Joi Ito Presentation at SXSWi 2010

Here are my raw notes from Joi Ito's presentation. He is a great speaker, and very interesting.


Joi Ito Presentation
How To Save The World
  • Social software didn’t save the world
  • But the ecosysem and framework (e.g. internet) is the only way we’re going to solve the problems we have
  • Our world is fundamentally messed up, the problems we have are messy
  • We made technology to make things faster, more efficient.
  • More efficient doesn’t necessarily mean better.
  • More efficient means things get brittle, they start to amplify
  • Things get non-linear and complex (non-linear means drastic changes. not continuous.)
  • Before things were so connected, we still had problems but they didn’t amplify each other
  • The only way to deal with complexity is a decentralized system
  • The way we deal with world hunger or terrorism is still via centralized planned efforts. they don’t work.
  • Book about current political failures. (i think the book is The Age of the Unthinkable by Joshua Ramo.)
    • example: kid with cell phone and laptop. In silicon valley, this kid would go work for Google. But he was in Beirut. What are his options for where he will go?
    • When you look at Israel and how they have responded to terrorism, it works best when it is decentralized, not nation-to-nation.
    • The solution is to turn these kids into entrepeurs, instead of joining the hesbala.
  • World Without Oil
    • alternate reality game
    • about the future when peak oil has passed and oil has run out
    • game is over now, but you can read the forums
    • in the forums you see stuff like the high school physics teacher, and the hardware store guy, and the mom who are figuring out how to lower the energy. it’s backyard ingenuity.
  • Positive Deviance - Jerry Sternin
    • In any culture, where you find disfunction, instead of focusing on on trying to stop the disfunction, you look for cases where the disfunction doesn’t exist. Then you try to amplify the good.
      • Example: daughters who confronted mothers in Egypt over genital mutation. They found ways to get this daughters to talk to more people, talk to entire villages, and almost overnight they stopped the practice.
  • The Internet
    • “I believe very strongly in the Internet. It’s my religion”
    • free and open source software has created the nuts and bolts of everything we use
    • even google could not have done what they have done without open source software.
    • it lowers the cost of innovation, the cost to try things around.
    • The Stack:
      • Creative Commons
      • The Web (W3C)
      • The Internet (IETF)
    • This stack is the core of the internet. it keeps things low cost.
    • It used to be that big companies and governments, with big budgets and experts, would work through standards bodies on specifications that would take years and years and years. These specifications would then go to large contractors and R&D labs, who would make products.
    • Now, everyone sits around talking on mailing lists. It’s so easy, a couple of people can do it. It’s based on rough consensus. Just about everything important that has happened on the internet, it is a small group of people, trying things out. They love when people use it in ways it wasn’t anticipated. They don’t try to know the whole thing.
      • By comparison, in the old way, there is no way to use it other than intended.
    • Japanese have started doing header compression. The television guys have taken the header compression and brought them to the ITU. This is a battle over trying to keep the internet open.
    • Having the stack allows people to interoperate without having to renegotiate everything over from the start. e.g. it used to be so hard to mac and PCs to talk together.
    • The lower friction from the web allowed an explosion of innovation.
    • Now that everything is so open, the friction is so low. Now the problem is the legal costs. The legal fees and time costs can exceed the value of collaboration. 
      • So Creative Commons eliminates some of that.
    • Joi will tie all this back to saving the world
  • Creative Commons
    • They have a core of six licenses
      • Attribution
      • Non-commercial (2/3rds of people elect this)
      • No-derivatives (don’t want people to mess with the content of the work, e.g. documentaries)
      • Share-alike (if people create a derivative work, they have to share it back with the same license)
        • It deters some sharing and reach, because for example, ABC won’t use your work because they won’t share back their whole show under those rights.
    • Most bloggers and educators want liberal sharing
    • Professional musicians want more constrained sharing
    • The point is not to dictate what people should do, but enable people to share they want they want to, without having to have a legal discussion.
    • Wikipedia was previously using a free software foundation license. Now using Creative Commons licenses. The problem was that if you had a university professor who was using Creative Commons, they couldn’t use wikipedia content, because the licenses would conflict, even though they were essentially the same.
      • License proliferation is bad because it prevents sharing
      • It’s like having two internets. One internet allows collaboration and sharing. Two internets means you can’t.
    • Nine Inch Nails used Creative Commons licensed. They grossed $1.6M in the first week. Top selling album on iTunes, even though it was also available free. 
  • The cost of failure is so low, you can try lots of things. e.g. Linus Torvalds saying “I’m going to create an Operating System.”
    • A company can spend millions of dollars thinking about whether to do something, and then millions more getting ready to do it. They would never do something like Linux or Amazon or Google.
    • Doplr went into a cabin and prototyped it over a weekend.
    • There is no idea you shouldn’t be able to prototype in a week.
    • It’s cheaper and easier to prototype something than it is to create a presentation and try to explain things. 
  • Examples of organizations
    • Global Voices: network of bloggers, regional heads aggregate in each region. And then aggregate at higher levels. They do translation. The purpose is to give voice to each region, and enable a global conversation.
    • Witness: gives resources to human rights organization to record and share video to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations
    • Meetup: For profit. Thought of doing it as a non-profit. We think of non-profits as volunteer work, and for-profits as IPO work, but there is a whole range of in between. Meetup has a tremendous amount of social good, and the founder only cares about saving the world, and makes money to keep the company going.
    • Architecture for humanity: get designs for building, license them under creative commons license. architecture is quite hard, so sharing it and opening it up is tremendously valuable. designs for hospitals and schools.
    • The Girl Effect: the power social and economic change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate.
    • Lulan Artisans: teaches women and girls how to knit, dye fabric, make money. Founder wanted to stop human trafficking, and the way to do that was to enable the woman to make money. They make more money than the man. So instead of selling the women, they are more valuable in the family. Thing has done more to stopping human trafficking than almost anything else. 
  • Keys
    • empower people financially
    • give voice
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