Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

May 2006 Archives

Photo 1995 at Timothy Leary's home
Timothy Leary passed away 10 years ago today. I was with him the evening before he died and I still remember his humor even in his final hour.

I met Timothy Leary in Tokyo in the summer of 1990. Tim was excited about virtual reality and had told his friend David Kubiak in Kyoto to help him track down "young Japanese kids who know about virtual reality". I wasn't a VR expert, but I was into computer graphics, games and the rave/club scene. I had also just opened a nightclub in Tokyo. David, who lived in Kyoto, directed Tim to me and several others in Tokyo and we hooked up with him at a bar.

I hijacked the situation. After dinner I grabbed Tim and took him on a whirlwind tour of the Tokyo club scene. His visit happened to coincide with the time in my life when I was more tuned in to the Tokyo club scene than any other time in my life being the operator of one of the weirder nightclubs in Tokyo. I tried to explain how the Japanese youth were interpreting the rave and cyberpunk cultures. Tim got excited and we continued our dialog. He called these new funky Japanese kids "The New Breed". He changed the "tune in, turn on, drop out" to "tune in, turn on, take over." We talked a lot about neoteny, the retention of child-like attributes in adulthood, which he felt was exhibited in the culture of the Japanese youth at the time.

When I met Tim, I had been exposed to a lot of his work through his early writings and through the writings of people like Robert Anton Wilson. When I asked him whether he had actually talked to aliens as Robert Anton Wilson says in Cosmic Trigger, Tim explained that it was all a joke. A big joke. All that stuff about magic numbers and talking to aliens was a joke. Tim had an interesting relationship with the New Age culture that he helped create in the 60's but his interests had moved on to cyberspace and the next generation of youth. Tim was practical and analytical while also being an amazing performer and communicator. Above all, he was almost always very funny. He called himself a "performing philosopher."

When my mother moved to Los Angeles and I decided to base myself partially out of LA, Tim picked us up at the airport in LA and immediately threw a party for us at his home in Beverly Hills. That weekend, he insisted that we (mom, sister and myself) drive with him to San Francisco so he could introduce us to his friends there. He called Queen Mu, the publisher of Mondo 2000 and asked them to organize a party at the Mondo house. At that party, my sister met Scott Fisher, who she eventually married. We also met Mark Pauline of Survival Research Labs and probably 80% of the people I know in San Francisco. I have a feeling I might have met John Perry Barlow there as well. Tim also took me to the offices of The Well and introduced me to Stewart Brand. In one week, Tim had introduced us to his amazing network and had "plugged us in". I would not be where I am today if it were not for Tim's generosity in making his entire network available to us.

In LA, I spent a lot of time with Tim working on a book and producing a TV show in Japan called "The New Breed" based on our conversations. He enlisted me as a "God Son" which he has been known to do from time to time to people he considered family. I continued to meet people through Tim. Tim's house was always open to anyone and was a crossroads where Hollywood stars, hippies, technologists, academics, artists and just about any other kind of person you could imagine would come and hang out and enjoy his hospitality and share thoughts. I miss Tim very much and I miss the network of people he helped bring and keep together. I am still in touch with many of the people from those days but it's obviously not the same without him. However, I believe his influence and legacy lives on and every day I say my favorite words of his: "Question Authority and Think for Yourself." That is the motto that I live by.

I just got this from Zack Leary, Tim's son.

Zack Leary

Ten years ago on this very day Timmy worked up every last bit of strength he had and plopped his cancer ridden vessel into his electric wheelchair. He did his morning ritual of barking at someone to make his coffee and to get his newspaper while he wheeled around the house to then soak up the sun outside on the Sunbrook Drive porch. This day felt different, however. The morning ritual never did go smoothly, but this day it seemed like it was just to much god damn trouble to begin with. He knew that too. After a sip or two of coffee he basically said “fuck it” and got what was left of his ass back in bed. There were not many words left – his fantastic world class verbosity was no longer. His tall proud gorgeous physique was long gone. His mental dance and history lesson of teaching us how to die was complete – it was time to cash in his few remaining chips.

It’s funny when you know that a specific day is going to be THE day someone dies. We all knew that May 31st, 1996 was going to be the day that Timmy was going to die. As he sat in his bed, the kind hospice people calmed his body down to a tranquil enough state for the rest of the crew to go ahead make the necessary arrangements. From about 10 a.m. until midnight many friends made one last trip to the foot of the bed to say their last goodbyes. The gracious republican landlords from next door, some of the wait staff from Mortons, old friends from Hollywood, team members, some family were all there to make good on his dying wish. What a day it was!

