An interactive and taboo-free journalism based in Japan

Welcome to TokyoFreePress Wednesday, March 01 2017 @ 01:44 AM JST
  View Printable Version 

What if the 2 Nobel laureates (山中伸弥, 野依良治) are behind unscrupulous criminals of NHK?


yoshiki sasai haruko obokata shinya yamanaka ryoji noyori katsuo momii paul knoepfler 笹井芳樹 小保方晴子 山中伸弥 野依良治 ポールネフラー NHK 受信料 理研 納税者負担

Two weeks ago you were unlawfully hounded for hours by a gang of rogues employed by a publicly-funded organization even after you fled into a toilet near the hotel lobby; and a couple of days later your personal mails were exposed without your permission or knowledge in a TV program produced by the same organization; and now your important partner died a mysterious death this morning leaving a personal note to you, and an allegedly essential part of it was read out in public again without your permission or knowledge even before the authenticity of the word-processed note is forensically examined. This could not have happened in broad daylight without a nod from a big shot who has insider's knowledge, internal authority, influence on law enforcement, and compelling motive.

The late Yoshiki Sasai was
a top-notch researcher in
the field of developmental

Katsuto Momii, President
of NHK

Shinya Yamanaka, Director
of Center for iPS Cell
Research and Application
at Kyoto University

Ryoji Noyori, President of
Yoshiki Sasai, former Director of Laboratory for Organogenesis and Neurogenesis at the quasi-governmental research institute RIKEN, died on August 5 at the age of 52. That's the only thing you know for sure from news reports. Apparently, though, there's no denying that a "special report" NHK aired on July 27 had been the last straw for the deceased.

In the last six months since February, NHK, Japan's government-run broadcaster, along with other media organizations, has been spearheading an all-out witch-hunt, first against Haruko Obokata, lead author of now retracted Nature papers, and then, her boss and mentor Yoshiki Sasai. But toward the end of July, the NHK-led lynch mob further ratcheted up its sadistic pursuit of the two people.

According to the Japan Times, a pack of NHK reporters chased after their primary target, on the evening of July 23, even after she fled into a toilet of a hotel she was staying at, and holed up there.

There are some, if not many, people who have voiced their indignation over the disgusting behavior of media outlaws. This YouTube v-logger named Kunihiko Takeda is one of these smart apes.

In his video, Takeda, who is a professor at the obscure Chubu University, repeatedly accuses the public broadcaster on the grounds that its news gathering method is totally unacceptable.

Sickeningly so, indeed. I can't agree more. And ..... so what?

As if to sidestep the real question about who is behind the perpetrator, the v-logger starts off his pointless accusation against NHK by reminding his YouTube audience of the 2004 saga about the suicide of the owner of a chicken farm named Asada Nosan and his wife at the outbreak of avian flu.

It is a known fact that just a couple of humans contracted bird flu presumably because Asada Nosan had gone ahead with the planned shipment of poultry in stock, knowing the chickens could have been infected. But as Takeda points out, the death toll from the H5N1 virus was only two: the owner of the chicken farm and his wife who hung themselves side by side at the height of the media hoopla ignited by NHK.

Takeda is not alone in drawing parallel between two totally unrelated cases of media recidivism. All other learning-disabled guys habitually use the same transparent gimmick to make their cases against the mainstream media sound plausible.

The shameless shyster named Hideo Miki, for one, has already ripped off his client Obokata by jumbling up the scientific contention with the criminal case in which a long-established Japanese restaurant Senba Kitcho, Miki's another client, had been convicted for falsifying its menus.

In the wake of the July 23 incident, the petty thief thought this would earn him another bonus. Wasting no time, Miki started muttering he was thinking about filing a criminal complaint against the public broadcaster although he knew the physical injury his client had suffered was not that serious. NHK was well aware of the rules of the game. On July 24, its Chief Editor visited the legal office to seek an out-of-court settlement.

That's as far as these self-styled justice-doers can do. They should know they are just "urinating on a frog's face."

As we all know, a perpetrator always has a dual role. One is to carry out the given plot. But more importantly, he is also supposed to wipe out the fingerprints of his client. In that respect no other criminal in the world is more professional than NHK.

It could, in 1945, not only save Emperor Hirohito from being executed as the mastermind of the apocalypse, but also acquit itself of its responsibility for driving 3.1 million people to death for the absurd cause it had invented.

To that end NHK found a new master on the other side of the Pacific. Now the public broadcaster is acting like a self-appointed guardian of the American values such as freedom and human rights. That's why it is so enthusiastic about revealing cases of discrimination, Pawah Harasumento, Sekusharu Harasumento, Heito Supiichi, Domesutikku Baiorensu, school bullying, and any other infringement of human rights, and proposing halfhearted countermeasures.

The most important thing to note is that this is already a history that's still present today - just by accident, so to speak. It's not only useless but also harmful to criticize NHK, or any other media organization for that matter, for its hypocrisy as if you could undo history.

It's a piece of cake for the public broadcaster to dodge equally deceptive criticism from these mentally-retarded justice-doers. They say, "Don't kill'im till he coughs it up." So NHK will never cough it up, and always survive.

The best way for a perpetrator to prevent his client from being identified as the mastermind is to farm out the job to yet another party to mislead the investigation. But when dealing with an unprofessional investigator like Miki, there's no need for NHK to go for such an intricate scheme it once used sixty-nine years ago.

On the other hand, I know from the traffic analysis of my own website that there are a growing number of people who visit my blog, which is unpopular among justice-doing eunuchs, using such keywords as "truth" and "conspiracy." Most of them are coming from the Tokyo-based truth-seeking cult headed by my sick friend Benjamin Fulford.

Fortunately rather than unfortunately, their guru is currently on a long vacation. For now, therefore, his gullible followers keep silent about the mess around STAP cells. But I'm sure it's a matter of time before they resume spreading around the same old fancy stories about Illuminati's agenda for depopulation and human cloning.

I'm not very sure if what's happening here isn't attributable to an evil plot hatched by Freemasons. But that doesn't matter at all. Let's face it: conspiracy "theories" are an integral part of the conspiracies these anti-Semitic morons keep talking about.

Conspirators disguised as conspiracy theorists intend to distract your attention from the villains at the front-line of their global activity. When pursuing the real, visible, touchable and thus punishable culprit of the plot against the late Sasai and his disciple, you should know it's like walking into a trap to approach the question at hand from a conspiracy angle.

As I observe, truth-seekers and justice-doers have one thing in common: fear of creative minds. These monkey sleuths are scared to death when faced with a creative soul who is never afraid of committing errors.

When it comes to an uncharted area of study such as STAP cells, errors are not only unavoidable but also absolutely necessary. I don't believe Galileo's heliocentric theory was entirely error-free. Neither do I assume the Italian astronomer never resorted to a gimmick in his effort to disprove the Ptolemaic system.

Actually there is a fine line between what falls on a "research misconduct" and what doesn't. And it's very hard for ordinary people to see it. An ambitious scientist, therefore, is always vulnerable to a hostile scrutiny. He can't be defended by justice-doers, let alone by truth-seekers, against inert conventionalists. They fear a creative mind more than anything else because it's such a person that could someday overturn the entire edifice.

When a breakthrough is achieved in a field in question, Takeda, Miki. et al. will be out of work. By the same token, Fulford and his followers will be at a loss over what truth to seek until the end of their empty lives. That is why they always make believe the ubiquity of injustice and fallacy, not the absence of creative minds, is at issue everywhere. A justice-doer always stops short of presenting an actionable justice. Likewise a truth-seeker never dares to reveal an actionable truth.

