Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sustainable design.

Since coming to Milan for Milano Salone del Mobile a couple of days ago, I have been thinking about design from time to time.

I am aware that people nowadays talk about "sustainable design".

It is certainly a good idea to make a design sustainable, so that too much burden would not be put on the earth's environment, and in order that human resources would develop without fears of distortions or coercions. At the same time, sustainability is a difficult concept to grasp and/or materialize.

Walking through the streets in Milan, I realized afresh that most of the things I saw around me were actually related to design in some sense. After all, every artifact in an urban environment was designed by people at some stage. Some of the things might now be manufactured and installed without thinking too much about the origins, but they were designed by people in the first place, anyway.

The call for more sustainable design comes from the realization that human activities have done much damage to the earth's environment. This is certainly a salient point, but there seem to be some serious theoretical and practical issues.

For example, things in nature, whether biological or otherwise, are mutually entered and eroded, where no definite boundaries are defined. On the other hand, most artificial designs are based on a principle of exclusion. Exclusion is the very foundation of the identity of things designed, manufactured and maintained, and yet is the ultimate reason for the unsustainable feature of artificial designs.

An urban environment, of which Milan is an pristine example, is based on the principle of exclusion. An urban space is composed of concrete, glass, and steel, into which biological entities other than humans are not allowed. Nowadays, people put greens on the walls and roofs, aimed at the ostensible appearance of being environmentally friendly. But at the core, the urban space remains largely and jealously exclusive to any forces of nature which might work towards its corrosion.

I wonder how you can make any design sustainable in essence, without addressing this exclusion issue.

(Maybe I will come back to this issue later)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz

The comparison between Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz is interesting.
Both candidates make remarks, which are, by today's standards of universal values and human rights, very questionable, to put it mildly.

However, when Mr. Trump makes remarks, for example about walls and immigration, it sounds as if he does not really mean it. It is as if he is just acting like a macho, in the great reality TV show that is the US Presidential election.

On the other hand, when Mr. Cruz says something, it appears as if he is really meaning it. Which is, after all, what earnest Presidential candidates are supposed to do. However, in this case, it makes Mr. Cruz even more scary.

There is another interesting difference between Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz. When Mr. Trump delivers judgment, he seems to be doing so from his own experiences and value systems. It is an individualistic act. When Mr. Cruz says something, on the other hand, he seems to be referring to supposedly important communal values.

In sum, Mr. Cruz seems to be of a more "deep" case than Mr. Trump, especially because the candidate apparently lacks a metacognition of what he is doing.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

The tyranny of time.

I sometimes feel that the most powerful in this world is time.
People might talk about Presidents and Prime ministers as examples of the apotheosis of power, but at the end of the day nobody can beat time.

I was a child once, and I sometimes look back on how I used to feel, see the world around me through a lens of enchantment. The child that I was is no longer here. I am a different person, although  a fragile belief based on my memory system would like to rely on the continuity of me from my childhood to the present day, as an assumption.

The fact that the ambience of times past would never return is the most dramatic constituent element of the world  we live in. Memory and records are but insufficient solaces for life when faced with the utmost brutality of the passage of time.

I conclude that time is the only tyrant in this world. Hope is a reaction to the brutality of time with which we soldier on. Contemporary physics has nothing to do with this greatest mystery. In a sense, science has done nothing towards softening the blows of temporality.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Reaction rather than action.

You observe some phenomena in the world which seem to be against the universal values of human rights and enlightenment. Some people fear where the world is going to. I think it is important to realize that these are reactions rather than actions.

The trend of globalization is inevitable. People want to be happy in that world. Respect of individual freedom is going to win after all. Everything else is just a bit of irrelevant details.

Events you see here and there in the world are just reactions to the inevitable trend of globalization and the spread of universal values. If you see things in this context, maybe you can breathe easier, with some grains of salt in your hand. The future is here to stay after all.

It this simplistic optimism?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The 2016 US Presidential election. Whom would you vote for?

So, here are the colorful cat form : - ).

Excuse my drawing.

I just thought viewing these individuals in a feline context would give us some insights...but maybe I was mistaken. 

But seriously, whom would you vote for?

