Whiplash: Joi Ito's nine principles of the Media Lab in book form
I first started writing about the remarkable Joi Ito in 2002, and over the decade and a half since, I've marvelled at his polymath abilities -- running international Creative Commons, starting and investing in remarkable tech businesses, getting Timothy Leary's ashes shot into space, backing Mondo 2000, using a sprawling Warcraft raiding guild to experiment with leadership and team structures, and now, running MIT's storied Media Lab -- and I've watched with excitement as he's distilled his seemingly impossible-to-characterize approach to life in a set of 9 compact principles, which he and Jeff Howe have turned into Whiplash, a voraciously readable, extremely exciting, and eminently sensible book.
Here are the nine principles:
1. Disobedience over compliance
2. Pull over push
3. Compasses over maps
4. Emergence over authority
5. Learning over education
6. Resilience over strength
7. Risk over safety
8. Practice over theory
9. Systems over Objects
Howe and Ito draw on material that you've probably read if you follow my reviews: think Dan Ariely's behavior economics books, Kevin Kelly's ideas about the adjacent possible, Steven Johnson's ideas about "emergence" -- not to mention the work of the people in our shared orbit, like Sean Bonner and his open source hardware radiation sensors; and Bunnie Huang's prolific, thoughtful, virtuoso hardware hacking.
But even if the material is familiar, the book will spark your imagination and inspire, because the organization of historical context, business and research anaecdotes and philosophical thought under these eight banners makes the subject spring to life.
We live in precarious, fraught and pregnant times. The future is impossible to guess at, our soundest institutions are proving to be brittle, our disorganized rabble are turning out to be powerful political forces. Ito has shown himself to be beautifully suited to the current times, able to leap from alligator to alligator all the way across the raging river, to reach distant banks that are seemingly impossible to attain.
Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future [Joi Ito and Jeff Howe/Grand Central]
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