Jul 24, 2012

Innovate Without Mercy


Source: Bloomberg

I had been in the market for a portable computer, and in fact I was ready to order 11-inch Macbook Air on July 21. It was small, light, fast, aesthetic, yet robust — a perfect laptop. It seemed like a no-brainer to make a decision.

I so excitedly went jogging in the morning with a plan to get a new beautiful laptop after the workout. On the road, an image of iPad popped up in mind. Given the good amount of time spent on it, I was familiar with most features. iPad would, I thought, be more portable and mostly do the same jobs. But, I knew it would be more productive to work on the laptop and I could make great use of the full-fledged computer. Consequently, there seemed to be no point in dismissing the ‘perfect’ laptop...

Exercise is always good for our mind. I got an epiphany without hitting my head. ‘Perfect, so I will take.’ This logic should have been opposite. ‘Perfect, so I won’t take.’ I had been around computers for a long time with reasonable understanding of what they were. Besides, Mac and others seemed to have reached the pinnacle in its category — laptop. So, why did I need to have more intimate time with little expectation of new insight?

In general, it’s just natural to go with the status quo — conservatism or inertia is after all the human nature. However, if someone wishes to somehow succeed, they must get out of the comfortable zone. True innovations have no respect for the status quo. Nevertheless, I should admit here that I’m not a very innovative person nor big risk-taker in most cases. But, with regard to technology, I believe its potentials to change the world in many ways and want to be a useful advocate.

As a result, I decided to take iPad because tablet computer is the field where one of tech & human boundaries has been pushed. I should far more deeply understand not just superficial features but meanings and potentials. There might be fundamental differences in human cognition between manipulating data with a mouse and “touching bits” with fingers. We might be slightly closer to raw computation so as to assimilate its massive capability. I’m looking forward to seeing what we’ve got, where we’re heading, and what the future will look like.

Although this story itself is, of course, a small little decision on the purchase of an iPad, same questions are everywhere in life. So, I’ve got to be used to self-disruption and prepared for much tougher calls awaiting me. Plus, as we age it’s more difficult to be disruptive, I reminded myself on the birthday. Be pliable, at least.

Having said that, it’s certain I’ll miss the laptop whenever I see someone using it while I’m taking out a bluetooth keyboard to write an essay on the iPad. Because that laptop is perfect. Hmm... sounds like breaking up with a nice girlfriend for some reason. It is indeed the same decision, isn’t it? We can’t have it all...

Jul 5, 2012

You Guys are Smelling yet Sweet


Source: wing seed

Carolyn Steel clearly explains the relationship between food and city and the problematic reality.
And this is the kind of city that's devoid of smell, devoid of mess, certainly devoid of people, because nobody would have dreamed of walking in such a landscape. In fact, what they did to get food was they got in their cars, drove to a box somewhere on the outskirts, came back with a week's worth of shopping, and wondered what on earth to do with it. And this really is the moment when our relationship, both with food and cities, changes completely.

Here we have food -- that used to be the center, the social core of the city -- at the periphery. It used to be a social event, buying and selling food. Now it's anonymous. We used to cook; now we just add water, or a little bit of an egg if you're making a cake or something. We don't smell food to see if it's okay to eat. We just read the back of a label on a packet. And we don't value food. We don't trust it. So instead of trusting it, we fear it. And instead of valuing it, we throw it away.
While I learned so many things from the farming days, what I loved most was smell. Each vegetable had quite distinctive smell. I remember I couldn’t help but take a bite of and finish a couple of cucumbers one day while I was picking them with hunger, because they were just appealing and irresistible. Then, I posted the story and my customers did the same.

I’m going to do research on horticultural local food systems in this semester, and make it a springboard for the future. I want to help to rebuild the fabric of communities, reinvent food exchange as social event, and reclaim relationships both with food and people by delivering their smell. Because I believe it it a good thing.

