Wondering, wandering, and making sense of the world.


Playing in the world championship for Ultimate Frisbee (I’m not kidding)

The center field, not all fields are like this (there are 17 fields)

I am currently in Royan, France for the World Championship of Beach Ultimate (WCBU), a biennial event that brings the best Ultimate players in the world… or something like that.

“Wait, Sushi, you’re saying that you’re on the Japanese national team?”

Yes. I am playing on the Japanese Mixed Masters team. I am actually representing my country in SPORTS!

“What the heck is that?”

Ultimate is normally played in three divisions, Open (anyone can play which means almost all guys), Women, and Mixed where both genders play on one team at the same time (the only team sport to do this that I know of).

“And Masters?”

That’s the division where you have to be over 33 in order to play.

Parade around town before the opening ceremony

“… Is it actually competitive?”

Depends… The best players almost always play on the Open or Women’s team, not Mixed, and older people who can still keep up with the young ones play in the regular division, not Masters. Besides Grandmasters (where you have to be older than… I dunno, Bon Jovi?), Mixed Masters is the easiest division to play in, but it’s still very competitive with some very over-the-hill experienced players taking part.

“Did you even try out?”

Not at all. In fact, we barely had enough people to put together a team. Like many Mixed teams, we had a hard time finding enough girls, and I even contacted friends in different countries asking if there was a player that would be eligible. Definitely not how you would imagine a national team being put together. We also have eleven players, much less than the fourteen or fifteen that most teams are bringing.

“I’m guessing you have no chance of winning?”

The Europeans have an advantage since it’s much easier for them to get to France both in cost and time, and they have many, many more vacation days than us Japanese folks. In fact, it’s really hard for Japanese people to take so much time off and attend a tournament like this. This isn’t the best Mixed Masters team that Japan can field (I definitely won’t be on that team), and I don’t think we’ll be winning too many games, but we’ll definitely be having fun. How can you go wrong being on the beach in France after all?

“That’s true, it does sound like a good excuse to be on the beach.”

Well, we are going to be running around on the beach, not just hanging out… but yes, it’s a nice time off from the crazy 10 city, 16 flight, 27 day work trip that I just finished. It will also be cool to catch up with old friends from around Europe who are at the tournament. I already met some and I’m so happy they didn’t forget me!

“Will the results be online?”

Yes. You can check them out at and they even have personal stats at (I’ve asked them to not use my real real name, but I can’t seem to get this changed). Furthermore, one of our games will be broadcasted online on day 4, this Wednesday!

The game is at 14:50 France time which is 05:50 in California and 21:50 in Japan (Okay, I don’t expect any of my American friends to be watching). The link for the livestream is:

I think you have to sign up for a one month free trial to access this stream. If you just want to check out what beach ultimate looks like, the games on field 1 is available without any extra steps at:

Some girl wanted to take a picture with us during the parade

“Okay, this look fun, how do I start playing?”

Are you in Kyoto or Osaka? Perfect! Come join us for one of our practices. Locations and details are on our website at and please like our Facebook page while at it:鴨川ビックルズ.

Not in Kyoto or Osaka? Just Google your hometown and Ultimate Frisbee and you should find something. In big cities in countries where Ultimate is popular, there should be regular pickup games where you can just show up and start playing. In smaller cities or places where Ultimate isn’t so common, you’ll probably find a team nearby that you could join, and most teams are very open to beginners (how else would you start?).

“Any last words?”

Yes. Ever heard of Currier Islands? No? Check out their Wikipedia page. It’s the most Ultimate thing in the history of Ultimate. I swear you won’t be disappointed.

Also, so many thanks to my teammates who made this possible, especially the captains. I never, ever imagined I would be playing on a NATIONAL team for Ultimate.


Around the wold in 27 days

I am currently in the middle of a 27-day, 10-stop business trip that circles the planet westward, starting from Japan, stopping over in China, going all over Europe, visiting Silicon Valley, and ending in Japan again (via China).