Arnold Toynbee once said: "A life which does not go into action is a failure."

My own approach to the Obokata affair is completely different. It seems to me the closer I look into the way it has unfolded since February, the more it looks like an inside job by some influential figure(s) in RIKEN or another research institute for regenerative medicine, e.g. CiRA. No doubt about it.

To be more specific, the prime suspect(s) is (are) Shin'ya Yamanaka (山中伸弥,) who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his research on iPS cells, and/or Ryoji Noyori (野依良治,) also a Nobel laureate who is currently the President of RIKEN. Certainly these guys have both influence and motive needed to mastermind such a scheme. (See NOTES below.)

NOTE 1: When NHK et al. started grilling Obokata like the inquisitors at the Holy Office of the Catholic Church, Yamanaka uncharacteristically kept a low profile. Unfortunately for him, though, someone started whistle-blowing on the web in a matter of a month or two for his part of research misconduct. But it was a breeze for the Nobel laureate to gloss over the allegation with a paper-thin excuse simply because he had already been enshrined by the Nobel Committee and even deified with the "Order of Culture" from the zombie in the Imperial Palace. Once immunized this way in this country, you'll never fall no matter what.

NOTE 2: This morning, I learned something new at the website of Paul S. Knoepfler, an associate professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy, the Genome Center, and the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine. I visited his blog because a couple of days earlier some local papers quoted him as saying he had received a mail from his colleague Dr. Charles A. Vacanti, who is one of the coauthors of the now-retracted STAP papers, in which he wrote he was stepping down from his position as the head of the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital to take a one-year sabbatical from September 1. Aside from the confirmation of the news, I found a featured article titled "Challenge could cancel Yamanaka iPS cell patent." It's too soon, though, to decide what to make of this news.

I don't intend to belittle Yamanaka's achievement so lightly, just like I can't deny Steve Jobs did an uncontested contribution to the history of the computer. In 1976 Jobs, together with Steve Wozniak, started to work on Apple at a garage in Cupertino, California. But he ended up pandering to those Sumaho-addicted apes.

It's not fair to put all the blame on Jobs. Wherever the value-creating chain has gone to pieces, we see a protracted drought of disruptive technologies as they are defined by IBM consultant Grant Norris. An adaptive technology always calls for adaptive attitudes from its users. There's no room for creative attitudes. But he wouldn't have started acting like a pusher had it not been for hundreds of millions of junkies who didn't know that's what they were.

When the news of Sasai's death broke out, I was working on the next post in which I'll elaborate on this aspect of technological development.

Either way, you will ask me: "Do you have hard evidence for your bold allegation against these highly respected figures?"


On July 27, NHK aired a special report on Obokata's "research misconduct" and some other misbehavior. I didn't watch the program myself, but according to Takeda, the program exposed personal mails exchanged between Obokata and Sasai in a way that made you suspect they might be having an affair. I don't know, neither do I care whether or not what some informant whispered to the reporters was true. And even if that was the case, it has absolutely nothing to do with their yet-to-be-proved hypothesis about STAP cells.

There's more to it. Even before Obokata could read the "suicide note" Sasai had reportedly addressed to her, someone leaked to the media what was in it. Now everyone knows that Sasai wrote:

"It's not your fault. Just make sure to reproduce STAP cells."

Do I have to have any more evidence?

I am a retired businessman who has been running a single-issue blog focused solely on the evolution of humanity in the last 10 years. Admittedly I'm completely in the dark about biology. And yet, I have a premonition of what the potentially groundbreaking STAP cell technology will bring about.

As I wrote two years ago, medicine is thoroughly cartelized in this country. Owing to NHK's propaganda, the entire population has developed a hypochondriac fear of disorders, except those caused by irradiated food, water and air, and blind reliance on the rotten medical system. These dupes are insatiably seeking longevity as if the ultimate goal of their lives is to vegetate for 3,200 years like the giant sequoia tree in California.

Chalmers Johnson once called our country "the cartels of the mind." But now it's quickly converging with the cartels of the body.

There are two groups of users of a newly-emerging technology. On the one hand, there are people who constantly meddle in the process of research and development in order to turn a revolutionary idea into a mediocre product. On the other, there are a small number of users who let the researchers and scientists pursue their disruptive end so they can give their customers a real game-changer at the end.

Now with stem cell technologies on the horizon, the two groups of its potential users are facing the moment of truth because what's at stake for both is enormous. If the majority group can outdo the minority group in managing the situation we are in, these dregs of humanity in the medical cartel can perpetuate their monopoly on medicine perhaps for good.

Believe me, whodunit kind of exercise isn't my favorite pastime. But now it's so obvious who is tampering with the burgeoning regenerative medicine that I feel an urge to give some actionable suggestion to my fellow countrymen. I just hope each individual heeds my specific advice to the extent practicably possible.

I think you should be reminded that RIKEN, NHK and CiRA are primarily funded with taxpayers' money. You are misled to believe in their financial statements that say the appropriations from tax revenues are only part of their income source. But if you are familiar with the Pacioli System, you know it's nothing but an accounting gimmick. And equally important, Article 30 of the Constitution, which stipulates your obligation to pay taxes, is valid only when your constitutional rights are duly honored.

In addition to taxes, you are duped into paying subscription fees (受信料) to NHK on a false assumption that Article 32 of the Broadcasting Act (放送法) is constitutional. Actually it's totally unconstitutional.

And don't tell me the public broadcaster strictly adheres to Article 83 of the law that prohibits it from running commercials. Actually NHK runs commercials for Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Softbank, NTT DoCoMo, Toyota, Nissan, and the like, and most importantly the government. For allowing these guys to place free adds, the broadcaster is collecting a huge amount of money from the government under the guise of tax appropriation. · read more (31 words)
  View Printable Version 

The Inquisition Japanese style


Left: Galileo Galilei defended himself at the Holy Office of the Catholic Church in 1633.
Right: Yesterday a shyster named Hideo Miki made his client Haruko Obokata apologize before the big crowd of news reporters.

Owners of Japanese
restaurant chain Senba Kitcho

Hideo Miki who staged the
above ritual

HIDEO MIKI (三木秀夫) is one of those shameless shysters who are only good at spotting an ambulance and chasing after it. It's only late Tuesday night that I learned now Dr. Haruko Obokata is his client and she would be accompanied by the lawyer in her first public appearance in more than two months at a press conference scheduled for the Wednesday afternoon.

Apparently Miki visited her at the hospital where she was staying. There it must have been a piece of cake for him to dupe the greenhorn on the verge of nervous breakdown into signing the fraudulent retainer agreement.

A famous Japanese restaurant chain named Senba Kitcho is one of the most important clients of Miki Legal Office presumably since last November when its shops were raided over false labeling of some menu items and reusing the leftovers from previous customers. At that time Miki instructed the owner of the restaurant chain (the kimono-clad hag in the photo) to offer tearful apologies to the big crowd of people before taking a specific legal action.

That means that his modus operandi is to stage a typical ritual for tentative apologies before getting started with the substantive dispute over which party is more at fault, and only then ask for some leniency. This always works in this country where anyone in trouble automatically chooses to follow the same procedure. But it's a different story when it comes to a scientific matter.

I hastily looked around for his mail address but it was already 13 hours before the press conference when I found it. I quickly warned Miki about the following two points:

- You should never tell your client to offer apologies before the media crew. The moment she takes a bow, she loses her case. There's nothing in common between the STAP contention and the menu scandal.
- You should keep in mind that there is not much legal implication in the Obokata affair because only scientists can take care of science. The only thing you can help your client with is to seek a decent settlements with her current employer RIKEN, e.g. on the severance pay and compensation for defamation.

