Skip to Content
Uncategorized

EmTech: Some Wisdom from Joi Ito

The head of MIT’s Media Lab extols the benefits of being a “now-ist.”
October 25, 2012

On stage at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference this morning, MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito was asked a great question from a member of the audience: what will be the three most important technological trends in the next few years?

Ito had an even better answer: essentially, today’s trends don’t matter.

“I’m going to give you a nonanswer,” Ito said. “I don’t really believe in futurists. I don’t believe in the ability of people to predict the future that well. We usually get it wrong.”

Earlier in his discussion on stage with Jason Pontin, Ito had said that because the Internet and computing have made it much easier for small startups to create innovative products and services, the world has gotten more complex. With more innovation happening at “the edges,” out of the control of large institutions, life is less predictable. So the audience member’s question gave Ito a chance to explain how this phenomenon affects his worldview.

“I’m a now-ist,” he said.” Now-ists “don’t think about trends. We think about being resilient and being prepared for anything.” As an example, he cited last year’s massive earthquake and nuclear disaster in his native Japan, which struck while he was in Cambridge interviewing for the Media Lab job. In the aftermath of the quake, “everyone with a plan failed,” Ito observed. Meanwhile, using Twitter and other online connections, Ito was able to quickly organize a response to the nuclear crisis: a volunteer operation that coordinated Geiger counter readings from volunteers all over Japan.

The lesson: be agile and be willing to try new things, even if it means discarding the way things have always been done before.

“I think that the most interesting things that are going to happen in the next couple of years,” he said, “are things that we don’t know.”

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Uber Autonomous Vehicles parked in a lot
Uber Autonomous Vehicles parked in a lot

It will soon be easy for self-driving cars to hide in plain sight. We shouldn’t let them.

If they ever hit our roads for real, other drivers need to know exactly what they are.

stock art of market data
stock art of market data

Maximize business value with data-driven strategies

Every organization is now collecting data, but few are truly data driven. Here are five ways data can transform your business.

Cryptocurrency fuels new business opportunities

As adoption of digital assets accelerates, companies are investing in innovative products and services.

Mifiprex pill
Mifiprex pill

Where to get abortion pills and how to use them

New US restrictions could turn abortion into do-it-yourself medicine, but there might be legal risks.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.