The Internet is a philosophy to Media Lab director Joi Ito. “It’s the freedom to connect, the freedom to hack and the freedom to innovate,” he said, and is something everyone should be given open access to. To the former CEO of Creative Commons — where he is now board chair — arguments over SOPA are irrational, and it’s only a matter of time until open access begins to influence the way we do public policy and international relations.
In a fireside chat with Larry Weber, chairman and founder of W2 Group, Inc., Ito spoke on the benefits of living in Boston, saying it’s here where entrepreneurs actually take the risk of opening things up and trying new things. In Silicon Valley, “where they tend to hunt in packs,” no one would start experimenting with open hardware, a trend that Ito hopes we’ll soon start to see.
“It’s one of the blind spots they have,” Ito said, referring to Silicon Valley, a region he thinks could do a better job at thinking globally. “Have you ever tried to order food in Palo Alto?” Ito asked. “There’s no culture there.”
On the East Coast, Ito pointed out we’re closer to regulators and big companies, who have even bigger ideas and will quickly begin to acquire more and more small businesses.
Ito hopes to bring more businesses into the Media Lab, which he became the director of last fall. “We may be selling ourselves for too cheap,” Ito said, who admitted he’s considered raising the price of admission. Although the lowest membership costs $200,000, companies are granted “a super advanced research team all for the price of one [engineer].”
Compared to today’s hub-and-spoke model where people visit the Media Lab with clipboards in hand, examine the 350 projects and then leave without contributing, but instead bring those ideas back to their companies, Ito would like to make the Media Lab more of a platform. Instead, he’d like to see 10 companies with “creativity and wisdom” come together to form an ecosystem.
“We want to create a network of companies,” Ito said. “We want to host a conversation.”
Traveling between Boston, Dubai and Tokyo, Ito admitted a normal day for him is spent adjusting to whatever time zone he’s in, but this talk, presented by MITX, will only be one of the many, since Ito said he intends on being in Boston more frequently.
Before looking to the audience for questions, Weber did play a fun, little game with Ito, asking him to rattle off the first one or two sentences that came to mind when given the name of a certain brand. Here were his responses —
Amazon: One of the few companies that ended up doing what they intended to do.
Apple: One of the few companies surviving as a closed system.
IBM: Big and blue.
HP: I’m not sure what to say, but a lot of smart people.
LinkedIn: Interesting monopoly, with one of the few ethical people I know [speaking of Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn] in control.
Twitter: Tons of potential, but interested where it’s going.
Oracle: Do people still use Oracle?
MIT: Tons of potential, but needs a kick in the butt.
Stanford: We have a lot to learn from Stanford.