EDGE


EDGE 13 — April 15, 1997


DIGERATI

JAPAN, INC. MEETS THE DIGERATI
Interview with Izumi Aizu ("The Bridge")
The Keidenren's Man in Kuala Lumpur

 

THE REALITY CLUB

TIM RACE TO THE EDITOR: I always feel like I'm coming in during the second reel of the movie. Everyone seems to be responding to something I haven't yet seen or read.

GEORGE JOHNSON ON JOHN HORGAN: But caricatures, by their very nature, are skin deep. I don't think anyone who knows the scientists depicted in the book will mistake John's artful cartoons for the real thing, any more than they would mistake Tom Oliphant's craft for photography.

KEVIN KELLY ON HORGAN: It seems to me, John, your theory of science would be more widely embraced if it didn't antagonize unnecessarily, as it does with such a heavily loaded phrase as "real science," especially when one is accused of not doing it. Perhaps science has stages, as in first falsifiability, later verification.

LEE SMOLIN RESPONDS TO BRIAN ENO, JOHN BAEZ, STEWART BRAND: So why do we make art and science? I don't know, but it certainly feels like these are very basic human things to do, they must have very deep roots in what it means to be a human being. I doubt we will understand the answer until we know the details of the history of how culture, language and human beings simultaneously evolved. But it is anyway fun to guess, and my guess is that the fun we have guessing is both deeply rooted in us and part of the answer to the question.

STUART KAUFFMAN RESPONDS TO PHIL ANDERSON: Well, Phil, and all, perhaps it's just that us biologists will come along and clean up the conceptual mess in physics, while you physicists clean up the conceptual mess in biology and economics.

JULIAN BARBOUR RESPONDS TO JOHN BAEZ, MURRAY GELL-MANN, LEE SMOLIN: I am well aware of Jim Hartle's work on path integrals and of his collaboration with Gell-Mann on the consistent histories interpretation of quantum mechanics. However, I simply cannot accept their point of departure: that histories are the fundamental notion in cosmology. Quantum mechanics destroys histories.


PAMELA McCORDUCK ON BRIAN ENO: When I first went to the Santa Fe Institute and discovered complex adaptive systems, I'd just published a book, Aaron's Code, about an intelligent computer program called Aaron that makes drawings (and now paintings) autonomously. Now I would call Aaron a complex adaptive system. I was devastated to realize that if I'd had the vocabulary that complex adaptive systems offers me, I'd have had a much better way of describing Aaron and why it's important.


(9,851 words)


John Brockman, Editor and Publisher | Kip Parent, Webmaster


DIGERATI

JAPAN, INC. MEETS THE DIGERATI
Interview with Izumi Aizu ("The Bridge")
The Keidenren's Man in Kuala Lumpur

John Brockman: A week later, a bus pulled up in front of my office building and more than 30 Japanese businessmen (and one woman) filed out. "The Keidenren," better known in the West as "Japan, Inc.," was coming to visit. They were traveling together to Washington (The White House, the FCC); New York (Time-Warner NBC, IBM, and me); (London (British Telecom, OFTEL, Department of Industry); and Bonn (Deutsche Telekom, Congress).

AIZU: The Japanese companies or business societies often form delegations, or study groups, to the U.S. or Europe. It's not so much about interaction as trying to absorb what's going on there, take it back, and use what we can from the experience. This tour has a very unique, strange setup. Officially, for international consumption, it's the Keidenren Tour. Domestically it's a quiet tour they cannot present it as Keidenren.



THE REALITY CLUB



From: Tim Race
Submitted: 4/8/97

Hi John: Tell me something I'm usually so deluged with E-mail that I don't always take time to pay much attention to these EDGE missives, much as I'd like to start taking part. But I always feel like I'm coming in during the second reel of the movie. Everyone seems to be responding to something I haven't yet seen or read.

So what are these responses to. And what should I be doing to get involved at the front end, rather than reading these movie reviews of a film I haven't seen? Should I be hanging out at the Website, and posting my comments there? (And if that's the case, why do you circulate the comments by E-mail, but not the original material?)

Not meaning to sound like a crank, but I'm still trying to discern your system.

Tim

TIM RACE is business technology editor for The New York Times. More important, he belongs to history for his coinage of the word "digerati," which happened one evening in January, 1992 as he edited and rewrote a paragraph by John Markoff for the Business Section.
At The New York Times, Tim oversees a group of the nation's best technology writers including Denise Caruso, Mark Landler, Lawrence M. Fisher, Steve Lohr, John Markoff, Seth Schiesel and Laurence Zuckerman and is privy to the latest technological trends and developments well before the reading public becomes aware them. If you are in software, computers, or the Internet,Tim is the guy who ultimately decides if you, and what you do, are news. -

[Editor's Note:] Tim Race is absolutely correct when he writes "I always feel like I'm coming in during the second reel of the movie. Everyone seems to be responding to something I haven't yet seen or read." The process is messy. Ideally, I would like to publish an "edition" once a week which includes (a) a new talk or interview such as this week's "Japan, Inc. Meets the Digerati" interview with Izumi Aizu; (b) "The Reality Club" section ongoing discussion about material (talks, interviews, comments, on material) from previous mailings. By the way, everything published to the Mail List is also posted on the Website, where you can find the threads in the correct order. At present, although we have the tools, we don't accommodate direct posting, and I don't think I want to. Comments are read, and are subject to editing.

