This September, Joichi Ito took over as the new director of the MIT Media Lab, succeeding Frank Moss, who headed the lab for the past five years.
Known as Joi (pronounced 'Joey'), Ito is recognized as one of the world’s leading thinkers and writers on innovation, technology policy and the Internet. He has been an early investor in more than 40 start-up companies ± including Flickr and Twitter — and was founder and CEO of the venture capital firm Neoteny Co. Ltd. He has served on the board of ICANN, the Internet’s governance organization, and is master of one of the longest running guilds in the online fantasy game World of Warcraft. He has also worked as a nightclub DJ, he worked on the set of a Sean Penn film and he is Timothy Leary's godson.
A self-directed learner who holds no college degree — he briefly attended Tufts and the University of Chicago — Ito has worked closely with academia throughout his career to explore new approaches for learning and collaboration. In 1997, at age 31, he was listed among Time’s "Cyber-Elite"; in 2001, he was selected by the World Economic Forum as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow"; in 2005, Newsweek named him one of the "Leaders of The Pack"; and in 2008, BusinessWeek named him one of the "25 Most Influential People on the Web."
On a hot afternoon in June, we met up with him in his new office for a brief introductory chat about his new position here, his Buddhist-inspired attitude toward life, his new hobby of deep sea diving and what he's learned from swimming with sharks.