I had to make nine separate bookings covering sixteen flights (one got added during the trip), and I decided to add all the distances between the cities using:

Osaka – Shanghai 1,364.43km
Shanghai – Helsinki 7,384.47km
Helsinki – Frankfurt 1,516.29km
Frankfurt – Bologna 656.53km
Bologna – Copenhagen 1,247.71km
Copenhagen – Trondheim – Oslo 1263.67km
(Flight made it to Trondheim but couldn’t land and had to pull back to Oslo where I had to stay the night)
Oslo – Trondheim 391.92km
Trondheim – Oslo 391.92km
Oslo – Copenhagen 483.85km
Copenhagen – Frankfurt 671.98km
Frankfurt – Porto 1,669.32km
Porto – Paris 1,214.83km
Paris – Reykjavik 2,229.48km
Reykjavik – San Francisco 6,769.40km
San Francisco – Shanghai 9,890.01km
Shanghai – Osaka 1,364.43km

Total distance 38,510.24km (24,068.9mi)

This is of course the linear distance between the cities, flights probably took a slightly longer route.

Why am I doing this? Because I wanted to find this number out. My flight from Osaka departed on May 17th at 13:30 and my flight back to Osaka will be landing on June 12th at 21:30. That is a total of 26 days and 8 hours, or 632 hours. This means my average speed for this trip will be 60.9 kph (38.1 mph).

That’s not highway speed, but definitely not slow, and that’s the average speed for the entire time that I am away from Japan 24 hours a day. This also doesn’t include the moving on the ground, on all the trains, busses, and cars. Of course I can circumnavigate the world in 41 hours as the G650 did or in 90 minutes if I was in space, but that’s not the point of this trip.

Some of you may be wondering why I made nine separate bookings and not get an around the world ticket instead. I did look into that, but it wasn’t so easy. First, you have to stick to one alliance, and not all routes are well served by all alliances. It definitely would have added few more flights because of the lack of direct flights, and times wouldn’t have been as flexible. Second, there are a of rules in those around the world tickets that would’t have worked with my schedule, like not being allowed to go to the same city twice or limiting the number of flights in a continent. I don’t think any of the around the world ticket would have worked for me. Third, it wouldn’t have been cheaper. I booked all my tickets as direct flights (sometimes setting long layovers as stops), and I actually only used LCCs for two of the bookings, but the total price was comparable  to using an around the world ticket.

It’s been interesting telling people about this trip as the reactions I get have been varied but generally ranging between pity (“oh my god, why are you doing that to yourself?”) and envy (“that is awesome!”).

I might be overdoing it this trip. We’ll see when I get back to Japan. The crazy thing is that I have about 95 hours on the ground before I jump back on a plane to go to France for just under two weeks, this time for mostly personal reasons (more coming on that).

Photo taken in Trondheim, Norway, a city that is way too pretty.


明けましておめでとうございます – Happy New Year






平成二十九年 元旦

(写真はベトナム Hang Tien 洞窟にて撮影)


Trying to understand the other side

(I originally posted this on my Facebook wall, but I thought it made sense to post it here as well)

Are you going to spend the next four years in fear, complaining, and/or running away? No? Then let’s get started.

I am disheartened by the amount of negative and hateful posts streaming through my Facebook feed right now. Isn’t this exactly why people didn’t want to vote for Trump? Because he spewed hatred and bigotry?

I assume most people reading this are like me, educated, employed, professional, urban, and left leaning. Many of you probably find it unfathomable why anyone would vote for Trump with his impossible promises and uncountable flip-flops. Yet nearly half the American voters voted for him.

Instead of stereotyping those people and labeling them with hurtful tag, let’s understand them.

One of my favorite lecturers at Stanford once said “everyone makes sense to themselves in their own way.” Everyone who voted for Trump, in their own way, believed that they were making the right choice.

Much have been said on how Trump was focusing his efforts on “feelings” rather than “facts.” Many of us have been conditioned to believe that facts are more important than feelings (at least when it comes to making important decisions) but we forget that there is something greater: beliefs.