Unfortunately, all this is subject to my own energy levels. Some weeks I send a preview version of an interview or talk to people I know will be responsive and those comments are published with the talk. Other weeks, I publish a talk with comments on the previous week's talk. Sometimes, during the week, if nothing is cooking, I will start (or hook into) a small group to get a discussion going.

Confusing? Yes. But why demand clarity? Try awkwardness instead. We are living through a fabulous time in which awkwardness is the only way to fit the uniqueness of insights into current laws and awkwardness is always stymied by perception, by knowledge. Let's all give awkwardness a chance. As Whitehead wrote in Process and Reality, "the primary advantage thus gained is that experience is not interrogated with the benumbing repression of common sense."

Thanks to Tim for giving me an opportunity to hopefully clarify things.

JB



From: George Johnson
Submitted: 4-7-97
RE: JOHN HORGAN ON SMOLIN & KAUFFMAN

I'd like to submit the following for the Smolin-Kauffman thread:
John Horgan and I have a curiously ambiguous relationship. We admire each other's books in many ways while disagreeing completely on the nature of science and where it is going. He reviewed my book Fire in the Mind: Science, Faith, and the Search for Order in The Sciences. I've not written about The End of Science, but I told John that I found many of his caricatures very arresting particularly the one skewering Karl Popper. But caricatures, by their very nature, are skin deep. I don't think anyone who knows the scientists depicted in the book will mistake John's artful cartoons for the real thing, any more than they would mistake Tom Oliphant's craft for photography.

I also think John's argument about the wheel-spinning nature of some farflung scientific enterprises is defensible, even if I am not entirely convinced. But where we really split ways is over our views of the future of science. He sees it as ending while I see it as endless. Neither view sits comfortably with many scientists. Most, I'm guessing, really do believe that science will end someday; they just don't want it to happen yet.

For all the outrage he has caused, John pays science the compliment of believing, fervidly, that it has succeeded in discovering the way the world really is. He is a hardcore Platonist, who believes that Laws of the Universe exist in some ethereal phantom zone and that our brains are miraculously attuned to resonate with them. In that regard, he and Roger Penrose belong to the same church. I argue in Fire in the Mind that this is pure mysticism. Our nervous systems evolved on this particular planet to help us find food and to keep from being eaten. It is a leap of faith as great as that taken by any religion to believe that evolution also equipped us to understand the ultimate laws. The mind is not a mirror but a tinkered-together set of filters. Are the orders we think we perceive really out there in the universe? Or are we just seeing the shadows cast by our own brains? Surely the answer lies somewhere in between, but we can't ever know where to draw the line. We are trapped in our nervous systems. Like fish up against the edge of the aquarium, we can't tell whether the shapes and colors that dazzle us are simply our own reflections distorted by the glass. The only position one can honestly take is that of the agnostic.

the map is not the territory, the possibility always exists that we will have to tear it all up and start over again. John and I had a good argument about this on Ira Flatow's show on NPR. John, displaying his Platonist colors, tried to bait me by asking if I believed in the existence of the electron. I didn't think fast enough to provide a good answer in real-time. If the debate had been on the Net, I would have thought a while and come back with something like this:

"Are you asking whether I believe there are negatively charged entities that hover around nuclei, jumping from orbit to orbit without traversing the space in between -- 'particles' that cannot be said to simultaneously have a fixed position and momentum, that act like something which can best be described as a cross between a particle and a wave (and not even a wave of matter but a wave of probability)? Do I believe (1) that such a thing really exists? Or (2) that it is a construct -- albeit a brilliant one -- of minds struggling to explain a world that will always elude them, with a science that will never end? The obvious answer is number 2."

RE: JOHN BAEZ

I'd like to thank John Baez for that crystal-clear explanation of Smolin and Kauffman's paper, which I couldn't make hide nor hair of. Baez's postings on sci.physics are one of the treasures of the Internet.-
George Johnson-

GEORGE JOHNSON is a writer, The New York Times, working on contract from Santa Fe, January 1995 to present. He formerly worked as Staff Editor, "The Week in Review", The New York Times, December 1986 to October 1994. His books include Fire in the Mind: Science, Faith, and the Search for Order (1995); In the Palaces of Memory: How We Build the Worlds Inside Our Heads (1991); and Machinery of the Mind: Inside the New Science of Artificial Intelligence (1986).



From: Kevin Kelly
Submitted: 4-7-97
RE: JOHN HORGAN

I want to thank John Horgan for a very clear statement of what he means by ironic science. I read his book The End Of Science (pretty thoroughly I thought) but didn't grasp his use of "ironic science" until this posting.