NOTE: According to a tabloid, the contract between Obokata and RIKEN was tentatively renewed on April 1 pending the final verdict. But she should know it's very unlikely that her authority as a unit leader can be fully restored. And even if she is fully reinstated, her research activities will be shackled by the corporate culture which is now even more fearful of making mistakes. Also it's been said that her alma mater Waseda University hints at the possibility to revoke her doctorate in the worst case.

I knew Miki wouldn't have replied even if I'd sent the mail one day earlier. The parasite certainly knows he would be out of work if he heeded my humble advice.

Actually during the televised 2-hour conference, the developmental biologist took a deep bow to the big crowd at least five times. Each time she repeated the same words: "I feel awfully sorry for causing all this trouble because of the lack of discipline on my part, the faulty way I presented the results of our experiments, and my immaturity as a professional researcher." It looks as though she didn't understand her former colleagues and bosses are more ill-disciplined and more immature. She should have known it's these eunuchs that caused all this mess.

In between Obokata stood firm with her method to create STAP cells. But who would believe in the story and the data supporting it given by someone who deprecates herself like this?

Without a doubt, the Japanese are the world's most gullible people. But this afternoon those present at the congregation had all of a sudden turned into the world's most skeptical people while their brains still remained empty. Not a single interrogator sounded like having expertise in forensic science or a minimal computer literacy, let alone developmental biology.

At one point Obokata said in response to a question to the effect that she has successfully created STAP cells more than 200 times. She added that she isn't alone in ascertaining the method proved workable. Totally unconvinced, the questioner said, "Will you please name one, but yourself, who has succeeded in creating STAP cells?" After a moment's hesitation, Obokata declined to comply. I am sure Dr. Charles A. Vacanti of Harvard Medical School was among the names she could barely swallow.

Now practically all commentators are saying Obokata virtually admitted to fabricating her story when she declined to name a single researcher who has created STAP cells.

I'm not good at speculating. But I think now it's increasingly obvious from the nation-wide witch-hunt that SHINYA YAMANAKA (山中伸弥), now the emperor reigning over Japan's regenerative medicine, is doing a dirty trick from behind the curtain. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2012 for the discovery of the proprietary method to create iPS cells. Since the STAP method is something that will eclipse the discovery by Yamanaka and his colleagues in many ways, the Nobel laureate has a good reason to try hard to defend his vested interests against the threat posed by STAP cells.

There is another factor to the difficulty facing the rebels in cell biology. Nature Publishing Group has its Japanese subsidiary named Nature Japan whose annual sales were in the neighborhood of 3.2 billion yen as of 2012. If you take a peek at its customer list, you will notice RIKEN is among the biggest clients for Nature Japan. Also you will learn the quasi-governmental research institute, which is 2/3 funded with taxpayers' money here, is paying more than 70 million yen every year to Nature's subsidiary.

So far the group's headquarters in the U.K. has remained on the sidelines without giving a helping hand Haruko Obokata is dying for. That indicates that it hasn't realized it now faces the moment of truth.

As I said to someone sitting in the London office a couple of days ago, it's time something must be done by Nature if the publisher wants to preserve its prestigious status as an independent scientific journal. I suggested a couple of specific steps to be taken to that end.

In the meantime, Hideo Miki will have a rosy future thanks to these self-deprecating people who are conveyed in the ambulance to his office one after another. He will never realize Obokata has to defend herself just like Galileo did when the ailing 70-year-old was summoned to the Catholic Church.

This is also reminiscent of Seiji Ozawa, former music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1973-2002.) In 1962 Ozawa was ostracized by the NHK Symphony Orchestra, and thus by the entire music world of the country. At that time he never thought about hiring an attorney or offering apologies to the government-owned broadcaster. He just left his home country. It's the NHK that apologized on its knees, 32 years later, for having kicked out the exceptionally gifted musician. The Maestro already knew when he was in his mid-20s that no one but himself could help him out of the jam.

Once again this sends me back to the same question: "Are we still evolving forward or are we quickly degenerating?" Actually I was working on a new post in which to discuss the same question from a different angle - "juvenile dementia." Hopefully I'll be able to upload it before long.   · read more (265 words)
  View Printable Version 

No one but yourself can manipulate you


MOTOMAN making pancakes

State-of-the-art system called
SAP Management Cockpit
As I have said many times before, my only concern is whether humanity has a future. That's the only thing that will make a great difference to my last glimpse of the people and things I leave behind. Paradoxical though it may seem, I am cautiously optimistic in that respect because of my MEism which is something 180-degrees different from egomania.

From my MEist point of view, any doomsday scenario is not only counterintuitive but also logically flawed. So many people say "we" have no future because "they" have successfully manipulated "us" so "we" are headed for ruin.

Simply this is ridiculous. If "we" were really doomed, certainly some of "them" who outsmarted "us" would be able to survive "us" and other groups of "them." And there would be no reason to deny the winning part of "them" the right for survival because "they" now proved the fittest. "We" would have to bow out as underdogs.

I know I am not manipulable. You can manipulate apes but I am a small part of humanity.

At the same time I hope I'm not alone in understanding no other creature puts itself in mauvaise foi (bad faith.) That should mean that some of these "I's," if not many of them, are aware that the word "conformism" should not be defined in such a conformist way as so many of "us" and "them" casually do. I know these "I's" agree to my heretical way of defining conformism. Let me reiterate this: conformism is not an ism, but a disease caused by developmental failure. Sometimes you might be able to remedy it, as you always should try to, but you can never correct it. It doesn't make a bit of sense to discuss whether it is correctable.

Actually the more quickly "they" or "we" degenerate as doomsayers argue, the more likely it is the narrowly defined humanity goes on evolving. It doesn't matter anymore if these "I's" are the smallest minority.

I was ruminating my optimistic view of humanity when I received a mail from Diogenes of Arkansas. He is one of the small number of visitors to this website who are always willing to share their thought-provoking ideas with us. In his mail he alerted me to a full-page advertisement placed in the August 30 edition of the Wall Street Journal. As usual I appreciated the input from Diogenes because now he brought in a new perspective to the issue we have been discussing in the last couple of months.

My take on the recent development in robotics has very little in common with the way most people in the industrialized countries view it. I was impressed by the ad in two different ways.

Firstly, I now learned that managers and technologists in America's service industry are quickly getting used to the idea that practically everyone working there can be replaced by machines. In a sense it is encouraging to know they no longer take it for granted that providing junk food, or other worthless products and services to one another is what man's economic activity is all about.

On the other hand, it's amazing to know the gap lying between technologies and social systems still keeps widening at an accelerated pace. In Britain the Luddites movement was started in the early 1810s. These artisans in the textile industry had a good reason to rise up against the newly-introduced labor-saving machinery. But the union-backed minimum wage initiative by EPI (Employment Policies Institute) is yet another confirmation that there isn't the slightest sign American workers and consumers are waking up anytime soon from their 200-year-long sleep. Small wonder they have chosen the Black Kenyan Monkey as their leader and still let him propagate the absurd idea that jobs are something that can be artificially created out of thin air.

As a result of the yawning gap between technologies and sociopolitical systems, contemporary Americans in every walk of life have become unable to do things any better than a robot. Now it's next to impossible to find a whitecollar or bluecollar worker who can't be replaced by an AI-equipped machine. You may even find one which is able to write a book titled something like The Coming Collapse of China. Another writing robot may publish a book about "the 9.11 hoax".