Beliefs are constructed out of not only facts (which do come in many many shades) and feelings, but also context in which people exist / have existed.

I have been fortunate to be on the winning side of the last twenty years, attending two prestigious universities and gaining both knowledge and skill which are in demand in the twenty first century. I don’t know what it’s like to be on the losing side, but with everything I read, I can start to imagine communities of people whose local industries were gutted by automation, offshoring, and/or obsolescence. What would it feel like being in those communities? What would I believe? What would you believe?

It’s human nature to not blame oneself. We structure our belief in a way that gives us psychological relief, and we vote with those beliefs.

This election for me has been a great reminder that the other half exists and that I need to understand them better, because those people aren’t the people around me. It also has been a great reminder that what many of us have seen as progress in the last twenty years isn’t seen as progress by others.

What we need now is understanding and empathy, not in the sense of “know thy enemy” but in the sense of “we are all in this together.” Many countries are more polarized than ever before, and if we keep going down this path without empathy, the pitchforks are going to come out.

If you haven’t done so yet, I highly suggest reading articles from media on the other side, not to ridicule but to get a sense of how people’s beliefs could be structured. The internet and social media has made it more difficult to come across opinions from the other side. I actually have few conservative friends on Facebook and I prowl through their profiles every so often.

Lastly, for a much more cohesive, comprehensive, and authoritative voice on why this division is happening, I highly suggest Social Psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s discussion on TED.


Cuba, the anti-Japan


Cuba is an island nation, Japan is an island nation, and the similarities end there. Walking around Havana, I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, “this is the most anti-Japan place ever.”

In Cuba, life happens on the streets. People hangout outside of their houses, play games, eat snacks, etc. Go to the parks, plazas, seaside, and it’s full of people enjoying each other’s company. In Japan, streets are the spaces between destinations. Besides festivals, very little happens on most streets as people busily move from point A to point B. Fukuoka is a little bit of an exception as the warmer weather allows for food carts on the streets where people come together, but those have died off in most Japan cities.

Cubans are incredibly confident and casual. They have no problem starting conversations with complete strangers on the streets and there seems to be no social rules on how to engage people. I’ve had many curious Cubans start conversations with me, and they weren’t all scam artists and pimps. I actually had a hard time distinguishing between the touts and the genuinely curious locals. Japanese people are painfully shy and the culture is so formal. It’s annoyingly difficult to start conversations with people and have them open up. This is why drinking is so intertwined in the culture in Japan.

Refinement is not Cuba’s strong suit. Walking around the cities, you see that a lot of things are rough around the edges, the roads, the buildings, the food. You get the sense that things are just good enough (or sometimes not good enough). Japan is all about refinement. Japan loves perfecting everything, sometimes to an unbelievably irrational tune, even meals that cost few dollars with razor thin margins.

Despite the amount of traffic, the density of the cities, Japan is surprisingly quiet (unless you step into a pachinko parlor or an electronics store). Havana, despite how little seem to be going on, is loud. The people shout from the streets to the windows, mufflers on cars seem to be a foreign concept, and music is very much part of the city. Havana sounds more lively while major Japanese cities feel more busy, which leads to…

Time. Everyone is always going somewhere in Japan, and everyone looks busy. Very rarely do you see people “wandering.” Even during the weekends, people are going somewhere to relax. Time moves at a different pace in Cuba. No one seems to be in a rush to do anything, and people are just hanging out outside without any set aim. Some people might see this as unemployment and hoodlumism, but when so many people are doing it, happily, it feels natural. Life, and values are just different in Cuba.

Japan is a well oiled machine, where the individual pieces are placed and functions efficiently to create a harmonious prosperous society. Cuba is a collection of individuals with a strong culture and loose organization that functions, somewhat. Interestingly, in the 2006 Satisfaction with Life Index, Japan ranks 90th and Cuba ranks 82nd, despite a five to one nominal GDP per capita difference (two to one PPP). Two completely different societies, two sets of strengths and weaknesses, many things both countries can do much better.


Where is Cuba now?


