the rivers start. The God of the river was worshiped. (Incidentally, this God is female.) The God makes sure that you don't pee in the river or otherwise taint the source of the water for those people downstream. Very practical. Many people have forgotten these rituals and people are building golf courses on top of springs. Alex Kerr also writes about Japan's "love of nature" being sort of fake. I think that it is quite misguided, but I did sense a real love of nature and a hope that things could change from the forestry researchers that we talked to. As Alex Kerr points out, there was a lot of public works money poured into rivers and forests that caused harm, but the researchers seem to be trying to guide things back on course.

Governor Domoto is creating a new bill to allow people to set up special communities to manage Sato Yama's. A community is in charge of a small forest/mountain/river/spring and they follow many of the Shinto rituals and provide for themselves. This sounds interesting.

The researchers also talked about the extinction of the Japanese Wolf. There is evidence that they were exterminated systematically, although this is not conclusive. There are rumors that meat laced with poison is secretly used in Hokkaido. In any case, there are no more wolves on the main island of Honsshu, so there are a lot of deer and wild boar spreading across Japan. The deer cause wear on the land and also spread the dreaded forest leech. These tiny leeches can spring up your pant leg or through your socks and attach themselves very quickly. They seem to be areal problem for people treking through the mountains these days. They showed us a map of the deer territory in Chiba and how it had expanded. Then they showed up the spread of the leeches which basically mapped the spread of the deer. They also explained how the wild boar usually leads the way creating the paths and the deer follow.

The local farmers have been pleading to the Governor to figure out a way to get rid of the deer. We all decided that systematic extermination was a bad thing. Maybe we should make venison and wild boar a Chiba delicacy and start a trend. We started by eating a wild boar that was caught in the forest. It was good. ;-)

Nobuo Ikeda has recently been attacking me. I wrote about this before. He recently wrote an email to Dave Farber's list attacking me again. This attack seems to have more substance so I have tried to address his points. I wonder if this is the "critical debate" I've been fighting for. ;-p

My comments are in italics.

-----Original Message-----
From: IKEDA Nobuo
To: Dave Farber
Subject: Re: [IP] revolution in Japan
Date: Thu, 06 Feb 2003 20:58:40 +0900

I can't understand what Jo Ito means by "revolution", but I am afraid that he is preventing the evolution of the Internet in Japan. Yesterday we had a symposium titled "E-Governmet for Whom?"

I don't think anyone other than Ikeda-san thinks I'm am preventing the evolution of the Internet so I won't address this point directly. If he would elaborate, I will happily defend my position. (in Japanese)

We discussed the National ID problem, to which Ito is opposing strongly.

His colleague is arguing "I don't want to be a number". We concluded that it was a non-probelm whether people become numbers or not, because they are already numbered and could be searched by their names and addresses. Try Google.

Universal numbers are more dangerous than name/address combinations. Anyone trying to merge databases knows that it is very difficult and much more expensive to merge databases that don't have unique serial numbers. Google is useful, but there is very little information about me on Google that I have not made explicitly available. The government has ID information of whistle blowers, FOIA requesters, people who subscribe to subversive newsletters, face recognition data for blacklists for a variety of government agencies and arrest records (including people who were not charged). This information is often leaked. A universal numbering system will make it much easier for this information to be abused. The numbering system has been passed without clear guidelines about the government use of personal information. Also, privacy enhancing technologies and better architecture could have significantly reduced he risk of personal information being leaked by the government, but such suggestions were ignored and the system set up before thorough public debate. For instance, since the ID cards will be smart cards, why were 11 digit human readable numbers chosen instead of longer non-human readable numbers? Why were static numbers chosen instead of some sort of session key based authentication system?

Ito insists that Japanese govt should strengthen the privacy bill to enforce "self-information control rights" to allow everybody to control all data that contain his/her name. In our symposium, we agreed that it was very dangerous to empower everybody to "censor" the personal data. Even the notorious EU directive is not enforcing such a strong restriction.

I would like to clarify that I think that the privacy bill regulating non-government entities is fine or in some ways too strong. My primary issue with the privacy bill is that it has much weaker restrictions on the use and cross-refrencing of personal information by the government. There is no watch-dog organization which oversees privacy violations by the government, the bill is VERY loose about the government's use of personal information. The Japanese government in notoriously abusive of information about individuals.