The MOTOMAN robot was developed by Japan's Yaskawa Electric. But the company has carefully refrained from promoting it locally. Instead, Drives and Motion Division of its U.S. subsidiary Yaskawa America, Inc. is manufacturing the specific type of robot. Obviously the management of Yaskawa made the right decision. On the one hand the company developed MOTOMAN by leveraging Japan's leading-edge technology in robotics, while on the other, the company has been marketing it in the U.S. where practically everything can be automated.

As the company's management is well aware, the cultural climate of Japan is diagonally different from America's. Although the Japanese people are suffering the same mental illness the Americans are suffering, i.e. conformism, its symptoms are quite different between the two peoples. For one thing, the clinical history of the Japanese is three times longer, to say the least. It dates back at least to the mid-19th century. As a result, even today the Japanese value face-to-face contact over modern forms of communication. It's the single most important thing in this "close-knit" society. It's evident from this trait that technophobia always goes hand-in-hand with its reverse side, which I call technology fetishism. And that is why Japanese technologists concentrate on making friendly robots such as Toyota's companion robots, animal robots and those who play the violin for you.

Japan is considered one of the most advanced countries in robotics, nonetheless. I hypothesize that the reason behind Japan's superiority in this area can only be explained by the behavioral patterns of its people which are quite similar to those of robots. These people have always proved as subservient as robots. Not only that, they are sometimes even more efficient than robots. I don't know which is the cause, and which is the consequence, but it seems as though people try to emulate robots as much as robots do people. Either way, it must be an easy task for robotics engineers here to develop robots who are good at mimicking human beings.

All in all, the last thing the Japanese would think about is to replace human beings en masse with AI-enabled machines. As I told you in my recent post about the insanity of Tokyo's bid to host the 2020 Olympics, Masao Yoshida, former chief of the Fukushima Fifty died on July 9 of esophageal cancer. Even today we know absolutely nothing about the fate of the Fukushima Fifty, or Fukushima Forty-Nine, because of the total media blackout. And not a single individual has come forward to say something like this: "Tokyo Electric Power Company should have assigned robots to the suicide mission. At least TEPCO should immediately replace all of them with robots." It's all the more inconceivable that someone insists the entire TEPCO management should also be replaced.

In the last ten years or so, my former employer SAP has been selling what it calls "Management Cockpit" (photo) which shows the company management all the necessary information derived from the SAP proprietary "Business Information Warehouse." At least in theory, the state-of-the-art system can kick all these executives out of their high-paying, cushy positions.

Even in the era of the Internet, there are many other allegedly important tasks which can't be taken over from human beings. Just to mention a few, even the most modern robot can't perform the following tasks:

● Offer sincere apologies for what is not his fault, let alone dramatize the situation by bursting into tears on his knees.
● Deceive himself.
● Constantly be duped into doing anything in unconditional compliance with the order from above or pressure from peers.

Last but not least, the robot never kills himself when he has to kill someone else, instead. Since the war defeat, Japanese individuals, more often than not, have substituted a symbolic suicide for actually performing the ritual of Seppuku (disembowelment,) but what Ian Buruma calls a "Death Cult" still remains there essentially intact.

The most relevant question, therefore, comes down to this:

"How would the Japanese have acted if they had been able to develop a suicide machine in the last days of the Pacific War?"

Without a doubt, they would still have continued the same Kamikaze tactic if Yaskawa or any other company had been able to develop an unmanned aerial vehicle that outperformed the V-2 rocket of Nazi Germany.

As I told my audience more than four years ago, researchers at Japan's Aeronautical Research Institute, including my father, were strongly discouraged, or even prohibited from working on UAVs simply because when it came to the show of loyalty to the Divine Emperor, these young living pilots were considered irreplaceable by anything else.

It's very hard for me to remain optimistic about the future of humanity when most people constantly manipulate themselves and claim they are the innocent victims of a real or imaginary crime. · read more (18 words)
  View Printable Version 

The death of the what?

Production is thus at the same time consumption, and consumption is at the same time production. Each is simultaneously its opposite. But an intermediary movement takes place between the two at the same time. Production leads to consumption, for which it provides the material; consumption without production would have no object. But consumption also leads to production by providing for its products the subject for whom they are products. The product only attains its final consummation in consumption. A railway on which no one travels, which is therefore not used up, not consumed, is potentially but not actually a railway. Without production there is no consumption, but without consumption there is no production either, since in that case production would be useless. Consumption produces production in two ways.
- From Critique of Political Economy by Karl Marx (1859)

IBM System/360 was announced in 1964

The legendary IBM PC hit the market in 1981
It seems the death of the PC is the talk on the web these days. The alleged cause varies from an obituary to another. Some say the death is attributable to the world-wide proliferation of smartphones while a little more computer-savvy people think the PC went virtually extinct in the wake of the widespread application hosting services comprehensively called "cloud computing."

I don't want to attend the deathwatch because I am sure that the corpse was misidentified as my longtime friend's.

The false obituaries, however, bring me back to the early 1950s when I was preparing myself for the rocky adulthood ahead of me. One day I stumbled on the following sentences in an 1843 entry of Soren Kierkegaard's diary.

It is quite true what philosophy says: that life must be understood backwards. But that makes one forget the other saying: that it must be lived forwards. (English translation by Peter Rohde.)

Later in the same year the Danish philosopher wrote a book titled Repetition. He titled the book that way because he thought repetition should be the same thing as "forward recollection." He hypothesized subliminal recollection of the past was the only thing that would guide him in the right direction. That is why Kierkegaard concluded that his dilemma would be solved with his faith in Christianity, the only source of his intuition. Fortunately or unfortunately, though, I was already under the influence of Buddha who knows no Gods and no isms, including atheism. To me denying God was another way of admitting him.

A few years later I came across the Japanese translation of Norbert Wiener's Cybernetics. Etymologically, the coined word has its origin in Ancient Greek that meant "the art of governing." Wiener's interdisciplinary study specifically deals with the question about how the sender of information can use the feedback from its receiver to correct himself, and then update the receiver with new output. I thought I would be able to apply his theory about the feedback mechanism to optimize the way to govern myself. As I wrote some three years ago under the title of The Smart Way of Making Mistakes, it's more important, either in business or personal life, to learn a lesson from your mistake than to make no mistakes at all. In other words you must be error-prone because the more you err, the more you learn.

This is not to say, however, I've never failed to learn from my mistake. I must also admit that even when I failed, I sometimes got back on the right track just by accident. And yet, there were times I would never have overcome a crisis facing me without leveraging lessons I'd learned before.

That's basically how I decided, in 1963, to become a small part of the computer industry. Electronic Data Processing system, or EDP for short, based on the "stored-program" concept developed by John von Neumann, et al. was still in its fledgling stage. But perhaps I already knew that was the surest way to grow into a mature man - one who always embraces change, or even initiates one. I may look to be second-guessing on my career, but actually I am not.

I know that if you are an American, you think it's too far-fetched a thinking to see a link between the Kierkegaardian dilemma and the computer. That's simply because you never think the way I do, or don't think at all for that matter. I don't want to waste your time, and mine either, by telling you how two other thinkers, Max Weber and Karl Marx helped me as catalysts to become involved with information technology the way I did, though mainly as its user.

But before I go on, let me quickly talk about my interpretation of Marx's thoughts on the value-creating chain.