A while back, I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba for 6 days, and I wrote this blog post then but did not publish it until now, for reasons I won’t go into.

Cuba is not a time machine or a time capsule. Just because there are old 50s American cars still being driven, you’re not slipping back in time. In reality, those 50s American cars share the same roads as 80s Russian Ladas, 2000s Korean cars, 2010s Chinese busses, and of course animals pulling carts, human and non-human. The architecture is not frozen in time. There are new buildings along side dilapidating colonial style buildings. You definitely won’t feel that you’re experiencing the glory days of Havana you see in gangster movies set in the 20s.

Two Cars

But Cuba is not another underdeveloped Latin American country either.

Instead of going back in time, Cuba makes you feel that you’re living in many different decades at the same time. The mishmash of vehicles on the road along with the architecture are obvious indicators, but look deeper and you find many idiosyncrasies.


Modern Architecture

Cuba is one of the world’s last remaining socialist countries following the Marxist-Leninist ideology, but that does not mean the dynamics of capitalism is missing. Cuba has a two currency system, where tourists are technically supposed to use the Convertible Pesos (CUC) and locals to use the Cuban Pesos (CUP or MN). In reality, with the fixed exchange rate of 24 CUPs per CUC, the two currencies confusingly intermingle. While there are people who unenthusiastically work at their fixed income government jobs, there are also those who work in the tourism industry trying to score as many CUCs as possible from tourists, both legitimately and dubiously. Go to the right parts of Havana and you’ll encounter the usual touts trying to get you to their “cheap, local” restaurants or buy some random trinkets. Overcharging and confusing tourists is another national past time, something travelers to Southeast Asia are used to.

However, while tourists are burdened with the realities of capitalism, there are many elements missing from the cityscape. Advertisement is basically non-existent, so are signs for stores. Without motivation to attract the locals to products, services, or stores, there is very little information to guide them. Since most people get rations of basic necessities, the notion of supermarkets is missing. The locals on government income do have disposable income, but that hovers around 20~30 CUC (roughly 20~30 USD) per month which is negligible compared to what tourists can bring in. On one hand, there are fancy restaurants with faux live music catering to tourists who pay 10-20 CUCs for the meal. On the other hand, the spartan local restaurants offer pizzas for half a CUC and a full functional meal for one CUC. The local restaurants also have long menus, but normally, only few dishes are available because of the ingredients available on that day.


If you think Cuba is some kind of ideological socialist nation with equality for all, you’re in for a rude awakening. With the country opening up to tourism in the mid-90s, the good and bad of capitalism have invaded Cuba, and as a tourist, you can’t easily escape entrepreneuring locals who can do much more with your money.

The same with technology. Smartphones are everywhere, even though there are no cellular data connections in the country. Instead, people go to WiFi hotspots (public hotspots and big hotel lobbies) to connect to the internet for few CUCs per hour (which is incredibly expensive considering what you could buy for a CUC). This is a rather surreal sight, seeing hordes of locals in a city park, all glued to their screens in one specific area. On the flip side, people are not on their phones at all elsewhere. Socializing and playing games with or without a bottle of rum is a common sight. A lot of the travelers I came across worry that once Cubans get access to data anywhere including their homes, their fabric of culture will be destroyed. I wonder though, has it destroyed ours?

One night I joined some travelers and went clubbing. If that conjures images of the Buena Vista Social Club, you’re sorely mistaken. The rows of clubs all spilled music heavy on bass and beat, and Reggaeton was the local favorite. You could easily mistake the scene for Miami or LA, though all the clubs were much smaller in scale. There are more “traditional” music clubs, but most people warned me that they are really just tourist traps. Even the stereotypical Cuban cigars weren’t that prevalent with the locals preferring cigarettes instead.

America Theater

Many people think Cuba will drastically change now that their relationship with the US is being normalized. The common belief is that the hordes of American tourists will ruin the isolationist island with a pristinely kept relic from the past. Many tourists are inundated with the narrative and already flooding the island “before it’s too late,” but Cuba is no time capsule and I doubt the island will change so fast. For one, American tourists and the money they spend won’t be able to change the island. Millions of tourists have already been coming to the island, and besides making the locals more entrepreneurial, it hasn’t had that much impact on the infrastructure. Even if American cars and computers become available, most people aren’t rich enough to buy them, and they already find a way to get the music and movies.

