Joi Ito’s MIT Enterprise Forum Fireside Chat Recap

Joi Ito – Director of the MIT Media Lab

Joi Ito, the new director of the MIT Media Lab, spoke this week at a fireside chat organized by the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge. Joi’s experience is broad and deeply digital. In particular, his experience with media (Six Apart, Technorati, Twitter, and the Knight Foundation) gives him one of the best perspectives on the future of media. He’s also the godson of Timothy Leary, which is a better credential than most.

I’ve attached a number of great insights during Joi’s fireside chat with Timothy Rowe, the CEO of the Cambridge Innovation Center. All quotes are paraphrased unless noted.

  • On edX, the online educational initiative co-sponsored by MIT and Harvard: “Flip the classroom. Put all the knowledge out there.”
  • On failure, part 1: “Fail first, learn later.”
  • On failure, part 2: “Don’t raise your kids in a clean room. It’s like with entrepreneurs. You need failure to grow up robust.”
  • On journalism, part 1: “Data science is the future [of journalism].” There is hope.
  • On journalism, part 2: Regarding Chris Hughes’ purchase of The New Republic: “If it breaks even, I’m OK.” My opinion is that breaking even isn’t enough. Journalism should be more than a public trust. It should make money.
  • On learning: “Interest-driven learning” learning is Joi’s style. He was stingy with his time and wanted to focused on what he enjoyed. This is why Joi didn’t graduate from college, but became successful in business – he was interested.
  • On the Media Lab: “For everything I’m interested in, there’s someone at the Media Lab with more interest and experience working on it.”
  • On metrics: “I worry about the happiness you get from exponential growth. It reminds me of the drug dealers from Chicago…you need more, more, more.”
  • On research: “The Media Lab should be about peripheral vision.” Research doesn’t need to have a target, and companies aren’t paying the Media Lab to reach predefined conclusions.

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