Your parents and grandparents were taught nothing about Marx except that he was a bad guy. Yet some of them must have been smart enough to intuitively understand the dialectical mechanism that governs an industrialized economy. Unfortunately, though, most of them are gone without handing down to posterity their wisdom, work ethics and no-nonsense attitudes toward life. As a result, your generation doesn't have the foggiest idea of what man's economic activity is all about even after completing the MBA course at Harvard Business School. You just take it for granted that economy is something in which people take care of clothing, food and housing among one another, while providing cheap entertainment in between. Small wonder you have recently swallowed yet another stupid notion that economy is something revolving around the conflict between Wall Street and Main Street or 1% versus 99%.

It's true that not once did Marx present the oversimplified formula "Geld-Ware-Geld" or Money-Commodity-Money. But as is evident from the above quote, Marx was keenly aware of the third factor, i.e. technology. Maybe he deliberately put it aside for the purpose of clarity, or he just assumed a flat or linear development of technologies after the first Industrial Revolution. Aside from the class struggle he always stressed, there has been a perpetual battle between technologists and users of their products. And it's important to note that it can't be won by either side where there is a yawning gap between the two. The Luddites are a different issue here.

One year after I joined IBM as a sales trainee, Tokyo hosted the 18th Olympic Games. At the closing ceremony, the Japanese were impressed to see someone from IBM proudly hand over to Avery Brundage, then President of the International Olympic Committee, a thick record book compiled overnight by IBM System/360. But some of us already knew this was not what the modern computer was invented for. Actually we had a great sense of uncertainty about what the coming computer age would look like. All we knew was that Japan wouldn't get on the high-growth track without computerization.

I still remember the touching moment in the midnight hands-on training session when the COBOL program we wrote and rewrote over and over completed the task at hand as intended. My teammates cheered especially when the process started in the right way. On the contrary I was moved when the computer responded to the "STOP" command at the right time and in the right way.

In the subsequent years, we were feeling increasingly frustrated with never-ending conflicts between hardware and software engineers and endusers of their products and services. It was as though someone had put buttons in the wrong holes. We were supposed to expect a synergy effect from the cooperation between computer-illiterate business people and business-illiterate engineers, but actually we always ended up seeing an anti-synergy effect.

With what I named the multiplication rule at work everywhere, 0.5 merged with another 0.5 never makes 1.0 or larger. The arithmetic notation which seems to apply in the real world, instead, is: 0.5 multiplied by 0.5 makes 0.25. In later years I found out that my empirical theory applies not only to business and technology but also any other combination of different things such as cross-racial marriages.

Toward the end of the Mainframe Era, one of the fathers of the modern computer contributed an interesting article to a computer journal. (I forgot whether it was Neuman or John Adam Presper Eckert, Jr.) He argued to the effect that the traditional system architecture in which a number of "dumb" terminals were subordinated to the mainframe machine was as obsolete as the centrally-planned Soviet economy.

You don't quite understand the real implication of his statement if you are one of those people who have never committed themselves to revolutionizing the value-creating chain in the real world, where most everything comes down to the question of how to bring heterogeneous elements together. Since you always mix up ends and means, you think the computer, in itself, represents a value. It's, therefore, none of your concern how different devices with different functions interact with one another, let alone how the computer interacts with its user.

Here and there in the industry, however, a subtle change in attitudes toward the computer had already been underway. Under the circumstances, the Soviet analogy deeply resonated with some of us. It is true that the new trend still remained amphibious, but we were already preparing ourselves for what we would later call "enduser computing."

We had yet to see the arrival of the "smart terminal" but we already had some tools with which to rehearse personal computing under the conventional environment for central data processing. For one thing, we could avail ourselves of "A Programming Language," APL for short, which was an "interactive array-oriented language" developed by Kenneth E. Iverson decades earlier.

In 1983, one year after the first customer shipment of the legendary IBM PC in the U.S., the Japanese subsidiary of IBM announced its Japanese version under the brand name of "IBM Multistation 5550." The top page of its promotional brochure read: "IBM Multistation 5550 is a calculator and a wordprocessor combined into one." The stupid copy unmistakably indicated that the developers of the new product and their target customers were not on the same page yet.

17 years later, I had an opportunity to teach an MBA class at International University of Japan. At that time Grant Norris, now an IBM consultant, gave me a special permission to use his material for my lecture on E-Business and discussions with my foreign students. In a book he co-authored with his fellow consultants, Norris wrote: "Adaptive technologies move earlier technologies forward incrementally [while] disruptive technologies change the way people live their lives or the way businesses operate."

From my MOT (Management of Technology) point of view, where people tend to deal with a disruptive technology as if it were adaptive, Marx's value-creating chain doesn't work because then there is no compelling reason for scientists to seek a major technological breakthrough anymore. As a result, consumers become even more change-resistant because they know life is much easier with existing technologies. Hopefully I will come back to this point in a separate piece.

When the Multistation was unveiled, I was the local CFO at an international trading house headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. Founded in 1865 in Yokohama by two Swiss merchants, this company was yet another example of the curse of the multiplication rule I mentioned earlier. For one thing, people from the owners, to expat executives, to local employees took it for granted that their strength lay with the Wakon Yosai (Japanese spirit and Western learning) mindset which dates back to the 1860s. But actually, this formula, which was applied to Japan's "modernization" (actually it's just industrialization,) had long proved unworkable because of what I call "technology fetishism" as its inevitable consequence.

The Swiss company always claimed to be a "value-adding trader," but in fact, it was just adding costs which had to be passed on to the customer every time goods changed hands. It went virtually bankrupt several years after I left it, primarily because of its technophobia, the reverse side of technology fetishism. I still remember a 40-something-year-old accountant in my shop double-checking the computer output with her abacus. Believe it or not, she wasn't an exception.

As a senior manager overseeing the entire administration, I submitted to my Swiss boss, named Kurt E. Sieber, a purchase proposal in which I said I wanted to have a 5550 just because I had long had in mind a lot of essential tasks which wouldn't be done effectively, or even performed at all, without a PC on my desktop. Although there were very few reference books readily available at bookstores, I didn't care a bit about how to use the new technology because what for to use it was my only concern. I was more of a businessperson than an IT engineer, but I could learn, in due course, how to use these applications such as Multiplan (the precursor of Excel), BASIC, and VBA (Visual Basic for Applications.)

At the initial stage, the Multistation had no hard disk drive in it. Instead, it used 3.5" floppy disks. And its RAM capacity was a mere 256KB (not a typo,) expandable only to 512KB. But to the money-worshiping Swiss executive, specifications were no concern. The hardest part was to convince him that I wasn't out of my mind when I asked him for 1.5 million yen (US$ 19,000 at the current exchange rate) to buy a "small toy." It took me months until I finally got his reluctant approval.

Another ten years were needed for Sieber to come to terms with the idea that even in his fiefdom, he couldn't get away from the peril of personal computing any more. I suspect, however, it would have taken an eternity had it not been for the invention of a convenient technical term - "Client/Server Model." The fancy phrase allowed any interpretation you liked because nobody couldn't tell exactly how the "new" model differed from the conventional architecture for centralized computing, except that peripheral devices had now grown a little smarter and that clients and servers were often networked using the communications protocol called TCP/IP. It was quite OK if endusers sitting at their smart terminals still wanted to remain dumb. In short, the notion about the client/server meant nothing more than the old Soviet system disguised as a little more user-friendly environment.