For Cuba to truly change, there needs to be significant amounts of foreign investment that will build up both the local and tourist infrastructure. This means significantly altering their economic system to something more capitalistic, and I doubt this change will happen all night. Nevertheless it will probably happen, slowly but surely, as every living person on the Earth gets pulled into the giant economic machine that spearheaded by America and the OECD.

Withering City

Should we lament to loss of Cuban uniqueness? No, just as we should not lament the days when we tilled land with oxen and lit the house with candle light. The quality of life by most measures (but not all) will go up for Cubans as they plug themselves into the world economy. Nevertheless, this will take time.


To want Cuba to remain as some kind of socialist relic is selfish, countries aren’t museums and people don’t live in museums. Do go to Cuba, but don’t go expecting some kind of movie scene. Enjoy what Cuba has to offer now, and the changes that are coming ahead. Personally, I look forward to revisiting the island in couple decades to see how the country changes, and how it doesn’t.



“We have a problem” by an eternal optimist

I don’t like where the world is going right now, and as an eternal optimist, this is hard for me to say.

For a long time, I’ve been thinking that we are in the midst of a generational war, and the most recent Brexit voting data clearly shows the generational divide that is happening.

Brexit Age Data

This is not an isolated incident. In Japan last year, there was a major referendum to combine the city and prefecture of Osaka in order to reduce the waste from duplicated services provided by each government. Spearheading the initiative was a young politician by the name of Hashimoto, a brass but charismatic lawyer who put his political life on the referendum. When the referendum didn’t pass, he put an end to his political career as promised.

tokousou(Blue is for, red is against, age in the middle, men on the left, women on the right)

While the generational split wasn’t as pronounced, the effect was very much there. The older generation did not resonate with the young leader and did not want the status quo changed. Twitterverse attributed the loss as another case of the social phenomenon that has come to be known as rougai (老害) which can be best translated as harm brought forth by the elderly.

Japan is the oldest society in the world, with more than third of people over 60. They represent a huge voting block and wield a large amount of influence. In a span of two days in December last year, the government both cut child benefits and approved an one time benefit payment to the elderly. The benefits that the boomer generation will reap from the national pension system versus Gen Y has been discussed, but the notion of generational war hasn’t entered the mainstream media here.

nenkinHow much each generation will benefit or lose through the pension system in Japan, measured in ten thousand yen units (~100USD)

I’m sure similar phenomena are happening around the world in advanced societies, places like Spain where the youth unemployment rate is well over 40%.

It’s easy to take an us versus them attitude, to blame the other side for their ignorance, complacency, and/or malice. However, this will never be constructive.

What distraught me about the entire Brexit conversation was how irrational it was. To say that Europe is in an economic rut would be an understatement, and in such times, people want to find something to blame that’s not themselves. In the case of this campaign, it became the EU and their regulations and immigrants. It became so bad that the UK stat office had called out Leave Campaign’s use of facts and figures. Some people are starting to call this the post-factual democracy.

Americans are now seeing their own version with Donald Trump, a presidential candidate who caters to people’s emotions rather than facts and truths. This may not be surprising to many countries in Europe where right wing nationalist parties have risen in the last decade.

Many believe and worry that such rise of irrational nationalism, especially in Europe will lead to another world war, although I don’t think (and hope) it will go that far. We are too capable of destruction to actually cause it.

I do worry that we are becoming more polarized however.

While mostly ignored by the mainstream media and general public, Pew Research Center has done fantastic research to show that the American public is becoming more polarized in their political beliefs.


Polarization is bad. Polarization ultimately leads to violence, to revolutions. Many of the social institutions that we’ve created were in response to the inequalities. Democracy replaced monarchy, aristocracy, and dictatorships, sometimes in violent overthrow. Many of the social safety nets, regulations, and redistribution of wealth was in response to the collection of wealth (and dissatisfactions) that resulted from the industrial revolution and the first phase of capitalism. Neither of the institutions are doing enough in this day and age.