Yesterday I discussed it with a Microsoft official, and today I talked about it with an Intel official. They encouraged me to stop such a dangerous "privacy" bill that regulates the Net.

Again, I think that self-regulation and disclosure of privacy policies by commercial enterprises is sufficient. My main concern is the abuse by the government. The government watches us, but who watches them?
Ikeda, Nobuo
Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry

Domoto-san was very excited about find a busy bee in one of the flowers she picked.
Mizuka and I are with a small group of people in Chiba touring the countryside with Governor Domoto for two days. We visited several flower farmers today and had lunch at a restaurant where all of the fish were caught today. We're staying in a small hotel with a... pulse dial phone. ;-) Unfortunately, my PHS wireless Internet doesn't seem to work here. I brought my Hassy with me and most of my lenses. Hopefully I'll get some nice shots...

There is a strange similarity between camera gear and guns & ammo. Every place we stop, I have the trunk open snapping this on, reloading that, etc. Luckily, the bodyguard with Domoto-san is the one who likes to talk to me about cameras...

In September last year, I blogged about the Tokyo Electric Power Co., lying to the government about the cracks in the nuclear power plant. This was a huge scandal where the president and the chairman of Tokyo Electric Power resigned. Asahi had reported that the whistleblower was fired after the whistleblowing and METI had reported that he was fired before.

As you know, I am a strongly in favor of figuring out how to protect whistleblowers. They may seem "unethical" to typical Japanese small group oriented ethics, but when thinking about global ethics, it is essential that people think ethically outside of their groups and speak up when necessary... I've been working on the Japanese whistleblower protection bill. (Although the final version seems quite weak and not at all what I had recommended...)

Sakiyama-san wrote a comment in the entry today about this and also mentioned that Asahi has removed their article about the TEPCO incident. Coincidentally, I have been exchanging email with the whistleblower and just got permission to post the email exchange.
Disclaimer: I have no way to confirm for sure that I am interacting with the real whistleblower, but I can't think of a motive to lie to me and he sounds sincere.I have confirmed the identity of the whistleblower.

Date: Fri Feb 7, 2003 06:52:53 Asia/Tokyo
Subject: Tepco Scandal

To Joi

I saw an article off the Internet that stated the individual who brought to light the Tepco scandal was fired from his job. That is incorrect. I was laid off in June of 1998 and due to GE's overwhelming integrity throughout my career I was compelled to reciprocate in June of 2000. GE Nuclear is rampant with cronyism, riddled with nepotism and racism in my over 20 years of service with them.

Former GE Senior Field Services Engineer

--- Joichi Ito wrote:
To clarify... You were laid off before the scandal, but you participated in the whistle blowing in June of 2000?

When you say, "overwhelming integrity" at GE, what are you referring to?

I'd love to write something about this if possible.


- Joi

Date: Fri Feb 7, 2003 15:37:05 Asia/Tokyo
To: Joichi Ito
Subject: Re: Tepco Scandal


Overwhelming is my sarcastic reply actually meaning they GE have no integrity. I gave GE a chance to show integrity for two years after my layoff but they refused to come to the table.I had no choice but to come forward with integrity. I had no idea it involved so many but I am not surprised.

Date: Fri Feb 7, 2003 15:38:13 Asia/Tokyo
To: Joichi Ito
Subject: Re: Tepco Scandal


I don't want my name released to the public at this time although Japanese news agencies received leaks and contacted me in California last September. No interviews were given. METI will not even release my name or allegation documents. I just wanted to make a correction to the Internet article.

I wonder who leaked the information about him/her to the press. What prevents the same sources from leaking information to other sources? Doesn't sound like very good "protection" to me.

The weeklies in Japan are writing about a scandal at the Nikkei, one of the largest Japanese newspapers. They report that a whistle blower inside of the Nikkei sent email to the management at Nikkei about the 10's of millions of dollars worth of fake checks that were issued by a Nikkei subsidiary. The whistle blower apparently claims that the president of the Nikkei was involved and these funds were used to create dirty money. According to the weeklies, the president is being bumped up to chairman, which is a Japanese way of removing him from operations. It's the talk of the town. The weeklies are notoriously slanderous and the Nikkei is apparently threatening to sue. This is an interesting incident worth following because a scandal by the head of one of the biggest newspapers is going to be difficult for the mass media to report. Currently none of the major newspapers have reported this incident.

