Fans urge ICANN celebrity blogger to keep on blogging

Ode to Joi


Joichi Ito, the American businessman who after a kind of immaculate conception hatched forth as a pre-formed internet celebrity a couple of years ago, is having a crisis.

Ito's gauche weblog has built up a cult following amongst hopeful software authors, lonely maternal housewives, out of luck marketing consultants, and excitable South American computer enthusiasts. His reports from the high table of the internet's High Society have enthralled an audience that runs well into three figures, and will keep sociologists busy for years to come. "He doesn't need employees; he has the posse," burbled one typical piece of ass-kissing published in Fast Company magazine.

But now Ito now wonders if the public diary format of the weblog is too restrictive for his talents as venture capitalist, tireless networker and ICANN board member.

Soon after he blogged this a coterie of blog fans urged him to keep his fingers firmly welded to the keyboard. The blog must go on, they insisted.

One fan begged, "please do continue to post silly-opinionated-not-well-thought through stuff. i for one love your blog for just that reason".

"Don't let the bastards install a cop-chip in your head," was the rather bizarre advice from someone called Cory Doctorow.

Quite normal: a Joi Ito fan

Having got to know Ito personally we're in a privileged position. For a start, the private Ito is an engaging fellow who bears only a passing resemblance to the naif who writes the Joi Ito weblog. Far from being the "Help - I can't speak Engrish so well!" character that prickles the maternal instincts of menopausal Coffee Klatch Mums across the web - the real Ito is a funny, smart and slick American businessman.

He asks the right questions - a rarity amongst his cult following. Maybe we just recognize a cynic when we see one, but Ito is clearly a survivor.

So what's behind his deeper malaise?

"Emergence is our religion," Ito once told your reporter with a knowing wink, after a few beers. Over at life-enhancement.com, Ito recently enthused about how "a sort of intelligence will form just by connecting everyone together."

It's the old 1980s AI rhetoric, updated for the TCP/IP age.

But society isn't a computer network, and computer networks are a lousy metaphor for society. Systems thinking once excited a lot of people because it appeared to offer a way out of the over-specialization of the sciences. That may still be so, but it's a mistake to believe it can offer a substitute for a religion. Compared to the rich metaphysical belief system offered by a real religion, faith in computer networks invariably leads to disappointment, and from there, it's a short step to a fatalism and in some cases, a very cynical brand of misanthropy.

(When "getting everyone connected" is the goal, and a third to a half of the world stubbornly refuses to "get connected", the techno utopian invariably blames the people, not the computer).

So this kind of thinking attracts a lot of flakes, and it also produces rather flakey computer systems, which is where we begin to take an interest. If technology is going to benefit society it has to be much, much better than it is now. If it isn't, the results could be catastrophic.

So you don't need to be a paid-up God-botherer to see the shortcomings of this faith. The collected works of the Brothers Grimm - or perhaps even Captain WE Johns - offer a more coherent and useful framework.

And the techno-utopians have great plans for us, if only the world would listen - and the call to arms wasn't so comically bathetic -

"I think the recent back and forth including Paul Boutin's defense of Andrew shows that we're hitting a nerve, but that we probably should show some progress soon," Ito once wrote in a mailing to the "Emergent Democracy" mailing list, shortly before "Emergent Democracy" sank out of sight for good.

"Also, can someone send me the link to the Wiki? I moved machines and lost my bookmarks."

Would you buy a used PC, let alone a New Model Democracy, from these people?

Perhaps if Joichi could leave his career considerations aside for a moment, and he could make a lasting impact by blogging how ICANN really works from the inside. Or perhaps he doesn't need an online identity anymore, and he'll vanish from the "blogosphere" as rapidly as he arrived, leaving only trackbacks behind, as a kind of cybernetic placenta. We rather hope not, because in contrast to the gallery of grotesques that appears daily on his "Random Faceroll" - self-selected to be thin-skinned, humorless and outright creepy - he's been quite entertaining. ®

Related stories

The RoTM™
Vaulting into a Rapturous techno-future with Jaron Lanier
US netizens: white, wealthy and full of it - shock!
Google founder dreams of Google implant in your brain
Digital memories: cheap to take, cheaper to lose
Anti-war slogan coined, repurposed and Googlewashed in 42 days


Other stories you might like

  • DuckDuckGo tries to explain why its browsers won't block some Microsoft web trackers
    Meanwhile, Tails 5.0 users told to stop what they're doing over Firefox flaw

    DuckDuckGo promises privacy to users of its Android, iOS browsers, and macOS browsers – yet it allows certain data to flow from third-party websites to Microsoft-owned services.

    Security researcher Zach Edwards recently conducted an audit of DuckDuckGo's mobile browsers and found that, contrary to expectations, they do not block Meta's Workplace domain, for example, from sending information to Microsoft's Bing and LinkedIn domains.

    Specifically, DuckDuckGo's software didn't stop Microsoft's trackers on the Workplace page from blabbing information about the user to Bing and LinkedIn for tailored advertising purposes. Other trackers, such as Google's, are blocked.

    Continue reading
  • Despite 'key' partnership with AWS, Meta taps up Microsoft Azure for AI work
    Someone got Zuck'd

    Meta’s AI business unit set up shop in Microsoft Azure this week and announced a strategic partnership it says will advance PyTorch development on the public cloud.

    The deal [PDF] will see Mark Zuckerberg’s umbrella company deploy machine-learning workloads on thousands of Nvidia GPUs running in Azure. While a win for Microsoft, the partnership calls in to question just how strong Meta’s commitment to Amazon Web Services (AWS) really is.

    Back in those long-gone days of December, Meta named AWS as its “key long-term strategic cloud provider." As part of that, Meta promised that if it bought any companies that used AWS, it would continue to support their use of Amazon's cloud, rather than force them off into its own private datacenters. The pact also included a vow to expand Meta’s consumption of Amazon’s cloud-based compute, storage, database, and security services.

    Continue reading
  • Atos pushes out HPC cloud services based on Nimbix tech
    Moore's Law got you down? Throw everything at the problem! Quantum, AI, cloud...

    IT services biz Atos has introduced a suite of cloud-based high-performance computing (HPC) services, based around technology gained from its purchase of cloud provider Nimbix last year.

    The Nimbix Supercomputing Suite is described by Atos as a set of flexible and secure HPC solutions available as a service. It includes access to HPC, AI, and quantum computing resources, according to the services company.

    In addition to the existing Nimbix HPC products, the updated portfolio includes a new federated supercomputing-as-a-service platform and a dedicated bare-metal service based on Atos BullSequana supercomputer hardware.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022