What’s ironic about the Internet is that while it’s polarizing the world, it’s also making the world a smaller place and the inequality more apparent. One could argue that the Arab Spring would not have started without the internet, without pirated videos of Hollywood lives and mundane Facebook posts of Western youths that highlighted how antiquated the Arab society was. The arrival of Perry’s Black Ships and the subsequent opening of then isolationist Japan to the global market showed how far behind Japan was and caused the rapid modernization of the country as well as the overthrow of many existing institutions.

We are at a turning point in our history. I don’t want a generational war. It’s too easy to blame them and not us, but it’s not us versus them, we are in this together. Our technologies are separating us further and further, both economically and socially, but the solution is not to rid them like a Luddite. Instead, we need to create a new system that will bring us closer, put us on the same page, have us walking the same path again.

I don’t know what that will look like, but we invented democracy, social security, international commerce, (ironically) the Nobel Peace Prize winning EU, and more. I’m sure that we will find something, but first we need to recognize that WE have a problem.


Why did Nintendo release Pokemon Go outside of Japan first?

Of course very few people know the real answer, and I doubt those people who will speak up, but my colleague came across a fascinating blog post in Japanese by someone in the game industry linking Nintendo’s decision to Japan’s characteristics (not culture).

What are the characteristics?

1. New things are criticized heavily and many scream for regulations.

2. When something causes a problem, people bash it by focusing on the negative while ignoring the positive aspects.

3. When few without common sense use something idiotically, the service provider is blamed for some reason.

4. However, when something has already become popular, develops a precedence, people are blindly kind to it.

The author argues that, as the game utilizes AR and could cause some idiots to enter forbidden areas or walk without paying any attention to the surrounding and cause accidents, this could negatively affect the Pokemon brand or even get the game banned.

Releasing it outside of Japan first is a strategy to maximize popularity while minimizing possible the damages caused by idiotic users.

While this may or may not be true, it’s an incredibly astute observation on the Japanese national psyche, and I couldn’t agree with it more.

Drones have become heavily regulated in Japan because few idiots crashed them in parades or landed it on the Prime Minister’s Official Residence marked with a radioactive sign (it was not). The media had a frenzy with drones and it’s pretty much impossible to fly one in most places now.

Airbnb and peer-to-peer hospitality is at the cusp of being regulated to oblivion as abuses and clashes with the local inhabitants is being constantly reported on TV. This is a shame since there is a massive shortage of hotels in some parts of this country right now.

Uber never gained a foothold in Japan, but if all the negative press inducing events happened in Japan, the company would be disassembled by the national equivalent of peer pressure. This is the country where a very popular ramen restaurant would shut its doors because all the people waiting outside would disturb the neighbors.

Even LINE, the incredibly popular messaging app (think WhatsApp of Japan) was being bashed in the media in mysterious ways when it was being used for unsavory purposes such as prostitution or cheating. As a result, LINE has significantly more parental control features than any other messaging app. Snapchat doesn’t stand a chance in Japan. Even if Twitter started in Japan, as soon as terrorists started using it, there would be a massive backlash.

This is why I’m worried that Japan won’t be the first country to implement automated driving or many of the game changing technologies in the next decades. I don’t think Japan was always like this, but now it’s a country that loves creating new things and loves bashing them to the ground. What a schizophrenic country.


Silicon Valley’s influence on popular culture as seen through Alanis Morissette

I didn’t catch this until now, but in November last year, Alanis Morissette and James Corden did a “modern update” of Alanis’s 1995 hit song “Ironic.” Having spent my adolescent years in the mid-90s and still able to sing along to the original (I’m honest), I found the updated version hilarious. Then I started thinking about the different cultural references and how much originated from Silicon Valley and the tech scene.