It seems to me, John, your theory of science would be more widely embraced if it didn't antagonize unnecessarily, as it does with such a heavily loaded phrase as "real science," especially when one is accused of not doing it. Perhaps science has stages, as in first falsifiability, later verification.

I also don't get it why superstring is inherently unverifiable. Would you say the same for relativity?-
KK

KEVIN KELLY, executive editor of Wired magazine, is the author of Out of Control.



From: Lee Smolin
Submitted: 4-8-97
ABOUT BRIAN ENO

About the interview with Brian Eno and its threads: I like very much the spirit of Eno's conversation, I like the questions he asks. Perhaps since there were several comments about the similarities and differences between science and art I could say something about that, as I have a number of close friends who are artists and this is something we sometimes talk about. Certainly there is the same fascination with the world and trying to understand and represent it. And certainly there is the leading role of aesthetics in our considerations. This comes from a similar way of working in which one is concerned with three kinds of things: the practical craft aspect, because most of your time is spent doing and you have to do it as well as you possibly can to create something worthwhile, the collective aspect that everything you do takes place as part of an ongoing conversation within a community and, third, the transcendental part: that when your work is good it brings you into contact with an aspect of the natural world that that work may help us to better perceive. And the neat thing is that when your work is good you are in touch with all three of these levels at once.

But having said this, I think not enough was said about the differences between science and art. First, there are the very different situations in which we work; I think it takes much more personal courage to be a good artist than a good scientist. Then, I can mention one interesting thing which was said by Saint Clair Cemin, a sculptor who is also a good friend, in an interview in a recent catalogue of his. Saint Clair noted that science and art are very different because science strives to move from the particular to the general, whereas art is primarily concerned with the unique. For example, if I can use him as an example, Saint Clair has made three fountains that I know of, in Reston, Virginia, Sweden and New York City.

While I can see easily that each was made by Saint Clair, each one is in fact very different from the other, as indeed each is different from every other fountain in the world. Probably no one except perhaps other people who make fountains would be very interested in a general theory of fountains. While each one may suggest other fountains, or sculptures, or ideas in philosophy or science, the value of each one is in exactly what it is a fountain. And to the extent that each one refers in some way to other things in the world, including other fountains, it does so as a unique thing.

By contrast, a result in theoretical physics is of interest usually when it is general. No one is very interested in a result that says that once someone found an atom with a discrete spectrum. The interest of Bohr is that every atom has a spectrum, which can be computed from general rules. No one ­ except a few historians is even very interested in the particular calculation that Bohr did that first showed that atoms have discrete spectra, for it is of interest exactly because it has been redone over and over again in many different ways, most of them better than how Bohr did it.

It is true that there is some emphasis recently on the role of the unique in theoretical physics. This is partly because of our recent interests in uncovering general laws for complex systems, and complex systems are those where the particulars matter. It is also arising for a related reason which is that the relational notion of space and time embodied in general relativity that we are trying to incorporate in quantum theory-requires that each place and moment be unique if we are even to talk meaningfully about space and time. So this perhaps brings us just a little bit closer to appreciating the spirit with which art values the uniqueness of the world. But I don't think it really bridges this very real gap between art and science.

So why do we make art and science? I don't know, but it certainly feels like these are very basic human things to do, they must have very deep roots in what it means to be a human being. I doubt we will understand the answer until we know the details of the history of how culture, language and human beings simultaneously evolved. But it is anyway fun to guess, and my guess is that the fun we have guessing is both deeply rooted in us and part of the answer to the question.

RESPONSE TO JOHN BAEZ

As usual John Baez has explained things in a way that even those whose ideas he is talking about understand them better after reading him. So I can't add much. I might just say that I don't think it is quite right to give the impression that my rejection of Julian Barbour's view of time is based on fear. I have a strong intuition that there is something real about time and also something wrong about the equivalence between space and time that is so easy in mathematical representations of physical theory. I suspect that the original scene of the crime here goes back to the use of the real number line to represent time, so that time is represented as isomorphic to space. I suspect that, despite the truth of special relativity, space and time are different, and that the right representation of time cannot be as something we can visualize: because to visualize a process occurring in time is to represent it as if it were something static in some pre-existing space. This is what we have gotten used to-we draw pictures of trajectories of particles in classical physics, but I suspect that when we get to the level of quantum gravity it must be
wrong.

To get out of this, one route is to try to see if the pre-existing space of configurations in a real theory like general relativity or quantum gravity might be complex in a way that would prevent its construction mathematically. I am glad to learn from John that there are some people who have already been thinking about related questions.

RESPONSE TO STEWART BRAND

Stewart Brand wrote: "the fascinating thing (to me) I came across in Lee Smolin's letter introducing the piece with Kauffman on time in quantum cosmology was the apparent assumption that....evolution means causality means time.....Did I get that right? Causality requires time? Does time require causality?"