I gave a presentation about Japan last year at the Trilateral Commission which ended up in the Wall Streeet Journal and also did a presentation with Oki Matsumoto for the GLT Annual Meeting which are both a bit more fact based than the current essay I have written...

Here are some supporting figures about the aging population and the lack of diversity and risk taking in Japan.

(1) Population
A quarter of the population will be over 65 years old, and at the same time, children 14 years or less will represent only half of the population of 65 or older – Japan will be the oldest nation in the world.

(2) Financial burden of this ageing population:
The current average annual burden on a worker (taxes, medical insurance and public pension): approx. 2.5 million yen, or about 20,000 dollars US. By 2020, this would have more than doubled, to 6.2 million, or about 50,000 dollars US.

(3) From 2024, the actual GDP growth rate might become negative as an on-going trend: by 2025, current account will be in deficits, which, combined with the already aggravated fiscal account deficit, will result in Japan having a twin-deficit problem as a permanent burden.

Entrepreneurship is not socially accepted
Percentage “yes” on item: People you know respect those starting a new business - 1999
Japan 10% US almost 100%

Lack of diversity
4% of the top universities provide 32% of the CEO's for public companies

Here is a draft of my opinion piece for Keizai Doyukai the Association of Corporate Executives. I wanted to focus on identifying the dysfunctional democracy as the core problem and to encourage public debate and a global dialog without fear of "revisionists" bashing Japan as a result.

Version 1.0 Feb. 10, 2002
A democracy built after a revolution will be required to save Japan

The root of Japan's economic and structural problems is the weakness of Japan democracy. In a democracy, there should be multiple points of authority, the ability to criticize power without fear of retribution, critical debate and a competition of ideas. This may well be inefficient when there is a consensus on the direction of the country, but democracy is essential when a nation needs to change. Post-war Japan consolidated power in the ruling party. People were educated to be obedient. Harmony was maintained by co-opting or disabling people or organizations that could threaten the system. Diversity in the media, a strong judiciary, diversity in education and political diversity were stifled for the purpose of maintaining harmony. This harmony and consensus oriented process that once protected the happiness of the citizens of Japan is now the primary barrier to change. The system is self-perpetuating and is extremely resistant to change. It hides behind the powerful and complex bureaucracy and the monolithic media that does not represent a diversity of opinions.

Because the system is not able to change itself, a revolution is required. Japan must build a modern democracy and empower the people to participate. Revolutions to install democracies do not occur through negotiation with bureaucrats or academic debate. Revolutions involve people becoming upset and forcing change. Revolutions in the 18th century involved bloody wars and uprisings. 21st century revolutions will involve a public uprising triggered by bypassing the forces which suppress information. The revolution will be a revolution in the ethics of the people. Japan has a constitution and almost all of the laws required to be a functioning democracy. What it lacks is the consolidated will of the people.

At one time Japan was viewed as a competitive threat to the United States. "Revisionists" in the United States tried to force policy changes in Japan. Many Japanese have very bad memories from this period. In addition, Japanese generally do not enjoy discussing domestic issues with the outside world, feeling that the issues are either too complicated for non-Japanese to understand or fearing external pressure on internal issues. Japan is no longer a competitive threat to the world. Japan's inability to recover from the economic crisis is a threat to the global economy. Japan would benefit greatly from exposing the domestic core problems to the Japanese public as well as the rest of the world.

The combination of increasing public debate on the Internet and a global dialog will help the Japanese people become aware of the domestic problems as well as the context and responsibility of Japan globally. A new sense of global responsibility to achieve a higher ethical standard will help the Japanese people create a modern democracy capable of solving the domestic problems and allowing Japan to participate in the global geo-political arena as a true global entity. The revolution in Japan will be an ethical revolution about people become aware that they are actually in charge.

Thanks to everyone for the feedback on my essay draft. I will try to break it up into the two specific essays for two very different targets. The first one is and op-ed for the South China Morning Post. (Not sure if it will be published yet.) I am going to try to focus on a brief history of the problems in Japan, the fact that the dysfunctional democracy is the root of the problem and some examples of how a revolution might happen. Again, comments would be greatly appreciated.