I am glad I am not an American citizen, as deciding whom to vote for would have given me a lot of headache this year...

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Who is to judge fairness?

In Japan, there is a series of controversial dialogues going on between the government and the media, especially the terrestrial television stations.
The government says that the tv news coverages need to be fair and balanced.

Fair enough. But who is to decide?

Generally speaking, I think it is a bad idea for the government to decide what is fair and what is not.
We need a third party to make a fair judgment on fair reporting.

It comes as a surprise that this simple organizational wisdom does not cross the minds of those in the power.

It puzzles me.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The oppressor is oppressed.

It is only human nature to seek freedom. In order to substantiate one’s freedom, one needs to be educated. Without learning, it is impossible to know what opportunities are out there. Providing quality education should thus be the foundation of any civilized society.

It is then enigmatic why some people would try to suppress opportunities for education, the very basis of an open and dynamic life. I think the key is to be found in the fact that those oppressed often try to oppress others in turn, rather than liberate themselves. Moreover, those who oppress others without any good reason (was there ever a “good” reason for oppression?) often take criticisms from outside in a partisan context, rather than allowing themselves to be inspired by the words of good intentions.

It seems to me that the only way to improve the difficult situations is to convey the bright ideas, without necessarily criticizing those who is in the business of oppression. We need to acknowledge that those who oppress are actually oppressed themselves. The only logical way to liberate the oppressed is by liberating the oppressors themselves.

All too often, we apply the north wind approach. There is not enough sun. Pointing of fingers and keeping the records are sometimes necessary, but liberating people should be more fun and joyous. Smile on the face is often the telltale sign of liberation.

Of course I am talking here about the wonderful works of Ms. Malala Yousafzai. It was wonderful that a small girl (even now only 17) had the courage to stand up to the oppression.  She deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, even though her work (and her own education perhaps) is far from over.  Malala is already a great teacher to the world. She taught us what an individual could do in this complex modern world if he or she had courage and a vision.

Through the news, we see the inner light emanating from her face, which, I sincerely hope, would shine even on the oppressors. I wish that the oppressors (and the cynics among us too, perhaps) would see their own image in the light, and turn away from the dark, vicious circle.

Friday, September 19, 2014

More fascinating than the results of the Scottish Independence Referendum.

With the final counts of the Scottish Independence Referendum expected within the next few hours, it is only human to anticipate the results with excitement. The U.K. betting houses have been collecting tens of thousands “votes” before the real votes were cast. The developing drama full of uncertainties in the Scottish (and U.K.) destiny is certainly a great attention grabber.

The real fascination, however, resides in the very fact that this referendum is taking place at all. The historic Edinburgh Agreement (Agreement between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government on a referendum on independence for Scotland) signed by David Cameron, Michael Moore, Alex Salmond, and Nicola Sturgeon on 15th October 2012 is a Nobel Peace Prize material in retrospect. 

The very fact that a sovereign state can take the devolution process to such an extreme so that a part of the union would be allowed to go its own way, in a more or less peaceful manner (one would hope), provided the results of the referendum is a yes, shows how mature the U.K. democracy has become. Such would not be the case in many parts of the world, where similar issues have been raised.

It is also very interesting how the wording of the referendum has been discussed and prepared. The originally proposed question  "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?" has been found leading, and it has been changed to "Should Scotland be an independent country?" The process of the Electoral Commission comparing various wordings of the referendum question and deciding on the most neutral concise one is a case of applied cognitive science.

Thus, although the results of the votes would be certainly exciting, more interesting and fascinating perhaps is the process leading to the referendum. 

I would like to propose a toast to the people concerned, even before the results come in, for having come all the way to this historic vote. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Nation States

To me, it seems apparent that the nation states are approaching the end of their "good before" period. The NSA scandal in the United States is just the tip of a huge iceberg. 

How could democratically formed governments be such monsters? Because they are just showing their true nature. Why do we need nuclear arsenal at all? The MAD (mutually assured destruction) strategy is trivially "mad", as it becomes increasingly difficult to control nuclear weapons in a reliable way (just think of the "rogue" states and potential nuclear terrorists).