I decided to color code them:

An old friend sends you a Facebook request
You only find out they’re racist after you accept
There’s free office cake on the first day of your diet
It’s like they announce a new iPhone the day after you buy it
And isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?
It’s like swiping left on your future soulmate
It’s a Snapchat that you wish you had saved
It’s a funny tweet that nobody faves
And who would’ve thought it figures

It’s a traffic jam when you try to use Waze
A no-smoking sign when you brought your vape
It’s 10,000 male late-night hosts when all you want is just one woman, seriously!
It’s singing the duet of your dreams, and then Alanis Morissette shouting at you
And isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?
A little too ironic, and yeah I really do think

It’s like you’re first class on a Southwest plane
Then you realize that every seat is the same
It’s like Amazon but your package never came
And who would’ve thought it figures

It’s like Netflix but you own DVDs
It’s a free ride but your Uber’s down the street
It’s singing “Ironic,” but there are no ironies
And who would’ve thought it figures

Blue is for references originating from Silicon Valley:

  • Facebook
  • iPhone (Apple)
  • Snapchat (started at Stanford but now headquartered in LA)
  • Twitter
  • Netflix
  • Uber

Purple is for references that seem Silicon Valley but aren’t:

  • Tinder (I didn’t know they are based in West Hollywood, though it makes sense)
  • Waze (Israeli but with an office in Palo Alto)
  • Amazon (The biggest internet company not in Silicon Valley)

Red is for other references.


This is astounding. The Late Late Show is not a tech show and it’s on CBS, a major broadcast network. Only Amazon (est. 1994) and Apple existed when the original song came out. While we don’t see Silicon Valley as a cultural hub as we do New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, it’s influence over the last twenty years is undeniable. Without the geeks and wide-eyed dreamers, we would be living very different lives today.

Where will the next wave of major cultural influence come from?


And speaking of change, is it just me or has Alanis not changed at all in the last twenty years? Here is the original “Ironic” music video:

Lyrics from Spin


How many Steve Jobs does the world need?


I’ve recently watched both recent Steve Jobs movies (Steve Jobs, Jobs) on planes, trains, and automobiles (okay, just planes).

This got me thinking, how many Steve Jobs does the world need?

You can imagine that if everyone in the world was like Steve, neurotic eccentric visionaries, the world wouldn’t function so well. For every Steve, there needs to be many, many Frank Smiths who do as they are told, obedient workers who get things done.

Of course the degree of “visionary-ness” is not binary, it’s a sliding scale where some people are crazy visionary while others are not so much. There are other traits that determine one’s ability to succeed and/or be of value to society.

While arguable, my mental model tells me that leaders and those who are higher in the organizational pyramid need to be more visionaries. If a Walmart clerk is a visionary, he or she really needs to be in a position to exert more influence.

So what’s the appropriate ratio between the Steves and Frank Smiths of the world?

Obviously, there is no fixed number, but phenomenology might point us toward an answer. Dunbar’s number is a social science theory that states that people are generally able to maintain stable social relationships of about 150 people. One of Dunbar’s argument is that historically, there have been many organization that formed organically to be around 150 people, such as military units (companies in the U.S.) and nomadic villages.

When Steve Jobs resigned from Apple in 2011, the company employed about 60,000 people. Microsoft was probably in the same vicinity when Bill Gates stepped down, but both companies now employ over 100,000 people. Obama leads over 4 million US government employees, Einstein probably didn’t work with much more than few assistants.

Ok, industry and context matters heavily, so finding that ratio may not be so easy.

It seems that these days, everyone wants to be Steve. No one wants to live a secure but boring life of Frank Smith. We all want to be visionaries, inspire, and change the world in one way or another.

This is not going to work.

I don’t know when it became a bad thing to be Frank Smith. While I never lived in the 50s and 60s, but it was probably okay to be normal back then, and a lot of people lived, normally. They say that we don’t want to live same way our parents do, and if so, is this a pendulum that swings back and forth between Steve and Frank? Will the generation that follow look at how unhappy Gen Y yuppies are and conclude that they want a more stable life?

Will we make movies celebrating Frank Smith?