Japan Needs More Democracy

Does growth in sophisticated economies require democracy? Do advanced economies thrive with more democracy? This age-old debate is more relevant than ever today. Doubters should look to Japan for reams of evidence that growth, especially when economic change is necessary, comes easier with democracy.

Post-war Japan consolidated power in the ruling party. Perhaps this was efficient at the time, as there was consensus on the appropriate direction of the country, but it created a super-powerful bureaucracy lording over the country. People were educated to be obedient. Harmony was maintained by co-opting or disabling people or organizations that could threaten the system. Diversity in the media, a strong judiciary, diversity in education and political diversity were stifled for the purpose of maintaining harmony.

While Japan was growing, it could afford to fund the ever-growing political machine. It could also afford not to change. However, today, Japan faces huge challenges both externally and internally. Ageing Japan now faces a competitive Asian manufacturing sector and a shift in resource allocation in the economy, towards the service sector. However the domestic services sector is inefficient and unable to compete globally since it has grown up protected by the bureaucracy and thus never had to compete. The markets are dysfunctional and unable to reallocate resources.

This harmony and consensus-bound process that once protected the happiness of the citizens of Japan is now the primary barrier to change. The system is self-perpetuating and is extremely resistant to change. It hides behind the powerful and complex bureaucracy and the monolithic media that does not give voice to a diversity of opinions. In short, Japan is stuck with a system pointed in the wrong direction without the ability to change the direction. The political system is unable to lead the nation. The lack of real democracy is the source of these problems.

Japan has a constitution and almost all of the laws required being a functioning democracy. However years of growth under a sclerotic bureaucracy has created a situation in which Japan’s democracy is dysfunctional. In a democracy, there should be multiple points of authority, the ability to criticize power without fear of retribution, critical debate and a competition of ideas. Japan’s “market for ideas” is far from this. Japan must build a modern democracy and empower the people to participate. The situation is so bleak that some say we may need a revolution to get there. If it does happen, the revolution does not need to overthrow the government. What it must do is consolidated will of the people to force the power elite to allow the authority to be distributed and to allow democracy to function.

There are many signs of change in Japan which convince us that there is a silent majority pushing for a true democracy.

Governor Tanaka of Nagano, an independent promising to shut down public works and crack down on corruption, was voted into office by people who were upset by the corruption and were willing to suffer short term pain in order to fight the corruption. He was ousted by the prefectural council in the first no-confidence vote executed in the history of modern Japanese politics, which did not involve a crime or a scandal. He ran again and won a landslide victory. He is now in the process of cleaning up the politics of Nagano.

The people are voting for more and more anti-corruption independent governors across Japan.

When Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy, Heizo Takenaka, presented his aggressive plan to restructure the non-performing loans problem in October last year, the mass media criticized him, the bureaucrats were not supportive and the ruling party actively tried to stop him. And yet a poll run by Monex on its website showed that 87% of the people supported Takenaka. The support of Takenaka by this silent majority went un-reported in the mass media. The collusion between the bureaucracy and the media has been built up over decades, but the time has come for this to end. Meanwhile, we should remember that it under-represents the views of a large silent majority.

In business, the traditional backbone (backroom?) of the bureaucracy, change is also afoot. Carlos Ghosn has been able to take Nissan, a failing Japanese company, and turn it around with 99% of the original Japanese staff. Ripplewood, a foreign fund, has been able to buy Shinsei Bank (formerly the Long Term Credit Bank of Japan), ailing Japanese bank and turn it around.
Many of the problems can be solved by execution driven by ignoring the complex network of personal indebtedness (including lifetime employment) and exercising an ethics of transparency. The exciting thing about Nissan and Shinsei bank is that the people working in these companies quickly embraced the new ethics and were able to use the foreign influence as a positive catalyst.

There are many isolated examples of average citizens pushing for change and embracing a new ethics of transparency and activism, but again, they are marginalized by the mass media. As more and more of these individuals begin to express their opinions and organize themselves on the
Internet, the number and size of these incidents should increase.

The Internet, and the “blogs” in particular, provides opportunities for the passive Japanese public to wake up before the catastrophe. The Internet also is a way to enable the youth of Japan, currently silenced by the older generation and destined to get stuck with supporting them in the future, to speak up and organize before it is too late. This is critical both for themselves and also for Japan as a whole.