I think the only people who were truly freaking out were the rest of us, he was fine. His grace into death was legendary. As the day went on, he treated us to a spontaneous death rap called “Why? Why not” as about a dozen of us sat there laughing and crying. And then sometime very very late he said his last word “beautiful” and then drifted away.

As the coroners came to pick up the stiff we sat in the living room at Sunbrook freaked out and passed out. They wheeled his body out on the gurny and as he was approaching the doorway we have him one last rousing round of applause. A life well lived.


“And then one day you’ll find ten years have got behind you...No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.”

-Roger Waters

“Everyone will get the Timothy Leary they deserve.”

-Timothy Leary

I received this from Michael Gosney.
Michael Gosney
Timothy Leary died exactly 10 years ago today, on May 31, 1996.

Here's a nice selection of his writings, online:
And the WIKIpedia on Tim:

He was really just one of us, living a meaningful, full life...thriving in exemplary ways... making his unique contributions to our evolution...standing up when no one else would, telling stories along the way: fantastic tales, modern parables, simple foibles, profound insights, hilarious episodes...

Dr. Tim died on May 31, 1996. And on that day I would venture that the backplane of our planetary mind, the spirit world if you will...was vastly enriched with the new edge of human experience that Timothy's life so powerfully embodied. He was a modern hero with whom millions resonated, and whose mind and spirit opened many evolutionary pathways.

Tim was a friend and great inspiration to many. We remember and honor him as the human journey continues!


Ryu Murakami (WP) and I spent the last nine months or so meeting occasionally to chat about Japanese culture, politics, media and the economy. Creative Garage and Diamond Shuppan transcribed our conversation and published it as a book. (You can buy it on The book came out last week and climbed to #6 on the book rankings and is slowly settling back down. (It's #14 at the time of this posting.) That was pretty exhilarating. Having said that, Ryu Murakami is "the name" on the book. Anyway, thanks to everyone who helped on the book and especially to Ryu.

The book is in Japanese and currently we have no plans to translate it.

I'm at D4 today and tomorrow. Anyone else here?

This should have been posted with the last post, but I wanted to check the facts with Rob before posting it...

Chris Anderson asked me to participate in giving a toast at the Wired Rave Awards dinner about why WoW was so great and giving a Raver award to Rob Pardo, Lead Game Designer of World of Warcraft (WoW), and his team. I had my own opinions about what made WoW so successful, but I asked Rob with whom I had the opportunity of sitting next to at the dinner. We had a longish conversation about games and WoW and was impressed by Rob's insights and practical experience.

Rob was a guild leader of a hardcore raiding guild on Everquest. Rob is a hardcore gamer. He loved the game, but realized that there were things that could be better designed. He looked at all of the MMOs and together with his team, built a game that was better in each of the different components than any of its competitors while keeping the core culture and functionality of MMOs. They added some important new features including the rest system, team PvP without segregating players from the opposing factions, and a completely quest driven experience, which were new innovations. They also paid attention to issues that existing games experienced or they anticipated would experience and designed WoW to deal with them.

For instance, WoW does not allow buying and selling game gold. However, according to Rob, it doesn't break the economy as some people think. The game is designed to minimize the negative impact of "farmers". The quests and and equipment are designed so that there are many key things that you can't buy with game gold. The issue of gold buying is primarily a matter of players feeling that it is unfair - the great thing about WoW and similar MMOs is that everyone starts equally regardless of what they do in real life.

Although Rob was a hardcore player in Everquest, he designed WoW so that it allowed casual players to have as much fun as hardcore players. It really shows and as a guild custodian of a guild that has many casual players, the ability for casual players to have fun in WoW is very important. Rob mentioned that one of they keys to success of a game is to make sure that the game is fun in the first 5 minutes. I think many game developers forget this and focus on gamers who are "serious" and willing to invest significant time to learn to play or wait a long time to have their first "fun event". I think it is the breadth and diversity of the players that Rob tried to appeal to that is the key to success of WoW and he did it through attention to detail and trying to get each part right rather than focus on a single killer feature.

It reminds me a bit of the book "From Good to Great".

