CM 073: Joi Ito on Navigating Our Faster Future

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Blog Post - ItoHow can we stay on top of changes that are not only getting faster, but more complex?

We need strategies to take advantage of breakthroughs in fields as diverse as data mining, artificial intelligence and machine learning, since they are changing the ways we work, research, and live. To navigate this change, Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab and author of Whiplash, shares insights from research at the Lab and offers us nine strategies for surviving our faster future.

In this interview, he does a deep dive on creative problem solving, teams, diversity, and learning. He talks about:

  • How the Media Lab got started and the current focus of its work
  • The importance of the white space between and beyond disciplines
  • How the Media Lab has shifted from operating as a container to operating as a node
  • How neuroscientist Ed Boyden embodies the multi-disciplinary approach of the Lab
  • How pull over push problem solving is about finding and using the resources you need when you need them
  • How the 2011 Japanese earthquake became a focal point for pull over push problem solving
  • The power of diverse teams – and diverse tools – for creative problem solving
  • The sweet spot of disagreement and diversity among productive teams
  • When it comes to diversity, why we need to ask, are we looking to the other or just another?
  • How innovative cybersecurity folks are designing systems that assume failure rather than seeking to avoid it and how this is about resilience over strength
  • Why we need to think about the interaction among objects – the systems in which they operate – in order to innovate for greater success
  • The role nuance and complexity play in thinking about open source
  • How machine learning and artificial intelligence are impacting fields like cryptocurrency and genetic engineering
  • The fact that policies and regulations are behind where machine learning and artificial intelligence are taking us
  • Why lawyers need to learn more about tech and scientists need to learn more about ethical and legal issues
  • Kevin Esvelt and his work at the Media Lab in genetic engineering and his focus on responsible ways of deploying these tools in conjunction with everyday citizens
  • Why we cannot wait on ethicists and policymakers but must get scientists on board instead
  • How our education system is the opposite of what robots and artificial intelligence are ensuring we need when it comes to creativity and innovation
  • Why the Media Lab emphasizes the 4Ps of play, passion, projects, and peers and how that differs markedly from what U.S. schools are about
  • Why our education system and our schools need to be as dynamic and open to change as the fields that will have the greatest impact on us and them
  • How we might look to the ed system in Finland regarding assessment and project-based learning
  • The value of the Montessori approach
  • The value of looking at countries like India and others where they are experimenting with schools and learning
  • The power of informal, interest-driven learning
  • Why we should be spending more time on getting people engaged in their learning
  • Why he believes learning is a social and cultural problem, not a tech problem, and why we need to create a culture of learning
  • How he thought programming and coding would be more about mindset and creativity than employment
  • Why he believes we need to nudge human-machine interactions in the right direction

Links to Topics Mentioned in this Podcast


MIT Media Lab

Jerome Wiesner

Nicholas Negroponte

Marvin Minsky

Seymour Papert

Muriel Cooper

John Seely Brown

Ed Boyden


Just-in-time manufacturing

The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

Scott E. Page

Donella Meadows

Reid Hoffman

Kevin Esvelt and Rewriting the Code of Life


Mizuko Ito (Mimi Ito) and Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out

If you enjoy the podcast, please rate and review it on iTunes – your ratings make all the difference. For automatic delivery of new episodes, be sure to subscribe. As always, thanks for listening!

Thank you to Emmy-award-winning Creative Director Vanida Vae for designing the Curious Minds logo, and thank you to Rob Mancabelli for all of his production expertise!



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  1. Rufina on February 27, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Great conversation and podcast, Gayle!

  2. Gayle on February 27, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    Thanks so much, Rufina!

  3. […] intelligence and machine learning are taking over jobs that don’t require as much creativity,” said Joi Ito, MIT Media Lab. That’s why he advocates for the 4Ps: projects, peers, passion and play. “We […]