Sieber was a former captain at a tank unit of the notorious Swiss Army. That meant he would never emancipate himself from hierarchical way of thinking. No wonder he chose to settle down in this country despite his contempt toward the Japanese. He found the easiest people to exploit in this classless society where peer pressure always prevails among locals. But at the same time he was an unblushing robber. By the time I reached the mandatory retirement age, he and his men had started to confiscate, and then alter the intellectual property I'd accumulated in my computer, as if to defuse the time bomb I'd set to blast the "legacy" system. My repository included hand-made systems for an online exercise of the corporate budgeting and up-to-the-minute control of currency positions, just to mention a few. I called them "systems of the user, by the user, for the user." Despite the fact that the amount of the corporate resources I'd used to develop these mini-systems was negligible small, they didn't pay me a single Swiss franc in royalty. I didn't sue them because I knew these systems and user manuals were nothing but pearls being cast before change-disabled swine.

In 1993, three years after Japan's economic bubble belatedly burst, an epochal book was published in the U.S. The book titled Reengineering the Corporation - A Manifesto for Business Revolution was authored by the late Dr. Michael Hammer with the help of James Champy. Unusually for a business book, it spent more than six months on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. But I know very few among my predominantly American audience have read the reengineering classic in part because most of you thought "reengineering" was yet another way to refer to "restructuring" - jettisoning unprofitable business lines, cutting redundant manpower, etc. You don't give a damn about quality of life and real values it calls for. That's why you never understand the positive side of Dr. Hammer's argument. He just wanted to present a methodology to use networked computers as the enabler of "fundamental, radical and dramatic" change in a clear departure from the principles laid down by Adam Smith more than two centuries ago.

Hammer writes: "Reengineering isn't another idea imported from Japan. It isn't another quick fix that American managers can apply to their organizations. ...... Rengineering isn't about fixing anything."

When I was a contractor overseeing the "University Alliance Program" at the rotten Japanese subsidiary of SAP AG, the German software giant, I had a chance to translate Dr. Hammer's PowerPoint slides into Japanese. To me he looked more like a down-to-earth business consultant than yet another management guru. But unfortunately his avid advocacy of a business revolution hasn't borne fruit by now for the reasons I have mentioned.

In 1995, James Champy, the other coauthor of Reengineering the Corporation, published, solo this time, a followup book titled Reengineering Management - The Mandate for New Leadership. Champy had a good reason to author it singularly. CSC Index, a consulting firm he was heading then, sent out an extensive questionnaire to more than 600 CEOs in North America and Europe to find out if the intended revolution had been paying off in their organizations.

In his book, Champy wrote: "[Overall], the study shows, participants failed to attain these benchmarks [for shortening the cycle time, reducing costs, increasing revenue, etc.] by as much as 30%. ..... This partial revolution is not the one I intended. If I've learned anything in the last 18 months, it is that the revolution we started has gone, at best, only halfway. I have also learned that half a revolution is not better than none. It may, in fact, be worse."

From his findings, Chapmy concluded the fundamental problem lay with the corporate culture, and that it was CEOs' responsibility to revolutionize it.

At the 1997 World Economic Forum in Davos, Andy Grove, co-founder and then Chairman of Intel Corp., said to the effect that change in the corporate culture is the key to success in BPR (business process reengineering.) Grove was absolutely right. But he shouldn't have added that the cultural revolution should be driven from the top, just as Champy shouldn't have written Reengineering Management. Success in corporate revolution, or any other revolution for that matter, solely hinges on unfettered spontaneity and creativity on the part of ordinary people. And a corporate culture is just a reflection of nation's culture. It's ridiculous to expect one of those egomaniacs in the executive office to act as a change agent.

At the height of the economic boom, a variety of "participatory" programs such as kaizen (company-wide efforts for reform), kanban (just-in-time inventory management system), and TQC (programs for total quality control) were widely practiced across Japan Inc. Japan experts in other industrialized countries, especially in the U.S., have always touted these "bottom-up" approaches as the recipe for Japan's phenomenal success. But as always, they are wrong. If these programs had really been bottom-up, then we wouldn't have seen the economic bubble form and burst that easily, or the Japanese must have shown, a long time ago, the vigor and resilience needed for recovery from the economic doldrums and political impasse.

Here's one little question for you: Did you know your personal computer mirrors what you really are? I don't know if you did, but in fact she mirrors you even more than she does her developer or manufacturer. Number-crunching or word-processing, let alone apple-polishing, is not her job; always getting you an undistorted feedback is.

Those obituaries are all wrong, after all. If your PC looks to be dead, it's you, not she, that's been actually dead. As quoted at the top of this post, Marx observed that "a railway on which no one travels is potentially but not actually a railway." In another paragraph of the essay, he paraphrased the same idea more succinctly: "Consumption gives the product the finishing touch." Now at the sight of your underused PC, Marx would say:

"A PC you don't want to use real creatively is potentially but not actually a PC."

He would also say the same thing with respect to Web-based technologies.

Now seven years into my retirement, I'm being overwhelmed in the face of the explosion of Sumaho, as the Japanese call smartphones, and other types of hand-held devices.

According to the World Bank, the population of cellphone users has been growing exponentially in the last couple of years and will soon top the 6 billion mark. That should mean everyone except children starving to death in Africa is fondling his handset all the time while he has nothing in particular to communicate with others, electronically or otherwise. Maybe his stomach is not empty, but it's for sure his brain is. I don't know any other words than "mass addiction" to describe this trend.

Apple's iPhone, for one, is a typical example of adaptive technology. Once again, an adaptive technology is something you can live without. In other words, it's, at best, a nice-to-have. Believe me, I have absolutely nothing against your desire to own such a fancy product. All I want to say is I have a great difficulty living shoulder-to-shoulder with people who think these gadgets are must-haves just like junkies think they can't live without the drug which, in fact, is not so much in the substance. And especially in a conformist society like Japan, this addiction is highly infectious.

To make the plague of addiction even worse, the IT industry is single-mindedly building the infrastructures for "ubiquitous computing" and "cloud-computing." Now this is a global trend.

Needless to say, however, the situation in Japan is even more disastrous because of the legacy of Wakon Yosai and technology fetishism resulting from it. With the entire population drowned in the Great Flood of mobile devices, nation's value-creating chain now seems to have gone into pieces, totally and perhaps irreversibly.

Day in, day out, and around the clock, people from young to old pass me by with their fingertips glued to their Keitai (mobile phones,) or vice versa. These days not a few Japanese go to the bathroom, or even to bed, without parting ways with their beloved cellphones. If you take into account the fact that Japan's population density is 10.2 times higher than that of the United States, you may understand what it is like to be among 100 million Keitai users. · read more (32 words)
  View Printable Version 

The Windows Nightmare

These illustrations show the old mainframe-centric network (left) and the newest "cloud computing" environment (right)

Some twenty years ago when the Soviet bloc was disintegrating, one of the fathers of the computer predicted that the dominance of the mainframe computers was about to be over, too. He said to the effect that the conventional way of networking "dumb" terminals around a big machine could only lead us to a world where communism prevails over democracy. Around that time, we started enthusiastically talking about enduser computing based, for instance, on the "client-server model."

We were upbeat about the promise of huge paradigm shift being enabled especially by the GUI (graphical user interface) Microsoft had added on to its operating system named MS-DOS. We, corporate users, thought that at long last computer users would be liberated from the digital communism and regain their own selves. Three decades later, however, it's becoming more and more evident that we still face a bumpy road ahead until we see something to be called digital democracy, also known as e-democracy, on the horizon.

For one thing, Microsoft was once at the forefront of the Internet revolution with its early offers of Windows as the platform for enduser computing. But now MS looks to have made it a rule to announce a new version of Windows every second or third year simply because it would otherwise be out of business sooner or later.