Joi Ito & Rob Pardo @ Wired Rave Awards
Originally uploaded by JasonDeFillippo.

Jason took this picture of Rob Pardo, the lead game developer of World of Warcraft and VP of Game Design of Blizzard and me at the Wired Rave Awards reception last night. Rob and his team won a Wired Rave Award this year and I wrote the article for the magazine. It was a big treat to get to hang out with Rob and get his view on MMOs and WoW. Thanks Rob and thanks Wired!

I'm a Japanese citizen/resident. I use the Visa Waiver program to get into the US which is a green form that gives you a 90 day visa for entry into the US. The US DHS officer will staple the departure card half of the visa form into your passport that they collect when you leave the country.

When I was leaving LA for Toronto a few days ago, the agent looked at the visa and said, "OK. You have a visa and it is valid through your return." She didn't take the card and sent me to a 1 hour wait security screening line... anyway.

I just past through pre-sreening in Toronto on my way to the US. With Canada to US flights, they do customs and immigration when you leave Canada. A US officer frowned when he looked at my passport.

"You need to return this visa waiver when you leave the US."

"The gate agent didn't take it when I left."

"It is YOUR responsibility to return your visa card. The airlines do it out of courtesy to you, but it is YOUR responsibility."

"But... where..."

"It is YOUR responsibility. Although it visa SAYS you have 90 days, you must return the card and get a new one each time."


"It is YOUR responsibility, not the gate agent."

(stern look from officer)

"Yes sir.. no sir.. yes sir... OK..."

I've had gate agents not take my card when I exited in the past. I don't know what the penalty is, but for anyone traveling on Air Canada to Canada from the US. If they don't take your thingie from your passport, I recommend you insist that they do.

UPDATE: Although... according to the FAQ it says that you can travel and come back when you are on the Visa Waiver Program to Canada or Mexico. So if you have to give your stub back, I wonder what you give back when you're leaving the second time. I doesn't say. Hmm...

Q: Can a VWP applicant for Admission Be Readmitted To the United States Follwing a Short Trip To an Adjacent Island, Canada, or Mexico?

* Generally, VWP applicants admitted under the VWP may be readmitted to the United States after a departure to Canada or Mexico or adjacent islands for the balance of their original admission period. This is provided they are otherwise admissible and meet all the conditions of the VWP, with the exception of arrival on a signatory carrier, in which case the inspecting officers have the discretion to grant the applicants entirely new periods of admission.
* The VWP applicant is admissible and may be readmitted to the United States under the VWP after a departure to Canada or Mexico or adjacent islands provided the person:

1. Can identify an authorized period of admission that has not expired,
2. Plans to depart the United States prior to the expiration date of their period of admission,
3. Presents valid, unexpired passports which reflect admission to the United States under the VWP, and
4. Continues to meet all criteria set forth in 8 CFR 217 and section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act), with the exception of arrival on a signatory carrier.

I had lunch today with Jonathan Aronson, the Executive Director of The Annenberg Center for Communication of the University of Southern California (USC).

The Annenberg Center for Communication of the University of Southern California (USC) supports leading-edge interdisciplinary research on the meaning of the new networked information age. Projects focus on drivers that will shape the future and on the impact of new communication and information technologies on politics, society, and innovation.
I've spoken at the center twice in the last year or so and have really enjoyed the interactions. My sister Mimi is a Research Scientist at the Annenberg Center. Among other things, she is interested in Anime, Otaku and... gaming.

So... when Jonathan asked me to become a fellow and I happily agreed. As a fellow, I am just required to drop in when I'm in town and talk to them about stuff I'm excited about and to participate in their conversations on things they are excited about. Sounds like a win-win to me. In addition to the nepotistic happiness of working with my sister I am officially able to make the World of Warcraft an academic research field for myself. ;-)

Of course, gaming is not the only thing they are working on here. Emergent Democracy, Creative Commons, consumer generated media/blogging and some of the experiments in video seem like things I may be able to work on with people at the Annenberg Center.

Thanks for the invite Jonathan and look forward to working with you all.

Undercity is a Horde city in the World of Warcraft. A few weeks ago some of our guild members and friends decided to take a field trip to Undercity. We snuck in through the sewers and pwned some guards and a battlemaster. I found the video on my hard disk this morning during the conference so I decided to edit it and put some music to it.