I think "means" here is too strong. I hope that John Baez's piece makes it clearer than I did what the problem is we are struggling with. What Stewart Brand says is not a bad slogan for the idea Stu and I described in our paper.

But I must emphasize that this idea is a proposal; it may or may not be useful-or true-and therefore, I do not believe that I know that evolution "means" causality "means" time. If it is a good idea it will lead to something testable, that will distinguish it from other approaches such as that of Julian Barbour.

Lee Smolin

LEE SMOLIN is a theoretical physicist; professor of physics and member of the Center for Gravitational Physics and Geometry at Pennsylvania State University; author of The Life Of The Cosmos, forthcoming (Oxford).



From: Stuart Kauffman
Submitted: 4-9-97
RE: PHIL ANDERSON COMMENT

Hello John Brockman, Phil Anderson, Lee Smolin and others known and unknown. I join this discussion a bit late. First, as a mere biologist, I want to thank Lee Smolin for the patience he has shown in allowing me to join in the body of work he started some time ago. I find myself fascinated and delighted. And our efforts have proceeded further since the manuscript, together with Louis Crane and Fotini Markopoulou.

Phil,

What Lee and I are trying to do is not ironic science. Like any other scientists, we too want testable consequences of any theory we do. It is certainly the case that the step initially taken and noted in our manuscript does not yet have any consequences that we can see. But in our further efforts we have some hope of deriving testable consequences. The move we make in the manuscript is to ask whether, in principle, there could exist a set of possible configurations which could not be finitely specified "beforehand". This issue is somewhat parallel to the question I raise in Investigations, (an SFI preprint), as to whether the emergence of evolutionary novelties called "exapations" or "preadaptations" can be finitely specified "beforehand". Here is the evolutionary issue: Darwin tells us that, roughly, the function of the heart is to pump blood. This assertion means, roughly, that the heart exists because it has been the subject of natural selection. The causal consequence of the heart for virtue of which it has been selected is its capacity to pump blood. Now the heart also has other causal consequences. It makes heart sounds. It is a resonant chamber. The function of the heart is, therefore, a subset of its causal consequences. In Investigations I discuss the intriguing feature of functions that the function of a part can only be defined in the context of the "whole" the organism. Now an exaptation arises when a causal consequence of a part that was not formerly a function, say the capacity to be a resonant chamber, comes to be of functional significance in an environment. For example, the resonant capacity of the heart might allow someone to feel an earthquake pretremor in Los Angeles, and do the right thing, hence survive and have children. A subspecies of homo sapiens might evolve "earthquake detectors". Thus, earthquake detectors would come to exist in the biosphere. So too did flying squirrels arise, hearing arise, etc.

The puzzle about such an exaptation is that there appears to be no finite description ahead of time of all the possible context dependent causal consequences of "parts" of organisms that might happen to be useful, hence might happen to arise in evolution. The problem does not appear to be a failure to be able, in a finite specification, to specify an infinite set of "properties". For example, the infinite Fourier basis set of cosines and sines, with all different real number wavelengths and phase relations can be finitely specified. But it does not seem, and remains to be proven, that no similar finitely specifiable but possibly infinite basis set exists of possible context dependent causal consequences that all exapation functionalities might be projected upon. Assume for the moment that this is true. Yet in evolution, novel, non-prespecifiab le exapations.

Yet in evolution, novel exaptations that are not finitely prespecifiable appear to arise all the time. Such exaptations include novel molecules, morphologies, and behaviors. Thus, exaptations have genuine physical consequences for the molecular content of the Universe. This latter point can be stressed by pointing out that the number of possible proteins length 200 is so vast that the Universe will not have time and matter enough to try each such protein once on a time scale vastly longer than the current age of the Universe. Non-prespecifiable exaptations drive the unique unfolding of the Universe

One can wonder whether the above can be shown as theorems. In addition, even if shown, one can wonder how this sequence of novelties is related to Godel's theorem, if at all, or to the halting problem, if at all. In these problems one begins with a set of formal axioms or production rules, and establishes statements about a class of possible theorems derived from the axioms by the production rules: formal undecidability. In the case of exaptations, it is not clear what the failure to finitely specify a finite or infinite basis set means. In the Godel case, one can add a new axiom that allows derivation of formerly undecidable cases, but creates new ones. Yet where did this new axiom come from? We grab it from the Platonic realm or whatever our philosophy may be with regards to the foundations of mathematics. In the exaptation case, it seems something like the biosphere happening upon an opportunity that was not finitely predescribable and jumping on the opportunity. The flying squirrel arises because the owl chases a squirrel that happens to have a flap of skin in its axilla. So the unfolding of the biosphere seems creative in this sense.

In brief analogy, Lee and I wrote our manuscript in part based on the possibility that the configuration space of the space or spacetime could not be finitely prestated. Carrying out the analogy, such a universe would unfold, but not in a specificifiable configuration space. Since the biosphere seems to manage without a prespecified configuration space, perhaps the universe can as well.