It is frightening to know that the collapse of brand-name corporations and the failure of the government to engage the people have largely caused many of the youth of Japan to lose faith in the system. Many have merely dropped out, but there is an increasing number of young Japanese organizing themselves with the help of tools such as mobile phones and the Internet. For the first time since the student uprisings in the 60's and 70's, which made activism "unfashionable", the youths are becoming more active. This is crucial, because if they don’t they will be rebuilding Japan from the ashes of a total economic collapse several years from now.

Historically, a catastrophe or a shock of some sort has been necessary for Japan to change. A sensible plan for rebuilding Japan’s democracy would be a good start, though. The Blueprint for Japan, which has been put together by a group of elected officials, business people (including ourselves) and professors, identifies some key factors for a new system. These include:
• Empowering local governments in the prefectures, and fixing the weight of representation in voting;
• allowing more political appointees to participate in the bureaucracy
• breaking up the press clubs
• increasing the size and power of the judiciary
• supporting more direct democracy and educational reforms
• increasing diversity through more immigration

Of course, this is just a start and may not be without flaws. However, we also know that change has never happened without someone taking the first step. The people of the silent majority of Japan need to wake up and realize that change starts with themselves.

Special thanks to the World Economic Forum for organizing the Blueprint for Japan 2020 and for help in editing this article. Thanks also to the contributors of my weblog and the rest of the Japan Blueprint members whose opinions this op-ed is based.

Mitch Ratcliffe comments on my essay and writes about how the US faces similar problems. He makes some great points about how corporate interests are taking over the political system.

We recently had a cluetrain moment on my blog. I wrote an entry about the Shure E2c in-ear headphones. We got a discussion going about great headphones. I don't know if it was because Google indexed this entry on the first page of search results for "Shure E2c", but Matt, the product specialist for the E2c, dropped in and joined the discussion. He wasn't the marketing or sales guy, but the product specialist. This combination of Google and blogs may create an opinion management and cluetrain manifesto sort of human conversation about products in a much less centralized method than some of the earlier models like epinions.

One more thing that I've been thinking about more and more these days is what Howard's been saying for awhile now. How do we get comments to become a more important part of blogging. Slashdot and Slashdot-like sites thrive on comments. Many blogs have very active comment areas. Is there a better way we can structure the indexing so that people have more incentive to comment? I have a feeling that either RSS feeds or how blog entries show up in Google results might be able to highlight comments more.

I sense a fairly active "comment" community developing on my blog. Maybe I should figure out a way to allow active comment contributors to spawn their own blogs on my site...

I've been asked by a variety of publications to write about my thoughts about Japan. I would love comments of my first draft.

version 0.3
People call the last 10 years "Japan's lost decade." There is debate after debate about the cause of the Japanese economic downturn and what should be done about it. Nobuyuki Idei, Sony's Chairman, calls it Japan's middle age crisis. After the war, Japan was young and low-cost. Targets were set and everyone worked very hard to build Japan into the world's second largest economy. Now Japan is expensive and aging. It has to change from "young and single-minded" to "old and rational".

In post-war Japan the targets were clear. The ruling political party promised to double everyone's income. Japan could compete in manufacturing because of its able and low-cost labor force. As the large automobile and consumer electronics manufacturers competed globally and earned money for Japan through exports, the bureaucracy distributed the wealth evenly in Japan and protected the domestic industries from foreign as well as domestic competition. The central government's mission to double the income of all Japanese citizens meant that it was necessary to channel the funds from Tokyo to the rural districts of Japan. As the costs in Japan increased, these funds were used to subsidize agriculture as well as fund public works spending to feed the citizen for whom farming was no longer a viable option. This flow of funds created the basis for the current political structure where rural Japan relies on the central government for funds and has a much higher representation in the Diet due to the weighting of voting system.

While Japan was growing, it could afford to fund the ever-growing political machine. It could also afford not to change. Aging Japan is now faced with an increasingly competitive Asian manufacturing sector and a change in direction and a reallocation of resources focusing more on services is required. Japan is stuck with a system pointed in the wrong direction without the ability to change the direction. The domestic services sector is inefficient and unable to compete globally since it has been protected by the bureaucracy and has never had to compete with anyone. The markets are dysfunctional and unable to reallocate resources. The political system is unable to lead the nation.

