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1.Preface "Concentration and Distribution" Japanese Page

Junichi Nomura, Trustee of JPNIC

Although recently I have not been able to find much time to read, I sometimes feel like buying a book and enjoying it when I have free time while on a business trip. "Literary" books have never been my first choice; I tend to like detective stories, science fiction, and books on society and history. I like science fiction in particular, of which I have enjoyed E. E. Smith's space operas, the writings of SF giants like Arthur C. Clark and Isaac Asimov, and recent writers such as Orson S. Card.

Science fiction imaginatively unfolds unexpected scenarios, which are often hard to believe in common-sense terms. I believe that most fans find it interesting because the stories stimulate the reader's imagination. However, I have found that some of the better books I have read are full of interesting suggestions. For example, in Asimov's "The End of Eternity," the organization that controls time travel actually artificially coordinates the future of the human race for the sake of everyone's happiness. However, the book also strongly proposes that knowing the future reduces the incentive to challenge something new, ultimately causing the decline of the human race.

The book that left an especially deep impression on me was Clarke's "Childhood's End." The story is about humans evolving with the aid of aliens from another planet. The direction of evolution is such that all human beings will become as one by acquiring the power to share everyone else's minds. The aliens who helped the humans are themselves actually dreaming to be as evolved and united as humans. That dream will never come true; they will remain as a collective. Although the author is just trying to contrast "a collective where individuals keep their originality" with "one united existence of individuals", and not stating clearly the superiority or inferiority of one or the other, I still feel that he wants to value individuals rather than being united as one.

In this way, the Western way of thinking generally puts more importance on individuality, which is a clear contrast with Eastern thinking, where overall harmony is seen as the priority. The difference seems to appear in various aspects of both societies.

Let's take a look at education systems in Japan and in the U.S. The policies undertaken in the primary schools of the two countries are considerably different. In Japan, the policy is to give all children the same education, so as to improve levels as a whole. On the other hand, in the United States, it is common to educate every child according to his/her interests and abilities. In other words, the objective of Japan's system is to teach children to do the same things that other people do, while the U.S. system encourages doing something different from other people. This is not only a policy in educational institutions, but is also a reflection of what most people are thinking in families and in society in general.

Also, distribution of leading universities and corporations is geographically centralized in Japan, while being more dispersed in the States. To become dispersed, a cycle needs to be in existence, each area needs to be developed with characteristic industries and cultures, and there is a need for local industry and the area itself to be settled by talented people, which will further promote development.

In Japan, of course, each region is making efforts to develop its industry and culture with originality; however, centralization of industries and culture in Tokyo is more advanced than the distribution of the population. It seems that the way of thinking "it's better to stay the same than be different" is underlying these trends.

This trend of centralization and distribution is more obvious when looking at the traffic distribution of Internet. In Japan, Internet traffic is most heavy in Tokyo. Subtracting traffic heading overseas, I think it is because Internet content is centralized in Tokyo. Traffic is centralized in major cities in the U.S as well, but there is more distribution in each area. On the other hand, it was previously obvious that world Internet traffic was converging in the United States, but there is a gradually growing trend of global distribution as the Internet spreads out to each region and content becomes more developed. This is a natural movement of the Internet, which is characterized as a sender of information of itself, not simply a receiver. In this regards, Japan is the rare case.

Considering that the Internet is becoming ever-present in our society, and that the Japanese society and economy is increasingly becoming more involved on an international level, our future will be influenced by whether or not we can fit our consciousness and actions into such an environment. In order to measure the changes in consciousness structure and how well concrete actions are undertaken based on those changes, I believe that it would be a good thing if there is a shift from centralization to distribution in society.

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