Well, Phil, and all, perhaps it's just that us biologists will come along and clean up the conceptual mess in physics, while you physicists clean up the conceptual mess in biology and economics.

Stu Kauffman

STUART KAUFFMAN is a biologist; professor of biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and a professor at the Santa Fe Institute; author of Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution, and At Home in the Universe (Oxford).



From: Julian Barbour
Submitted: 4-10-97
ON THE COMMENTS OF JOHN BAEZ, MURRAY GELL-MANN, AND LEE SMOLIN.
TO JOHN BAEZ'S COMMENTS

Further to John Baez's helpful comments on frame-independent theories, one way to see how they differ from theories with external frames of reference is to consider the famous three-body problem of celestial mechanics (it gave Newton headaches when he tried to consider the mutual gravitational motions of the Moon, Earth, and Sun). If, at some initial time, your were given two snapshots of the three bodies taken with a small but unknown time separation and without any background information, then in the framework of Newtonian theory it would be impossible to predict the future uniquely because one cannot tell the angular momentum of the system, which is determined by how the system as a whole is rotating in space, nor the energy, since without clock information you do not know how fast the bodies are moving apart. As a result, the future evolution of the system cannot be predicted: there is a fourfold uncertainty about what will happen. This very illuminating and powerful way of seen the defect in Newtonian theory is due to Poincare (Science and Hypothesis). Now there are theories that do not have such defects; in nonrelativistic mechanics, Bertotti and I found examples (see references in my first contribution to this discussion), and, most importantly, general relativity is a sophisticated relativistic theory of such kind. From the point of view of the dynamics of such theories, the really important thing is that it is entirely determined by structures: the dynamics is determined by the intrinsic difference between structures that the universe can have in different instants (simultaneities in relativity). There simply is nowhere to fit in a time in addition to structures. That is why time is redundant in classical physics. However, one structure still follows another, so in classical physics the notion of history survives.

But quantum mechanics must change this in a truly radical way. In ordinary quantum mechanics, Schrodinger introduced a wave function of systems in a background that was essentially absolute space and time. The systems were quantized but the background remained classical. That step already destroyed that notion of the history of an individual electron; however, because the background remained inviolate, one could still conceive the history of the wave function. In frame-dependent theories, that luxury goes out the window, simply because there never is a frame in the first place. All one has in such theories is structures, for which the so-called Wheeler-Dewitt equation simply gives static probabilities. It was to try to recover our normal sense of the passage of time from this radical stasis that I introduced the notion of time capsule.

TO MURRAY GELL-MANN'S COMMENTS

I am well aware of Jim Hartle's work on path integrals and of his collaboration with Gell-Mann on the consistent histories interpretation of quantum mechanics. However, I simply cannot accept their point of departure: that histories are the fundamental notion in cosmology. Quantum mechanics destroys histories. I have discussed this often with Jim (in fact, discussions with him were a key influence in bringing me to my timeless ideas), and we just come to this impasse that he cannot conceive a universe not based on histories at the most fundamental level. He is in very distinguished company, but so was Ptolemy. John Bell, in his paper "Quantum Mechanics for Cosmologists" (reprinted in the paperback of his papers) saw very clearly that if the many worlds interpretation of QM is taken seriously, which is very hard to avoid in cosmology unless you follow Roger Penrose who is trying to orchestrate objective wave-function collapse, then its "really novel element" (which he thought had not been identified) "is a repudiation of the 'past,' which could be considered in the same liberating tradition as Einstein's repudiation of absolute simultaneity." Bell's paper is important support for my timeless views.

TO LEE'S COMMENTS

Turning to Lee's desire for a real time, evolution, and genuine novelty, I am sure the things most dear to his heart (novelty and a future that is not utterly predetermined) are perfectly available in my scheme. All I am saying is that each instant we experience corresponds to some definite intrinsic structure of the universe. By definition, all the structures are different (that is the principle of Leibniz that Lee and I like so much). Thus, experience of different instants cannot but fail to introduce novelty. Moreover, what most people call advance in time is in my view transition to richer structure. Our present experience gives us merely hints for what this richer structure, which we call our future, might be. What more do you want Lee?

Julian

JULIAN BARBOUR, a theoretical physicist, is the author of Absolute or Relative Motion? The Discovery of Dynamics and The Frame of Mind (Cambridge) and the editor of Mach's Principle: From Newton's Bucket to Quantum Gravity (Birkhauser).



From: Pamela McCorduck
Submitted: 4-10-97
A COMMENT ON ENO

This is less a reply to Brian Eno than an endorsement of nearly every word he says. Brian and I have found ourselves drawn to some of the same issues in science: we are both fascinated by complex adaptive systems, and we both wonder how that language can be adapted to understand art or in Brian's case, all of culture.

When I first went to the Santa Fe Institute and discovered complex adaptive systems, I'd just published a book, Aaron's Code, about an intelligent computer program called Aaron that makes drawings (and now paintings) autonomously. Now I would call Aaron a complex adaptive system. I was devastated to realize that if I'd had the vocabulary that complex adaptive systems offers me, I'd have had a much better way of describing Aaron and why it's important.