Professor Lawrence Lessig points out that in a true democracy, there are multiple points of authority, the ability to criticize power without fear of retribution, critical debate and a competition of ideas. This is rather inefficient when there is a consensus on the direction of the country, but democracy is essential when a nation needs to change. Post-war Japan consolidated power in the ruling party. People were educated to be obedient. Harmony was maintained by co-opting or disabling people or organizations that could threaten the system. Diversity in the media, a strong judiciary, diversity in education and political diversity were stifled for the purpose of maintaining harmony. This harmony that once protected the happiness of the citizens of Japan is now the primary barrier to change.

At one time Japan was viewed as a competitive threat to the United States. "Revisionists" in the United States tried to force policy changes in Japan. Many Japanese have very bad memories from this period. In addition, Japanese generally do not enjoy discussing domestic issues with the outside world, feeling that the issues are either too complicated for non-Japanese to understand or fearing external pressure on internal issues. Japan is no longer a competitive threat to the world. Japan's inability to recover from the economic crisis is a threat to the global economy. Japan needs build a true democracy to execute the reallocation of resources required for a long-term recovery. Japan would benefit greatly from exposing the domestic core problems to the Japanese public as well as the rest of the world. Japan's core problems are its dysfunctional democracy and the lack of diversity. The system is self-perpetuating and is extremely resistant to change. It hides behind the powerful and complex bureaucracy and the monolithic media that does not represent a diversity of opinions.

Because the system is no longer able to change itself, a revolution is required. Japan must install a modern democracy and empower the people to participate. Revolutions to install democracies do not occur through negotiation with bureaucrats or academic debate. Revolutions involve people becoming upset and forcing change. Revolutions in the 18th century involved bloody wars and uprisings. 21st century revolutions will involve a public debate, which changes the ethics of the people. Japan has a constitution and almost all of the laws required to be a functioning democracy. What it lacks is the attention of the people and the ethics to execute on the rule of law.

The Japanese people are also beginning to show their unhappiness. Governor Tanaka of Nagano, an independent promising to shut down public works and crack down on corruption, was voted into office by people who were upset by the corruption and were willing to suffer short term pain in order to fight the corruption.

The combination of increasing public debate on the Internet and a global dialog will help the Japanese people become aware of the domestic problems as well as the context and responsibility of Japan globally. A new sense of global responsibility to achieve a higher ethical standard will help the Japanese people create a modern democracy capable of solving the domestic problems and allowing Japan to participate in the global geo-political arena as a true global entity. The revolution in Japan will be a ethical revolution about the people become aware that they are actually in charge.

I found an interview with Keiji Shima on Charles Whipple's page. (I found his page linked from his comment on my retribution item.) He is more relevant than ever. Keiji Shima who passed away several years ago was the chairman of NHK, Japan's national TV station and the largest broadcasting company in the world. He started his career there as a political journalist and eventually became chairman. My mother was hired by him to represent NHK in the US. I often worked for him as his assistant and translator. My personal opinion is that Shima-san was ousted from NHK when he tried to make it "independent" and free from LDP control. Some people say it was the CIA. (I think this is unlikely.)

I remember sitting in his office when he was chairman and watching the Diet session with him. He once picked up the phone and shouted at someone that he had told "so-and-so" not to say that in the Diet. My exposure to the tight relationship between the head of the biggest broadcast company and the politicians as well as the extremely brutal ousting of Shima-san by THEM was my first exposure to THE SYSTEM.

After Shima-san was ousted, I showed him the Internet. To be exact, I showed him Adam Curry's MTV.COM and downloaded and played one of the first video clips Adam had posted. At first he wanted to know who controlled it. He asked, "Does Murdock own it?" I said, "No... No one does." He then asked, "Can I own it?" ;-) He quickly figured it out though and paid us to set up a server for him so he could launch The Shima Media Network in 1994. It was the first paid web page that Eccosys built.

Very few people showed up at his funeral and even today I am sometimes "blocked" by people who know about my relationship with Shima-san and were enemies of his. Having said that, many people respect what he tried to do and believe that he was a visionary before his time.

