We started our Future-C conference this week with a warmup discussion at the Ford Foundation in midtown Manhattan. Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, and journalist Jeff Howe, presented their book Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future.
As the director of the MIT Media Lab and a director on the board of the New York Times, Joi Ito as always been one of the top thinkers when it comes to current developments and implications for the future. In the book, written together with Jeff Howe, the duo argue that in an increasingly unpredictable environment we have to approach life in a different way than we did in the past. They express this difference in a set of new principles for the future—a sort of “new operating system.” These principles came about through discussions with the MIT Media Lab faculty about the ways of working at the lab. Prior to the faculty discussion Ito and Howe conducted numerous interviews with organizations that all had to make sense of an increasingly complex environment in order to survive.
What sets the book apart is not the description of what is currently going on in the world, but rather the fact that it provides guidance on what you should do about it—the survival guide aspect. “We are generally optimistic about the future, but on the East Coast we feel it is a little more complicated. It is a counterbalance to what is going on in Palo Alto,” Ito said.
The discussion at the Ford Foundation soon turned towards the “disobedience principle” and the role of the press in relation to the new administration. “We suggest that people question more,” Howe said. However, the press is not in a good state. It is weak on attention span, trust, and a business perspective, the authors argued. Thus, strong journalism and journalists need more resources to produce great journalism. “I used to be a hard-core blogger against the mainstream media. But it turns out that if you don’t have legal and physical protection as well as pay check it’s actually hard. We haven’t found a replacement yet,” Ito said. At the same time, the reporting in recent weeks has been very strong. “Anyone in the space of justice is fired up right now— this always happens when you face a difficult time ,” Ito said.