In Japan, Where Tech is King, One Reporter Asks the Tough Questions in Real Time

Ray Myers

The Island Economy of the Trump’s (so-called) Presidency

I was in Vietnam about this time last year.  President Obama also happened to be in Hanoi at the same time, working to enhance America’s internationally presence and improve trade relations with twelve Pacific Rim partners.  Vietnam and the other countries rejoiced at his arrival after a torturous past of wars and corruption that was crippling the economies of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.  Obama helped broker the twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Many trade experts saw TPP as the single most valuable tool America had for shaping the geo-economic future of the region our way and for pressuring China to open its markets.  

TPP also included restrictions on foreign state-owned enterprises that dumped subsidized products into our markets, intellectual property protections for rising U.S. technologies – like free access for all cloud computing services.  Like any trade deal, TPP would have challenged some U.S. workers but it would have created opportunities for many others, because big economies like Japan and Vietnam were opening their markets.  For decades we had allowed Japan to stay way too closed because, because it was an ally in the Cold War, and Vietnam, because it was an enemy.  Some 80 percent of the goods from our 11 TPP partners were coming into the U.S. duty free already, while our goods and services were still being hit with 18,000 tariffs in their countries  – which TPP eliminated.

We could have even helped the economic reformers in China.  They were hoping that the emergence of TPP “would force China to reform its trade practices more along American lines and to open its markets  .  .  .  We failed the reformers in China.”

Ray Myers

P.S.  Happy Fourth of July weekend.  Enjoy.  Back on Wednesday, July 5th.

Emoji As Modern Art πŸ˜„πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜¬πŸ˜ƒπŸ™‹πŸ‘πŸŽ‰πŸ‘πŸ‘Ύ And a New Lexicon πŸ˜œπŸ˜πŸ‘…πŸ˜ΈπŸ™€πŸ‘€πŸ˜‡πŸ€–πŸ‘»

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York City has decided that these glyphs have now obtained an artistic status that entitles them them to an permanent exhibition of their own.  The original set contained 176 emoji, but now there are nearly 2,oo0 standardiazed emoji.  They may have had their beginnings in Japan with the mobile telephone company DoCoMo and risen to MoMa, but they now seem to belong to everyone and no one.   Some see emoji becoming the medium for an Internet-wide collaborative art project as they are traded and remixed by users.

I am not really sure what kind of art project this would turn out to be.  I am still trying to figure out what all the emojis mean, but maybe that’s just my problem.  Here is what the experts say, and I have to take their word for it: “Emoji evoke art forms both ancient and modern, from hieroglyphics to manga (Japanese comics).  Their novelty is in how they are deployed.”   In some sense, I guess this means we can all become artists contributing to an Internet-wide “object d’art.”

And all along I thought I was just finding clever icons that I could include in email messages and random online responses.   Thank you emoji.

Ray Myers

French Connection

Yesterday was a very interesting day here in Hanoi. I had the opportunity to practice my French and recall some history lessons that take me back to infancy when my father was drafted to serve in Germany, and later, when an uncle also served in the German occupation.  When I was born my father was a foot soldier in the Army, part of the American forces that landed at Normandy during the D-Day invasion in World War II. The presentation I attended here in Vietnam was by a representative of the Ecole de Management de Normandie.   Basically it was a presentation on the use of SMART school management software to Vietnamese staff working at the national Ministry of Education and Training.

I was able to join the discussion and engage in conversation with the presenter, using my limited French conversational abilities.  Most of the staff here were quite surprised. The presentation was translated into Vietnamese for the general audience. As a college history major, and someone who is just that old, it was a vivid reminder that the U.S. presence in this part of the world is still primarily remembered as a military one.   Even before Vietnam, we lead the allies in wars with Japan, the Philippines and Korea.  

The French army left Indochina (Vietnam) in 1954.   So now Flench tech entrepreneurs sell software to the citizens of one of their former colonies/enemies.  C’est bon, n’est pas?

Ray Myers

Search Around the Clock – Big Data, Big Brother?

So maybe this is what Big Data is all about.  Now we know how much time people spend online and when they are doing it!  Somehow it reminds me of Big Brother?  If we are the “searchers” we may unwittingly become the objects of someone else’s searches?  And to that end we already have some international comparisons of what people might be doing over their lunch times.

Not so much in the United States, but some patterns appear in other countries.  In Britain, people catch up on the news.  In Japan, there is a noticeable rise in travel planning.  In Belgium, it’s anything shopping related.  Just a word of warning that may be obvious wherever you may be, you will probably be more prone to lapses and forgetfulness when you are searching online after midnight.  Maybe it’s time to go to bed?

I am not one to hand out unsolicited advice, but I can’t pass this one up.  Go to bed, get some rest.  As someone remarked to me, they somehow felt that the computer was “sucking their life away.”  And besides that, Big Brother/Big Data may be watching.

Ray Myers

Technology Comes to Rural Japan – Hooray!

So we all know that Japan has been a world leader in producing technology that has changed our modern lives. And of course we probably all think of Tokyo, Osaka, and other Japanese urban centers as the leading metropoloses of the 21st Century in forging such technological change. I was fortunate enough to have spent an academic semester in rural Japan, north of Osaka in the fall 1997, and made frequent return visits to all parts of Japan over the first decade of this century. Many innovators in the Japanes schools were sure that educational technology would be adopted by the Japanese Ministry and find its way into the Japanese schools as seamlessly as was the case in the U.S. This was not to be true in Japan, for a variety of reasons, but perhaps most importantly that a centralized Ministry of Education in Japan was still in control of curricular and instructional decisions across the country. Individual teachers and other educational leaders certainly championed the advantages of educational technology at all levels, but making such “official” changes rested with the Ministerial officials, many senior career bureaucrats.

Now it seems that technology may be changing the very life styles of many young Japanese professionals working in tech-related industries. They can work in a more relaxed rural setting not so much regulated by the ticking of the clock but much more by the sharing of time with colleagues and families in a less structured urban setting. Similarly, these families also seem to enjoy the collaborative community aspect of working there which already seems to support more creativity in their professional lives. Technology becomes the tool that they use to make their lives and work more meaningful. They are not tied to the ticking of the clock and the timing of the trains in their urban commutes.

Please know that I feel that the Japanese culture and people are to be commended for their generous and innovative spirit. We too have much to learn from them, and technology can help us learn more about more of what Japan has to offer outside of its urban centers too.

Ray Myers