The music is Nebula Dub by _ghost that I found on ccMixter. The song is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 license so this video is as well. It's about 5 min. (AVI / MP4)

UPDATE: yeah yeah... I know the AVI version sucks.

David Byrne and Brian Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts Remix Site Launches Today Submitted by Eric Steuer on 2006-05-09 04:57 PM.

May 9, 2006

For the first time ever, fans are able to legally remix and share their own personal versions of two songs from David Byrne and Brian Eno’s groundbreaking album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. The interactive forum has been developed to celebrate the reissue of the album 25 years after its original release.

By agreeing to the terms of download, users will be able to download the component audio for two tracks from Bush of Ghosts – "A Secret Life" and "Help Me Somebody.” This component audio is licensed to the public under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. Consistent with that license, users can legally create remixes and upload them to the site. Visitors can listen to, rate, and discuss the remixes, and are also encouraged to create their own videos, which will be streamed on the site.

Yay! Thanks David and Brian and gratz to the CC team!

We are in the final planning stages of the iCommons Summit which will be June 23-25 in Rio de Janerio, Brazil this year. We have international Creative Commons/iCommons and other friendly projects converging at this meeting. I hope you can join as well, either as a participant or a sponsor. Gilberto Gil, Minister Culture, Brazil, our fearless leader Larry Lessig, our iCommons director and star from South Africa, Heather Ford, board member and free culture leader from Brazil, Ronaldo Lemos, Wikipedia founder, iCommons and Creative Commons board member, Jimmy Wales, Creative Commons board member and free culture guru James Boyle, James Love, the man behind the A2K movement and WIPO lobbying for cheaper AIDS drugs and many other interesting people will be there. I will be there as well.

Visit the site, take a look around and hope to see you there.

Also, don't forget to check out the iCommons Summit Bag Awards.

iCommons Summit Bag Awards
Inspired by the SXSW Big Bag Competition, iCommons and Creative Commons announces a competition to design this year’s iCommons Summit bag. With the theme of this year’s event: ‘Towards a Global Digital Information Commons’ and workshops on open creativity, knowledge, science and innovation, we’re looking for designs that are creative, visually arresting and informative. The winner will receive a scholarship to attend the June iCommons Summit, so get your friends and communities involved and they could be attending this amazing event in Rio de Janeiro. Read the contest rules and submission details here.

I KNEW people would make creative use of the CC licensed video I uploaded.

The WoW section subtitled. By Kazpah our friendly neighborhood Warlock.

And NO. That's NOT what I said. ;-P

The video requires some quicktime stuff and won't run in many players. If anyone knows how to convert it to other formats, let us know. FWIW, it seems to work in Safari on my Mac, but not in Firefox... and it will take awhile to download.

I'll be giving a talk today at the SDForum in Mountain View. This section is called: Virtual Worlds---The Rules of Engagement.

My talk is 4:00pm - 4:45pm Keynote - The Future of the Metaverse

Not sure exactly what I'm going to talk about, but I'll probably be bopping around IRC, Second Life and World of Warcraft so maybe see you in one of the places or at the conference.

Jonkichi, the Gnome Mage from Azeroth (WP) often plays Joichi Ito in real life. His photo was recently accepted by the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) as the character who plays Joichi Ito as the associate to the Executive Producer in movie Indian Runner.

I went to a screening of an inconvenient truth (IMDb). an inconvenient truth is a film directed by Davis Guggenheim about global warming and Al Gore's life long effort to learn about and educate the world about the reality and risk of global warming.

My position on global warming had always been that it was probably a bad thing. Pollution was clearly increasing and it increased the risk of some non-linear event occurring. Having said that, I wasn't THAT concerned and thought that there was still some dispute in the scientific community.

Watching this film has caused me to change my opinion. I now believe that global warming our most urgent and important crisis and something that we all need to rally behind. The movie presents a scientific, moral and political argument that is convincing and also fun to watch. I also felt I got to know Al Gore through the movie in a completely new way.

I've always been a big fan of both Davis and Al Gore, but this movie has really solidified my respect for both of them. I urge everyone to go see this movie. It opens in select theaters on May 24, but the big opening is the first weekend in June. Your turnout to the movie will determine how broadly the movie ends up playing. Considering the importance of this film, it would be great if the maximum number of people possible saw it.

Category Archives

Monthly Archives