From the user's point of view, the single most important thing in migrating from a Windows version to the next is to know whether the tradeoff between supposedly improved usefulness and inevitably diminishing usability justifies the cost and the time to be entailed in the upgrade. As a matter of fact, this tradeoff can't be larger than zero these days because the usefulness of Windows has long reached a saturation point. The real reason behind this phenomenon is because the gap between information technologies and socio-economic systems has reached the point where it cannot be any wider.

As a result, we are going along with the software giant only to its interests at the cost of the real userfriendliness on our side.

You may ask, "Should we feel obliged to help MS and other software vendors stay in business?" Unfortunately, the answer is "Yes" because we are in a position to shoulder their costs for research and development. The real problem here lies with the fact that they are overcharging us primarily to develop a "new" way of GUI, such as moving around some icons and changing their sizes, shapes and colors.

R&D costs for hardware are funded in a little different way.
· read more (893 words)
  View Printable Version 

The Myth of Japan's Technological Superiority - PART 2.2: Prewar and Wartime History of Aeronautics


My father Mineo Yamamoto
Left: Caricatured by political cartoonist Hidezo Kondo
Right: On the eve of WWII in Berlin

It is true that there are a small number of people who are interested in what my father left behind. Ironically though, most of them are non-Japanese. Worse, to a handful of Japanese who know Mineo Yamamoto, he is just a name their fetishes bear. It looks as though a human being by that name has never existed.

In 2004 he was posthumously inducted into the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame, but during his lifetime, he was not rewarded in the right way for what he could achieve, let alone what he couldn't. Sometimes, he received a well-deserved acknowledgment, but recognitions, more often than not, came from a wrong person and for a wrong reason.

In 1973, Emperor Hirohito, demigod-turned the symbol of national unity, decorated him for his prewar and wartime accomplishments in aeronautics and postwar contribution to lay the foundation of Japan's car industry. Throughout his lifetime, though, my father could not conceal his contempt for the Emperor. But unfortunately for him, by that time Alzheimer's had started affecting his brain so seriously that he couldn't refuse to accept the decoration. My mother dragged him to the Imperial Palace.

As his eldest son, I was adversely affected by a fallout from his disdain for the Emperor. When I was 6 or 7 years old, he already started giving me an enormous pressure to make me get into the fast track to a top-notch scientist. I would later call his excessively demanding and coercive education method a double-edged sword. Totally defenseless, I finally collapsed after a futile attempt, for most of my formative years, to regain my own self. It took a long feud between us until I came to realize his aberrant obsession with the idea of making a first-rate scientist out of an ordinary kid was not so abnormal as it looked. He certainly knew that would have been the only way to avoid sacrificing his offspring for Hirohito if the Manhattan Project had delayed for ten years or so, or Japan had become nuclearized before the U.S.

Up until the war defeat, the emperor was so cold-hearted as to let his 3 million subjects die just to protect him and his kin against the barbarians from the West. When his shogun and samurai finally succumbed to the Allied Powers, he transformed himself into something that would wince at a single drop of Japanese blood shed to defend whatever his subjects want to defend. In 1945, I was a 9-year-old kid but I think I was also a victim of this bastard.

Last year fell on the 70th anniversary of the legendary plane that set the world record for flight range. But no other newspaper than The Japan Times commemorated the anniversary.

I very much appreciated the Japan Times article written by staff writer Akemi Nakamura. But she wasn't quite accurate on one point; she subtly misquoted me as telling her: "[Mineo Yamamoto Cyber Museum I launched in 2007] is one of the things I'm doing to tell people about the aircraft. It's our task to preserve the intellectual legacy that my father and his colleagues left." To me, preserving hardware, or software, is the smallest part of man's endeavor to hand down the intellectual legacy, which is often intangible, from a generation to the next.

In the same article Ms. Nakamura quoted Shigezo Oyanagi, director at Misawa Aviation and Science Museum, as saying, "The plane's technology was not particularly outstanding." The question the director couldn't have answered is, "Then, what was particularly outstanding of Koken-ki?" Oyanagi boasts that he built Japan's only full-scale "replica" of Koken-ki several years ago. But this is nothing but a mock because you can't actually fly it. Ms. Nakamura should not have expected any discerning remark from a fetishist such as Oyanagi. Kazuyoshi Suzuki, a senior curator at Japan's largest National Museum of Nature and Science, once scornfully told me that the full-scale "replica" is nothing but a pricey toy Oyanagi built at the expense of the taxpayers of Aomori Prefecture, where his museum is located. Suzuki was (uncharacteristically) right.

Suzuki's museum is run by a quasi-governmental entity. His projects must be funded much more affluently than Oyanagi's. So can I expect him to outdo the fetishist in the Aomori museum in one way or the other? That's what my late mother must have assumed some ten years ago when she generously permitted Suzuki to take away all the materials (drawings, reports, 35mm films, etc.) my father had left behind. But when I visited him in 2007, I found out that was not the case at all. It's not only that none of these materials were exhibited there, but also he effectively admitted that because of the "budget and manpower constraint" chronically facing him, most of these materials were thrown into the storage in the basement and left there unattended.

Last year I met the president of a publishing company (names withheld) who is well-versed in Japan's history of aviation. His company has published some Koken-ki-related books. He whispered to me that in a sense Suzuki had been telling me the truth. According to the president, more than 100 curators are working for the national museum, but Suzuki is the only guy working on aviation. Besides, his area of responsibilities includes IT, robotics, dinosaurs and many other areas. I asked the president: "What the heck, then, are all other guys working on?" His answer: "Please keep this strictly to yourself. Other people are working solely for the Emperor and his kin." . · read more (514 words)
  View Printable Version 

The Myth of Japan's Technological Superiority - PART 5: Anything Green (or Black) Can Be an Object of Veneration


It looks as though the American people are now in the firm grip of a cult.

Out of fear of a virtual ostracism, none of them have dared to come forwatd to say that one can't expect a losing poker player to stay cool-headed. In fact you've got to be a cultist yourself to deny the obvious things such as:
● Obama's multi-trillion dollar stimulus package is the surest way to a catastrophe.
● Coloring part of it green won't help a bit because these anti-environmental degradation measures are based on something that hasn't been substantiated scientifically.
● On the contrary, it will aggravate the hangover the Americans are to suffer in the end to blend such an unscientific belief into an economic stimulus package which, in itself, is based on an absurd assumption.

In the past the world's most oil-addicted American people have been lagging behind other peoples in terms of eco-craze. But now the U.S. is quickly overtaking other industrialized countries. Its people keep chanting Obama's gospel that his green stimulus plans will be paying off someday.

Basically the disease the American people are suffering is none of our business. Why don't we just let them further go downhill? But it's our problem if this trend is going to spill over to the rest of the world.

Japan has been one of the most environment-conscious countries, at least on the surface, since the 1992 Kyoto Protocol. But the government has now stepped up its eco-hype, taking a cue from Obama's move. It's becoming less and less like science and more and more like a cult, or just a gamble.

Any green technology falls on a disruptive technology as it is defined by Grant Norris because it is intended to dramatically "change the way people live their lives or the way businesses operate." That means that its development should entail an enormous amount of investment of human and financial resources at all levels. Therefore, it's insane to get started with a green project before carefully assessing its technological viability and financial feasibility. You've got to be a gambling addict to just conjecture that you can avoid misplacing funding priorities without strenuously working on a preparatory study.