"Free use label" for webcontent Last week, Niko pointed me to an interesting article at "New rules and copyright labels to let users copy Web content". A quote: "There are three labels. One will say, "This mark indicates material can be copied." The mark lets users copy or print material from Internet Web sites and distribute it without specific permission from the copyright holder, as long as the labeled content is not altered. Two other labels will permit unrestricted use of copyrighted material by people with disabilities and for school."
In Japan, a project called the "Intellectual Property Outline" started in July 2002 and includes some provisions that seek to accomplish many of the same goals as the Creative Commons. While it is clear they were not influenced by us directly, it's interesting to watch the convergence of alternate forms of copyright come from governments world-wide.
So I hope we can make sure it "converges" in a world where divergence is quite common.

Thanks for the pointer Andreas!

I just had lunch with Iwao Nakatani. I met him at the Sony Open Forum. Nakatani-san is one of the outside directors of Sony. He suprised everyone when he left his position at Hitotsubashi University to join Sony's board. Hitotsubashi is a public university which does not allow professors to take commercial positions. Nakatani-san is also well known for being very outspoken on political and economic issues. He held important advisory roles for the Hosokawa and Obuchi cabinets. He is now a professor at Tama University.

At the Sony Open Forum, he commented that he agreed with me that the dysfunctional democracy was one of the core problems with Japan. We talked a lot about the Japanese system today. We both agreed that "change was in the air" and that somehow we needed to change the system. It was very interesting getting his insight and advice. He liked the idea of blogs driving change, but he thought that I should also write a book. I wonder if I could write a book that ties together emergence, blogs and democracy in Japan...

Encouragement from intellectuals who actually try to change things like Nakatani-san is exactly what I need right now...

From left to right: Kazuya Minami from Neoteny, David Smith and his son Asher
Yesterday morning, I picked up David at Tokyo Station where he arrived on the bullet train from Kyoto with his son Asher. We went to the Tsukiji fish market for some morning sushi and then I took them to our office where everyone was anxiously waiting to see David's Croquet demo.

David's demo reminded me of the early days of BeOS. Trying to explain the potential of an operating system, especially one with such a completely new and unlimited architecture is quite a task. David wrote the thing so there is also something mystical about getting a demo of a new OS by the person who wrote it.

Croquet is an amazing concept, but it is an old concept. It is based on Smalltalk/Squeak and is a totally object oriented collaborative environment. David is a 3D guru so he has made the interface completely 3D where you can fly around, see other users as avatars, create 3D objects with scripts and share them dynamically and in real time in the shared space. He is working on all of the necessary pieces to deal with identity and security as well. It is totally cross-platform and is "pure" in its portability. The architecture is incredibly clean and you can tell it is being designed top-down by someone who's done this before.

The main problem with new operating systems is that you need a killer ap to get it into the main stream. David calls Croquet a broadband phone call. There are obviously A LOT of educational applications.

When I saw the system, I thought of a few things. It would be a very cool environment for blogging. (When you are a blogger, everything looks like a blog or blog tool.) It would be really neat if you got an IM when your fellow bloggers were online and you could switch into the broadband/rich interactive mode and browse and point at micro content together. Last night I came up with what I think might be what I'm trying to say. I think we are mastering the art of micro content journalism. What Croquet made me imagine was some sort of object oriented journalism with smarter micro content which had behaviors and attributes. The Creative Commons license being one attribute that could be included in such an object attribute.

The other thought that I had was that the ability to change the attributes of the objects and environment (color, shape, etc) would be a great way to help people track privacy and identity issues. It would make the concept of access control and permissions much more intuitive for the average user and would help make clear the delineation between different computer spaces and who you are and what information you were bringing with you as you moved from server to server.

As I read some great comments by Dan Gillmor, Dave Winer and other bloggers about the shuttle tragedy, I was reminded about the story of one of the first Japanese submarines. Japan was doing research on submarines, but one of the first trials went terribly wrong. The submarine sank to the bottom of the ocean and the men began to die as oxygen was depleted. They recovered the diary of the captain of the ship. In the diary, the captain pleads to the government and the people of Japan to continue the research and not allow the failure of the mission to slow it down. The diary is quite moving. I bet that if the crew of the space shuttle had had the time to write, they probably would have written something similar.