Carolyn Steel: How food shapes our cities

Jul 4, 2012

沈み行く船上で


source: Live Mall Search

今日はアメリカの独立記念日なので、USメディアはもちろんその話でいっぱいです。ニューヨークタイムズの社説の末尾に、
What should America look like? Who should we be to each other? ... It’s a holiday for rethinking who we are.
とあったので、僕も日本について考えてみました。以下は、僕なりの、叱咤・激励のための十把一絡げです。

60–代 不道徳
年金手帳を握りしめ自分たちの余生ぐらいはなし崩しでも安泰だろう。「俺たちはこの船をこさえたんだぞ。後はおまえらでなんとかせい。」

30–50代 無知・無責任
自分だけは身を削ってこしらえた蓄えで救命ボートが買えると信じている。「うちも余裕なくってぇ。それにしても利息低いわねぇ。」

20代 不憫
繊細で賢明なので誰も乗るわけはないが、だからといって他の船もない。「やる気シネぇ〜」

今の20代、そして子達にはただただ申し訳ない。加えて、リタイアした世代に多くを要求するのはこれまた不道徳だし、倫理観というのは別の観点から論ずべきだと思うので今回は割愛します。というわけで、僕も含め30–50代の無知・無責任についてです。

逆転サヨナラホームランは、ない。金融という観点に絞れば、沈むのは世界中見渡してもまともな金融関係者は疑っていないだろう。もちろん「いつ」などは明確には解りっこない(解るなら債券市場が成り立たない)けど、もう手遅れでしょ。出口を探す気のないデフレ、709兆円(GDP比219%!!!)借金、少子高齢化、人口減少、と全てが世界トップもしくはトップクラス。厭世観を競うオリンピックがあれば金メダル総なめです。

4人家族あたり、2,214万円の借金だよ!年次行事のように予算案が通過するたびに、テレビのニュースで歳出、歳入と新規国債のブロック並べてるのを見て「まぁ大変。この国大丈夫かしら。上の子来年から保育園だし貯金しとかなきゃ!」とか気合い入れてる場合じゃないよ。こんな借金返せる家庭がいったい何件あることか。そんなの無理。だったら素直にデフォルト(債務不履行)の危機は他人事でないはず。デフレ=超低金利だから?でも、インフレを心配している日銀に与野党そろって景気対策だっ!って圧力をかけてるんじゃないの?で、選挙のたびに皆「うむ、まずは景気対策だな」って票を入れたんでしょ?ほんのちょっと金利が上ブレするだけでもうおじゃんじゃん。国内の機関投資家(生保、特にゆうちょ)が95%も抱えてるから「帳消し」すれば済むの?そんな魔法がこのフラット化した時代でも何事も無かったかのようにしてくれると期待してると、道行く子供に変な目で見られるよ。

だから、皆で何とかしよう。避けられなくても、もちろん軽減はできるんだから。

蓄えのある人は、別の用途で「今」投資する。単に消費するんじゃなくて、預貯金以外に資本主義を支えられる用途に使う。気概と倫理観と先見性のある企業の株式に投資するというのが最も容易かつ手堅いでしょう。例えば、配当利回りの低めなファーストリテイリングだって1.14%(実績 7/4時点)だよ。もちろん将来の株価なんてわかりっこない。それでも、単純に紀伊国屋で四季報立ち読みして実績と予測をささっと調べてから、この月足見て(特に2008, 09年の金融危機のあたり)、5年10年後に株価が15,850円(7/4時点)より下回っていると思う人は少数派でしょう?最悪の状態で同水準だとしても、年利1%の利回りだよ?定期預金の利率なんて調べる気もしないよ。ほんっとに、まともな知性があれば5年定期預金なんてできないはず。

社会人として、金融の基礎の基礎を学ぶ気がないなら無責任だ。今の日本の状況を知った上で、今日の100万円の貯金が10, 20年後も100万円の価値があると心底信じているなら無知だ。救命ボートも純国産で仕上げられれば、100万円は100万円の価値だ!と言うなら(もし純国産が可能だとしても)、知ってる?岸に着いてもiPhoneも無ければ天然水で車は動かないんだよ。グローバル化は流行語大賞じゃなくって現実だよ。長時間首ひねって内向き過ぎたせいで、頭まで痛いんじゃない?