Given the magnitude of the investment to be involved in such a project, you can't afford to fail and start over. Along the way, you may be able to produce an intended hardware and software, just by chance. But as we have already seen in this series, you can't achieve good enough a tradeoff to justify the massive investment if you don't address the challenge at hand in a very methodical way. In fact, though, the Japanese people are just beating the bushes.
· read more (955 words)
  View Printable Version 

The Myth of Japan's Technological Superiority - PART 4: Does the Burogu Have anything in common with the Blog?


My answer to this question is "Not at all." Intellectually lazy Westerners readily accept the passenger's view that the Japanese are very unique people, and yet they tend to assume our behavioral pattern is essentially the same as theirs. If they bothered to delve more seriously into this culture and its history, they would find out that their apparently self-contradictory premise can't be true, after all. Let's face it; there is a chasm between Japan and the rest of the world. And it's unbridgeable at least until either side shows the courage to face the abyss.

But for now I will try some explanation to make those largely Japanophilic folks think my heresy is not so absurd as it looks.

According to the most recent statistics compiled by Miniwatts Market Group, Japan's Internet Penetration Rate compares to that of other countries and regions like this:
Country/Region Internet Penetration
(% Population)
Japan 73.8
Asia 17.4
Europe 48.9
North America 74.4
World 23.8
Note: The dates at which the surveys were conducted vary by region, but no data is older than 2008.

If you are a person who believes numbers speak for everything behind them, you will conclude that Japan has already overcome all the odds caused by its world's most ineffective language and the "double-byte" obstacle associated with it, and now lives up to its reputation as a technological powerhouse.

There's another data that you may think confirms your presumption. Two years ago a "" website carried a post titled More Japanese Language Posts than English: Latest State of Blogosphere Report. According to the contributor by the name of Des Walsh, Japanese topped the list of blogging languages at 37%. This is astounding because Japanese-speaking people account for less than 2% of the world population.
· read more (1,260 words)
  View Printable Version 

The Myth of Japan's Technological Superiority - PART 3: Japan Remains a Nation of Timid Samurai Despite State-of-the-Art Weaponr


Left: Apology for the AEGIS accident
Center: AEGIS-equipped destroyer
Right: PAC-3

In the past I have discussed every facet, but technology angle, of defense issues. Now I am going to take up defense technologies in this instalment.

According to Rajan Menon's The End of Alliances (OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2007) the Japan Self-Defense Force is "among the world's best" especially with its maritime unit featuring 44 mostly AEGIS-equipped destroyers, 9 frigates, 16 submarines, 4 amphibious ships, 31 vessels meant for mine warfare, 100 P-3C Orion antisubmarine aircraft, 80 combat aircraft and 155 helicopters.

Everyone, including Menon, thinks this will more or less suffice. The stakeholders in the $40-plus billion defense budget, such as U.S. military-industrial complex and head of Democratic Party of Japan Ichiro Ozawa, are contented with the current level of Japan's arsenal because the Japanese people are pleased to accept it as long as the military spending doesn't overrun the ceiling arbitrarily set at 1% of GDP. China is also happy because the current arrangement is the only way to neutralize its archrival forever as Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger promised Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai in the early-1970s.

These people couldn't ask for anything more on the premise that Japan remains disabled forever to nuclearize itself. So it's been a breeze for media obscurantists to dupe the general population into believing the status quo is the ideal arrangement for all, except for Okinawans perhaps.

Technologically speaking, however, it's becoming increasingly evident that fetishism for the state-of-the-art hardware coupled with cutting-edge software is taking a serious toll on Japan's defense capability. Yet, everyone, from military experts to policymakers, is untiringly up to the same old exercise to effectively asphyxiate this nation in the traditional modus operandi of distracting people's attention from the most important element of technologies: human-ware. Therefore, when discussing Japan's preparedness for external threats, the real question to be asked is: "Are these 250,000 toothless troops really able to handle the most-advanced technologies which are predominantly made in America?" To put it differently, you may ask:

"Is there any reason to believe the second round of Fukoku Kyohei (wealthy nation, strong army) pursuit will succeed without repeating the miserable outcome of the first round (1867-1945)?"

The answer is "No," of couse. It's a delusion to repeat exactly the same thing and expect a different result.
· read more (1,422 words)
  View Printable Version 

The Myth of Japan's Technological Superiority - PART 2.1: Prewar and Wartime History of Aeronautics


Left: Mineo Yamamoto, my late father
Center: The legendary Koken-ki
Right: Ki-78 velocity test machine

In the mid-1850s Commodore Matthew Perry's fleet of four "black ships" (i.e. steel-built ships) came along to arm-twist the Shogun and his samurai to coerce the feudal government into signing an unequal treaty. The humiliating event has left an incurable scar on the Japanese people because it was more than just about trade privileges unilaterally given to America. A more important implication was that it only took the "barbarians" from the West such a small fleet to shatter the myth of the bravery of samurai. Not a single live-shell had to be fired because some "gun salutes" already scared them to death.

The Meiji Emperor, who soon took over the government from the Shogunate, pursued the fukoku kyohei (wealthy country and strong army) policy, coupled with wakon yosai (Japanese spirit and Western learning) mindset. This mantra had been upheld for almost eight decades until the war defeat.

Although Emperor's aspiration to catch up with the West is quite understandable, his assumption couldn't have been sillier; he thought that by carefully opening up his domain to the West, he could skim military and other technologies from the Western civilization without giving up anything essential on his part. In doing so, he took utmost precaution so he could weed out every harmful element entailed in imported technologies. Centuries earlier his predecessors had habitually used the same opportunism with the Chinese, the Portuguese and the Dutch. The Japanese people thought or were taught to think they could cherrypick someone else's cultural output while keeping their Asiatic backwardness intact.

By August 1945 this tactic had ended up in a complete failure. Appallingly, though, these learning-disabled people once again fell into the same trap set up by Douglas MacArthur. The general is sometimes referred to as the Second Emperor, but actually he was the Second Perry as was evidenced by the incongruous security treaty Japan entered into with the U.S. after his retirement.

Mineo Yamamoto, my father, was born in 1903, the year that saw Wright brothers' Wright Flyer flying high for the first time. He was a descendant of ninja serving the Tokugawa Shogunate as an intelligence agent. Although his appearance differed a little from his compatriots, his ethnicity was 100 percent Japanese. However, his way of thinking was quite un-Japanese. He always refused to swallow anything that couldn't be explained logically, or verified scientifically. He also hated servility to authority, and would never go along with the crowd because he thought that would be the surest way to settling for mediocrity.

One episode has it that during his 15-year tenure as a senior researcher at the Aeronautical Research Institute (ARI) attached to the Tokyo Imperial University, he fired as many as 70 assistants as incompetent. This is something a normal Japanese wouldn't have thought about doing, or wouldn't think about doing even today, in this land of absolute job security. Small wonder that he was always feared and sometimes hated not only by his subordinates but also by his peers and bosses for his intransigence about the quality of work.

On the eve of WWII, the ARI was mandated to achieve world-class records in flight range, altitude and velocity.

In the first project devoted to achieving the world record in flight range, he played a pivotal role, working, in an unconventional approach, on the wings, the fuel tank and the covers of the retractable landing gears. In those days, there was no development methodology that we now call "concurrent engineering," let alone its enabler (i.e. interconnected computers.) As a result, brawls among project members were commonplace. Mineo was a versatile sportsman but not good at martial arts. Hence, he was always on the losing side. Nevertheless, he would never give in when it came to the design concept for what he was in charge of.

· read more (740 words)