A View from John Maeda

It's Getting Fuzzy

Today I was happily introduced to the Japanese concept of iki–which seems to describe my oddly fuzzy feeling.

  • October 17, 2007

I had an interesting conversation at the Media Lab today with visiting researcher Nozomi Kakiuchi, from Toshiba. Recently, I’ve been feeling that the technology world needs to move away from the exact and numerically precise, and instead toward a more vague and fuzzy language of expression.

Nozomi and I chatted about the strange “fuzzy logic” fad in Japan of the early 1990s, when it was not uncommon to see a “fuzzy logic vacuum cleaner” or a “fuzzy logic rice cooker” on sale in the Akihabara electronics district of Tokyo. The premise is quite simple: instead of encoding values as numbers, ranges of numbers are tagged as having membership association with a word. Words are such great containers of knowledge.

Nozomi suggested that our conversation was essentially about iki (pronounced “ee-kee”). It’s something to do with inexactness and openness but all in all “the right fit” to a complex issue. Although it’s difficult to comprehend, I totally got it. I guess iki is iki too.

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