僕のように蓄えのない人は、お金以外で単純に考えて世の中がよくなりそうな分野で努力する。勉強でもボランティアでも何でもいいから、努力する。今時インターネットさえあれば何でも学べるよ。特に英語さえできれば、MITのプログラムだってただで受講できる。その英語だって、数千円使えば相当なレベルまで学べる。僕が留学準備のために独りで英語を学んだときは、ESL Podcast というサービスにひと月だけ登録し($60)過去の教材を全てダウンロードしてすぐ解約したので、当時で6000円くらいしか英語の勉強に使わなかった。(ちなみに当時僕のTOEICのスコアは、450くらい。)

僕は僕なりの責任をとるために、日本も含め世界にとって僕が最も有益であれるであろう分野で努力しています。だから、皆も貯金を止めて、努力してください。金融システムが崩壊して世界中に多大な迷惑をかけることになっても、それでも世界は善意で満ち満ちているので、ちゃんと努力していれば中国やEUやアメリカだって優しく支えてくれますよ、きっと。

Jul 2, 2012

Dark Apple or Evil Android


source: iDownloadBlog

First of all, I like both brands and philosophies behind them. As far as I know, Google is the best tech company founded during the last 15 years; highly ethical, forward-looking and technically advanced. At the same time, I’ve been a dyed-in-the-wool Mac & iPhone user. So, I can't tell in general which one is more evil; rather, this post is shedding light on just one aspect but yet vitally important in this era – openness.

...After finishing the introduction above, it took me unexpectedly long time to go ahead. When I started to work on this topic, I took things easy by thinking:
Google as a proponent of openness is being in trouble with ‘walled garden’ trends promoted by Apple joined by Facebook. With regard to the freedom of the Web, Google is good Apple is bad.
Although my overall simplified argument is still held in this statement, it turns out the discussion over the Web openness has a number of layers such as censorship, demands for curated information, or impacts on future software innovation. To follow up the last post, the single focus is placed on the openness for networked intelligence.

It appears that Android keeps infringing Apple’s patents. Reflecting on this, there’s a story from Steve Jobs biography; he once said “I'm willing to go thermonuclear war” against Google. Over the last four years, I often wondered how come Google got away with it if the myriad patents were registered. It was really bad impression on Google, to be honest. However, during the same period, Apple itself seemed to deliberately violate the unwritten rule of the Internet. That’s openness.

As you know, the world is increasingly flooded with iPhone apps. With Internet access, they bring tons of goodies to our life. They are cheap yet handy or just fun! So, basically it's good. There is, however, one not-so-fun issue around, which is actually very serious. We cannot search for the information generated by those apps despite online activities.

Activities on apps are as rich as what we do on the web such as discussing, blogging, gaming, sharing videos & photos, etc. Besides, some apps are far more dynamic and interactive; thus, data produced through them may have higher or different values. There's no point of not utilizing such data in order to reach unprecedented heights in any intellectual efforts. Imagine, individual data from medical apps can be combined with professional knowledge for new scientific discoveries. What about educational apps or games, which can contribute rich human cognitive data to the development of neuroscience or education.

I love Apple’s sensibly and aesthetically simplified products & services. But, Apple is not privileged to leave behind such an externality in the name of consumer’s well-being. And I doubt it would considerably hamper the current level of service even if Apple opens up access to the data in numerous Apps.

In addition, we consumers shouldn't give opportunities for excuse. It’s understandable that some people are anxious about their privacy that is constantly scrutinized by our phones. But, at the same time, most of us don’t know how to make good use of them. Instead of hoarding them like assets, why not under the appropriate conditions give them away to someone capable in the interests of human being?

As far as openness is concerned, I cannot help but champion Google’s position and wish Apple would be more respectful to the ongoing evolution. We’re in the midst of networked intelligence age in which:
“Internet gives us to access not just to information but to the intelligence”