Brian says culture can be dangerous. Here's an example. Last week I gave a talk at the Chicago Art Institute about the tension between conserving indigenous artistic traditions (in particular, the Indian and Hispanic traditions of the southwestern United States) and permitting them to go where they will in a kind of Darwinian struggle. The tension arises because both these traditions are in danger of being swamped by the dominant culture, yet each represents a way of knowing, of being in the world, that is different from what we in the dominant culture know, and surely has value for that alone. It may have other values besides. Thus gatekeepers and custodians arise who want to preserve them by shoving both traditions into an artistic deep freeze, effectively killing them as sure as if they were swamped.
You can immediately see the parallels between preserving cultural diversity and preserving biodiversity, and this is what I wanted to wrestle with. The language I used at the Art Institute was scientific, not art-crit, which I keep failing to understand.

Brian and I had already exchanged email about the parallels between art and an economy, something we'd come to independently. I saw the parallels all right, especially in terms of confidence, as he speaks about in this interview, but I fretted about con-men in art. Brian lifted a burden by reminding me that con-men, who operate in an economy by abusing people's confidence, probably exist in art too but it's okay, because the value of art finally is the value we confer upon it, which returns the responsibility to us as individuals to sort out the valuable from the not valuable.-

Pamela

PAMELA McCORDUCK is the author or coauthor of seven published books, among them Machines Who Think, The Fifth Generation, and coauthor with Nancy Ramsey of The Futures Of Women.



DIEGERATI

JAPAN, INC. MEETS THE DIGERATI

Interview with Izumi Aizu ("The Bridge")
The Keidenren's Man in Kuala Lumpur

The motto of this endeavor is "To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves." Last fall, precisely at 4:30 p.m., September 27, I had such an opportunity.

Izumi Aizu, who runs GLOCOM, Center for Global Communications, had called a week before from Tokyo to ask if I would meet and talk with a delegation he was bringing over from Japan for a whirlwind telecom and Internet "learning tour. "Why don't you invite some of the digerati who are in town to stop by and mingle?" he added. "These guys are keen to meet people who are making things happen."

"No problem," I replied. "But don't expect miracles. This is New York City, hardly the innovative capital of the world these days. I'll see who's around," I said off-handedly."

"Good, I'll email the list to you."

A week later, a bus pulled up in front of my office building and more than 30 Japanese businessmen (and one woman) filed out. "The Keidenren," better known in the West as "Japan, Inc.," was coming to visit. They were traveling together to Washington (The White House, the FCC); New York (Time-Warner NBC, IBM, and me); London (British Telecom, OFTEL, Department of Industry); and Bonn (Deutsche Telekom, Congress).

And who might be coming to visit? The leader of the delegation was Shigeo Sawada, Chairman, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT).

Other members of the group included, among others, Toshio Miki, Representative Director and Executive Vice President, Nippon Steel Corporation; Hitoshi Ito, General Manager, Information Systems, The Tokyo Marine and Fire Insurance Co.; Masanori Watanabe, General Manager, Corporate Department, The Industrial Bank of Japan; Osamu Kinoshita, Senior Vice President and Head of Management Planning Office, The Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank; Yuzo Shinkai, Director, Information Systems and Services Group, Mitsubishi Corporation; Kouya Mita, Vice President, Itochu Corporation; Minoru Yoshikawa; Director, The Tokyo Electric Power Co.; Hisaji Nakazono, Managing Director, The Nomura Securities Co.; Osamu Takenaka, Senior Managing Director, Kokusai Denshin Denwa Co.; and Masato Chiba, Senior Vice President, NEC Corporation.

As the obligatory formal introductions and toasts were taking place, my teenage son, Max Brockman, leaned over and asked, in a whisper, the very question I was asking myself: "Dad, why you??"
Fortunately, a number of digerati showed up on short notice. They included Greg Clark President of NewsCorp Technology; Jaron Lanier, virtual reality pioneer and musician; Steven Levy, author of Hackers; Jerry Michalski, editor of Release 1.0; Stewart McBride, founder of United Digital Artists' Stewart McBride; Kip Parent, founder of Pantheon-Interactive; Richard Shaffer, editor and publisher of The Computer Letter; and Frank Moretti and Rachel Packman of Columbia University's New Laboratory for Teaching and Learning, and The Dalton School.

Between the talks and the drinks, the two groups, initially standing apart from each other, warmed up and became engaged in animate conversation. By all accounts the visit was a great success.
Izumi has been the man to see in Tokyo about the Internet. He's also been a regular visitor to the States, often with a group of Japanese executives in tow. But no more. The Keidenren has dispatched him to Kuala Lumpur to help develop the Multimedia Super Corridor and to give Japanese business a major presence in Malaysia as well as in Asia.