The steaming suppon pot
The okoge
Today, we had lunch at Daiichi. It is my favorite restaurant. I first went to Daiichi with Shigeaki Saigusa, Ryo Hato and Hiroshi Yanai. Since then, Mizuka and I make it a point to go whenever we are in Kyoto. Daiichi is a suppon restaurant. Suppon is a kind of soft-shelled snapping turtle. There is no menu. The meal starts out with suppon blood (optional), pieces of suppon chilled, then the main course. The main course is suppon chopped up and stewed in a very heavy clay pot with sake and soy sauce. The chopped suppon is very gelatinous and tastes kind of like a cross between fish and chicken. You add hot sake to the amazing soup and drink it in a cup.

The pot is a special pot that requires extremely high temperatures to heat. These high temperatures can only be achieved using special coal which new restaurants are not approved to use. Once heated, the pot retains the boiling hot temperature for the duration of the course. They use sake instead of water and this sake is essential. During the war and in post-war Japan, sake was not available so you had to buy a bottle of sake on the black market and bring it with you in order to be served.

After the suppon stew comes the ozoni. The ozoni is prepared by putting rice in the pot with the soup, breaking a few eggs and stirring. After the first servings are removed from the pot, there is a little left on the bottom. This heats and gets crispy and brown. This crispy rice/egg stuff is very good and is called okoge. You have to be very careful when scraping the okoge from the pot. The pot is fragile and VERY old. If you break a pot they get VERY mad. If you ever break two, you are banned from the restaurant.

I think it must have something to do with the pot, but the suppon at Daiichi is superior to any other suppon I have ever had and it is consistently great.

From left to right: Joi, Alan, David
David Smith has been trying to introduce me to Alan Kay for quite awhile now. We also have a bunch of other mutual friends including Scott Fisher, my brother-in-law who used to work for Alan at Atari and Megan Smith. Alan, David, Kim and the "team" were visiting Kyoto so I invited them to dinner at Minoya, my favorite tea house in Kyoto which I've written about in my blog before. I found a picture of Kaoru, the owner and me from when she was staying with us in the US. I am 3 years old and she is 18 in this photo.

It's a bit difficult to talk about the past, present and future of computing surrounded by geisha in a tea house, but we tried. Alan talked about how so much of great computer science was invited in the 60's and 70's and we're just getting around to re-discovering some of it. It reminded me about my thoughts about ECD. People like to talk about quantum computing and nanotech because it is a long way away and is not threatening to the current products. Technology such as ECD's technology and Alan's architectures which have been feasible for decades is often ignored because it threatens business models and architectures today.

It's great that Japan really respects Alan Kay and gives him a great deal of credit for his discoveries. I think Ted Nelson also gets much more credit for his discoveries in Japan than he does in the US. Maybe foreigners aren't as threatening. ;-)

Alan and David are working on Squeak and are also developing a completely object oriented, cross-platform, networked, collaborative environment called Croquet which sounds very exciting. David's supposed to give me a demo tomorrow.

Yesterday was an interesting collision with reality for me. I had dinner with a business partner/friend and I talked about my thoughts regarding the problems with Japan. He asked me whether people called me a left wing radical. He said that many people would probably find what I was saying to be rather threatening and anti-establishment. That's probably true.

Later, I met some other friends in a bar and a very senior executive from a BIG Japanese company came over to our table and began talking to my friends in a rather rude tone. (He was able to do this because of the position of power he was in.) It was very annoying so I cut him off told him that I thought his tone was rude. He then threatened me, told me I was a threat to Japan and stormed off. After talking to people like Idei-san of Sony and Kobayashi-san of Fuji-Xerox, I think I had forgotten that there were still a lot of REALLY SCARY people in Japan. I should be careful. On the other hand, I think that unless people speak up against those who abuse power, no one will have the guts to begin to criticize the establishment.

It's easy to criticize the establishment in the mountains of Switzerland, but continuing to deliver the message in the halls of power in Japan will be difficult. I have to be smart about picking my battles, but I have to promise myself not to allow fear to stifle me.

Note to myself... Avoid going to bars likely to have powerful drunk people, even if invited by friends...

Update: I just talked to a friend who knows the "BIG company" well and he said that the guy who threatened me is on his way out and one of my friends in that company, who is actually quite a gentleman, is "on his way up." Good news. Maybe the world is getting sick of people who abuse power...

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