Interview with Joi Ito – Meeting Tim, Collaborating with Tim, Being Tim’s Godson

Joi Ito In 1995, when he was collaborating on Leary.com

Joi Ito in 1995

Q: In this video, he calls you his godson? What’s the story behind that?

A: I met Tim on the evening of my birthday when I was turning 24 in Tokyo, in Roppongi, through a mutual friend, David Kubiak. I remember, because I asked him about the number “23″ and the whole Cosmic Trigger book story by Robert Anton Wilson, and asked Tim if he had really talked to aliens. Tim said all that was a big joke. The whole 23 thing and alien thing. We laughed and laughed.

We became close friends after that, and started collaborating on a book. I don’t remember exactly when it was, but somewhere along the line, we decided I would be his Godson. Tim had this thing. He would adopt god children.

One more thing I remember, was when I asked him what it meant to be his Godson. He told me that it was my duty as a godson to teach him – that he adopted godchildren to be his teachers.

Joi Ito with Timothy Leary at Tims home in 1995.

Joi Ito with Timothy Leary at Tim's home in 1995.

Q: You mentioned you were working on a book with Tim. What was it about?

A: The title was “The New Breed.” When we first met, Tim was into Virtual Reality. He asked the editor of the Kyoto Journal, David Kubiak, to introduce him to someone in Japan that knew about VR and computers and youth culture. At the time, I was organizing parties, into computers, and generally pretty involved in the street scene in Tokyo.

When I met him, I took Tim on a whirlwind tour of the Japanese club scene, and introduced him to a bunch of the “kids.” They were pretty high tech, into gaming, and funky. Tim called us “The New Breed.” We decided that this new generation of Japanese youth were not going to “drop out” as in “Tune in, Turn on, Drop out” but rather “Tune in, Turn on, Take over.” He was also into the “realities per minute (RPM)” thing, and measured “The New Breed”as having a “very high RPM.”

When we started the book, Tim was still using a lot of fax communications…

I’d guess we probably wrote about 100 pages or so, but both of us were so scatterbrained and unfocused at the time that it never really came together. I think I have notes somewhere. We never published it.

I think Chris Graves and his crew documented some of the conversation we were having, and I hope some day to get a chance to see some of that nostalgia…

Chris and his crew were living at Tim’s house taking care of Tim, documenting on video the life at his house. People would drop in and out, chatting with Tim. It was a real hang-out. For a while, I’d drop by and visit often, since my mom lived in LA. A lot of the ideas for the book were from conversations at the house.

The website was really an attempt to make a virtual version of what went on at his home, and I think Chris and the team did an amazing job.

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