Izumi's email signature slogan is WRITING the HISTORY of the FUTURE . Next time you're in KL, look him up at the Asia Network Research.

Izumi Aizu is "The Bridge."

JB


IZUMI AIZU is the Research Manager at the Institute for Hypernetwork Society, Tokyo, and the Planning Manager at the Center for Global Communications (GLOCOM), International University of Japan in Tokyo. On April 11, he moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


JAPAN, INC. MEETS THE DIGERATI

Interview with Izumi Aizu ("The Bridge")
The Keidenren's Man in Kuala Lumpur


JB: What was that all about, Izumi, trying to figure out how to take over the Internet?

AIZU: How to follow the game, or how to catch up is a better description. The Japanese can play the game of catching up much better than everybody else. The problem is, it's usually very difficult for Japanese to be the front runner.

JB: Why is that?

AIZU: The Japanese tradition is importing the culture. Almost two or three thousand years ago we started importing from China. About 150 years ago we started importing the culture from the West. We not only swallowed this culture, but very often, almost always we changed it, or added, or modified, and thus it's become a very unique, original. The problem is it's sometimes very difficult to find where the real origin of Japanese culture is. That though doesn't mean the Japanese culture is not original. We at GLOCOM tend to make a clear difference between the culture and civilization. Civilization is more of the actual forms of life life styles, the use of gadgets, etc., while culture is much more deep, and it's hard to change, even when you try consciously. In terms of civilization, Japan can export things, like cars and VCRs, but we never really exported the Japanese culture. Americans are now eating sushi as part of the California cuisine. But that doesn't mean they partake of Japanese culture.

JB: Don't tell me that Japanese culture is sushi. The culture to me is unfathomable. You happen to be the rare exception, a Japanese technocrat who speaks perfect English. Almost all the people I work with in Japan understand English, and can read it, but they are not trained in school to speak it and they don't.

AIZU: Or write it.

JB: Because they're not trained to speak, they don't want to be embarrassed, and you wind up in a situation where you're completely dependent on translators, and you have no idea what the translators are saying. Americans don't know what's going on and it's thus very difficult to read this culture, because what you hear may not even be what is being said.

AIZU: For the Japanese speaking and writing, expressing yourself, can be embarrassing. We have difficulty exporting internal ideas to the outer world. We have a history of not having to export ideas. We just take from the outside. So we can read, we can hear, and understand English, but we haven't really cultivated expressing, or communicating, or interacting in English.

JB: How does this effect Japan's business relations with Western countries - for instance the recent Japan, Inc. tour you led to the U.S. and London and Germany?

AIZU: They absorbed, or learned, about what is going on out there, and digested it in such a manner that they can understand. I'm a little bit concerned that whether they made the right choices of places to visit, and talked to the right people with the exception of the visit to this office.
In Washington we visited the White House, we went to the FCC and I took them to the Internet Society then we came to New York. The day started at 8:30 a.m. at the hotel with the Time Warner guys, and we went to NYNEX, and then we went to IBM headquarters, where 30 people were put in a conference room to listen to a bunch of brief presentations.

This is very different than talking and meeting the individuals that you brought in such as Steve Levy, author of Hackers, Kip Parent, of Pantheon Interactive, who had implemented Silicon Surf for SGI, and Jaron Lanier, a polymath, and musician, as well as a leading pioneer of virtual reality. These guys are really driving the revolution.

The large corporations like IBM, NYNEX, Time-Warner, etc., are the followers, I would say. The individuals in these big corporations are fine, on a personal level. In fact in some cases you will find great people, interesting, and fun people. But when it comes to meetings, things become very boring. It's rare to get to talk to people on an individual basis and in a very open atmosphere. And this is where the real intellectual encounter happens.

JB: But the encounter seems to be one-way. The people I brought to the party didn't have a clue as to what Japanese visitors wanted, or were thinking about.

AIZU: Right. That's the problem. Sometimes, they can, despite their bad English, express their interest and focus in a private conversation. Sometimes they can't. Part of the reason I asked you to organize that kind of meeting was that I wanted to show the other side of the world, where the large corporations don't matter, where individual people are the real source of creativity and are changing the times and history. They certainly appreciated that after we left here. They loved that different kind of atmosphere. Although I'm not too sure if they can take any productive business lessons from it.

JB: This group is a delegation from a group called Keidenrenenren. What's that?

AIZU: The Japanese companies or business societies often form delegations, or study groups, to the U.S. or Europe. It's not so much about interaction as trying to absorb what's going on there, take it back, and use what we can from the experience. This tour has a very unique, strange setup. Officially, for international consumption, it's the Keidenren Tour Domestically it's a quiet tour they cannot present it as Keidenren. I was asked to help them visit some of the places like the White House and the FCC. Usually, a government ministry or a large corporation such as NTT, would make the arrangements. But this time they were interested more informal meetings with some of my friends inside the White House and inside the FCC than in going through official diplomatic channels. It started two and a half years ago when a similar group, under a different banner but made up of almost exactly the same people, came to the U.S., in '94, to study what's going on in the U.S. when the Clinton administration began serious thinking about the Internet revolution.