For me, it seems increasingly difficult to justify the brutality (symbolized in a newly coined word "privicide") of nation states, just in the name of social contract theories. Nay, I am not advocating anarchy. That would be too trivial. I am just pointing out that nation states are approaching the infamous status of "religion" (sensu Richard Dawkins) nowadays.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sports drinks.

I must confess I never really liked sports drinks. I know they are isotonic and contain electrolytes, but plain water usually seems to be good enough for me.
This morning I made an exception. I was running and it was hot. I felt that I sweated a bit more than usual. I happened to have some coins in my running shorts pocket, so I bought a bottle of Aquarius, manufactured by Coca-Cola.

Well, I am not too sure about the benefit. I suspect there might be some “threshold” of activity above which sports drinks might be beneficial. I have run three full marathons, and after these races sports drinks did seem desirable. For mild exercises, I am still not convinced.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

I am a mixture of things.

It was sometime ago when I learned the convenient word “broadcaster”. Yes, I am actually one.

My career became complex when I agreed to host the Professionals program of NHK in 2006. Since then, I have been a mixture of things. I am a brain scientist, writer, and broadcaster.

While I make other plans, I still pursue the holy grail of qualia. I believe the prevalent statistical approaches (all of them) to qualia do not lead to a solution. I am the odd one out.

Meanwhile, I am hosting a program on design and arts with my co-host Asami Kiyokawa. I enjoy the studio shootings, in which I interview creative people from various walks of life.

That’s me. I am a mixture of things.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

The Yuai Council.

Tensions in East Asia are rising. There are territorial disputes between Japan, China, and Korea. North Korea extolls its ill-advised nuclear program. This situation is unfortunate, as no nation or region in the global era can thrive on nationalism and aggression.

In order to promote an atmosphere of peaceful collaborations within the region, I have started, with the founding members of about twenty committed individuals, some humble efforts to research and execute what we can do for the future of East Asia and beyond. We are the members of Yuai Council ( “Yuai” (Japanese word for fraternity) is inspired by the writings of Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, regarded by many as the father of European Union.

The mentor of the Yuai Council is Dr. Yukio Hatoyama, a former prime minister of Japan. Dr. Hatoyama has been pursuing the spirit of Yuai throughout his political career.

The founding members are mainly in the 20s and 30s, and very eager to promote a spirit of friendship in the East Asian region through theoretical and practical research and activities.

If you are interested in the Yuai Council, please contact Ken Mogi at @kenmogi (twitter), or e-mail (kenmogi @ qualia-manifesto. com, please delate space).

Photo: Ken Mogi with former prime minister Dr. Yukio Hatoyama, at a public session in Tokyo, January 2013

Friday, May 03, 2013

The joy of being a native speaker.

The joy of being a native speaker of a language is that you can play with it in an endless pleasure hunting. You can make stupid puns, create new expressions on the spot, and find hidden connections. You can tickle people with what you say.

With a second language it is difficult to do so, although you could certainly try. English is my second language, which I started to learn when I was 12. Thus, it is difficult to tickle people with what I  say or write in the language of Mr. Shakespeare. I hope I can make people ticklish with what I say someday, not through my clumsiness, failure, or misery, but as a fair result of my bold attempt to tickle people on the verbal front in my second language. 

Thursday, May 02, 2013

You can go to sleep but the quality of sleep changes.

For the last 5 years or so I have been watching my favorite British comedy just before going to sleep. Father Ted, for example. The theory was that if you were exposed to something new before sleep, you would be excited. I was afraid that I would then be unable to sleep.

About one month ago, I started to experiment. I read new books, listened to new audio, watched new video. And presto! I could actually sleep, usually after 5 minutes or so (yes, I AM a very sleepy person by nature, especially after a drink or two). I got excited for sure, but sleepiness usually had a control over me. I would be overcome, and lose my consciousness straightaway after closing my MacBook air (or often even before closing the lid, followed by battery outage).

However I noticed something interesting. The quality of my sleep seems to change. I have dreams more often, and there seems to be this vivid sensation all the time. I do not have sufficient data or control to claim that this is due to the exposure to new information before sleep. Even so, I feel like a child.