At that time, most people were still focussed on cable box and the possibility of 500 channels delivered over your tv set. So the group decided they wanted to visit Time-Warner in Orlando, Florida.

Nevertheless, I wanted them to meet people who believed the Internet would be the central focus. In this regard, with few email exchanges I set up a White House meeting with a young guy named Mike Nelson who was interested in the Internet. Mike got some other higher ranking officials to also join the meeting.
It was the first time the White House had made a high-level meeting of this nature without exchanging any formal paper. It was all done through email. Without the informal nature of the contact through this means of communication, the meeting never would have taken place. At that time, your President and our Prime Minister couldn't agree on trade issues. In fact, In February '94, our Prime Minister had said No to the U.S. side. All the diplomatic talks were temporarily stopped. Your ministries couldn't talk to our ministries without higher level of approval by the Clinton administration, which didn't happen. That's part of the reason why my group, GLOCOM, was brought in - we were able to make contact very informally by the use of email.

JB: Wouldn't it seem reasonable to imagine that a visit to the White House by a group that included the Chairman of NTT, perhaps the largest corporation in the world, the Managing Director of Mitsubishi, the heads of the five largest banks of Japan, would get an audience with President Clinton or the Vice-President Gore? Why did they wind up meeting with the White House techies?

AIZU: Very simple. The younger guys like Mike Nelson and Tom Kalil, know much more about technology, even though they may not have a big influence on policy.

JB: But you didn't bring your younger guys; you brought the bosses. Why wouldn't the Secretary of Commerce be there, or the U.S. Trade Negotiator?

AIZU: I didn't try that, because in my perception these big names and big guys don't produce much. They give us diplomatic, official talk, but we don't find out what's actually going on inside the administration. I love something more informal, casual and young. That's how we learn things.

JB: What did you learn?

AIZU: We had expected that big competition would emerge here out of the new communications act passed in Congress, and related FCC rulings. It seemed to us that the telephone companies were going to emerge as leaders of the communications revolution. But we left being very skeptical about the role of the telcos. They are not up to speed on the Internet, or, say, on Intranets. What they may be able to offer cheaper, faster pipes, and that's fine. But that's not where the action is.

The morning after we visited you in New York, we went to London and met with the Chairman of British Telcom, then to Bonn and met with the Chairman of the Deutsche Telekom. Those talks were boring. Really boring. Along with their U.S. counterparts, the European telcos are ready for competition but they are in the wrong arena. They are not really living in the digital age.

After Bonn I flew to Singapore for a twelve hours visit as a side trip, separate from the group. I had a question for myself: how I could explore setting up an operation in Kuala Lumpur to help develop a Multimedia Super Corridor and to have a major presence in not only Malaysia, but rather vast areas in Asia, from Mongolia to India, let's say. The visit was successful and I am about to move there.

JB: Does Malaysia really need your help?

AIZU: No. But I hope that main result of my efforts will be to help the other Asian countries, like Vietnam, or Laos, or Cambodia. These are very politically difficult countries, more so perhaps than Singapore. I hope to work with Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines Asia-wide. Looking at it from the Japanese side, my job is to help Japanese business to open these markets.

JB: Let's talk about the Internet and the World Wide Web. Is anyone in Japan asking what the end users want?

AIZU: How about Kareoke? Personal home pages are a global kareoke. Does Kareoke produce anything? I'm not too sure how popular the Kareokes are amongst intellectuals.

JB: So you come over here, visit the White House, and go back and write reports for the people who pay your rent. What do you tell them?

AIZU: I'm due to make the report a few months from now, but before that I will also go to Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines. What I meant is I really need to create a more global perspective than just the U.S., Europe and Japan, but also excluding Africa, and Latin America. The report will say that the information revolution, or digital revolution, is not driven by the large corporations, large money, large government. More important are tiny companies or the energy of highly creative individuals. To fully understand these dynamics you have to make yourself very close to such people, and you're working for the large corporations there is a lower chance of this happening.

I don't know how my corporate clients take this advice, but at least I was able to take executives of Toyota to the West Coast and showed them what's going on. I brought them to meet Howard Rheingold at his small start-up, Electric Minds, also to meet your Web team Kip Parent, Jake McGowan, and the group at Pantheon Interactive in Mountain View. I also brought them to Sun Microsystems, Cisco, and Netscape. To me, the latter have already become large giant companies. But two years ago Netscape had just barely started. We need to see and understand these kind of dynamics. Because these are the kind of companies that are creating the rules of the game.

The Japanese need to learn the skills to distinguish what kind of technology will take off and what kind of technology won't. For example, the people running the major software companies on the West Coast have networks of many personal friends who are also working in the technology areas; they know how to scan for information, for trends. Sending me with a delegation once a year, or something like that is totally inadequate.

Copyright ©1997 by Edge Foundation, Inc.

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