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I just moved to Japan, and it's fascinating that connotations (including my previous) with Japan are "High tech, futuristic, efficient" when in reality it is, "slow moving, traditional, and (frequently) inefficient." I can comment more as to why / how.

This woman is not only fighting cultural norms of the _world_, but also Japan. Software engineering, in general, lags so far behind the rest of the world, save robotics. It's starting to change, and I'm glad that people like Wakamiya-san are preventing the creation of a 'conventional software engineer'. Seriously, the field needs more role models like Grace Hopper to idolize rather than our current trend of Jobs, Gates, Woz, Knuth, etc.




> Seriously, the field needs more role models like Grace Hopper to idolize rather than our current trend of Jobs, Gates, Woz, Knuth, etc.

How about not idolising anyone? Those role models you list are each admired for completely different reasons. What's wrong with them? At the moment your comment seems sexist.


Right. Sexist. Okay. I'll bite.

Since I'm clearly in the wrong here, I'll let you explain to minorities, women, and non-gendered people why there aren't any people in the engineering limelight that look like them.

While you're at it, please figure out how to break into their subconscious to make them believe that they're capable while the rest of the world shows no clues of that.

I'll be waiting.


Totally agree we need role models from all groups and should make sure especially that the ones who are minorities get all the attention they deserve. That doesn't mean that our existing ones should be undesirable because of their gender and race.


> That doesn't mean that our existing ones should be undesirable because of their gender and race.

Do you think that's an argument someone is making here?


Yes, I think parent saying "rather than" means that they prefer one over another. A both/and additive approach to diversity is much more just and healthy than an either/or zero-sum one. Indeed the latter just becomes discrimination in another form.


Even if I knew any of the answers, why should I explain anything to anyone? I'm not going to apologise for having been born looking like people I admire.

Why would I want to convince someone that they can do something? What if they can't? Did you try to convince your plumber that he might be good at carpentry last time you saw him?

At the end of the day, I don't care whether Jobs, Gates, Woz, and Knuth have penises or not. For some reason you do and I think you should be the one to explain yourself.


I'm not sure if your comment is intentionally obtuse. Nobody is asking you to apologise for being born the majority, and if that's what you took from the parent comment then that's very silly.

Equating gender and profession, also, is very silly.


The comment is essentially saying that if I do great things and become a role model then I'm not welcome because we already have plenty that "look like me".

What else am I supposed to read?

I never equated gender and profession so that comment looks completely out of place.


> The comment is essentially saying that if I do great things and become a role model then I'm not welcome because we already have plenty that "look like me".

The comment isn't about you at all. The OP said we need more role models like Grace Hopper and less like Jobs, Woz, etc. Reading this as "White men should stop aspiring to become future role models" is silly, it's about a desire to increase the diversity of tech role models. It really just sounds like you're playing the victim here, for no real reason?


Come on. If the post wasn't about that then why does it specifically call out four male role models? It could have just left it at Grace Hopper, but no. The post contains more negative than positive by far.


Since the thread is more akin to a trash fire than something of substance, perhaps, I can offer some insight into my comment.

My comment is merely a nod to the notion that I believe we're missing out on brilliant minds that could shape our future. Brilliance and genius aren't confined to a race or gender. This is nothing about being white, and it's not about diversity for diversity's sake. It's more about progress.

We've all benefitted from the aforementioned greats and their contributions. I do, however, think there are some rocks unturned and I'd like to see them given a chance.


The point is that when _anyone_ thinks about role models in computer science and programming, all of the options fit into a pretty small niche. It _is_ relevant to have those examples, because there's a world of difference between nobody having any role models at all, and every role model being from one group.

Think about how much the existence of these role models obviously matters to you, and realise that nobody wants to take that away from _you_, they simply want to give it to other people as well. When I look at the field of programming, I don't see people like me. Things are getting better, but we still live in a world where if you aren't a white man then you have no examples to point to and say "look, I can do this!"

And you might say, "well, I never needed that", and that might be true - I obviously never needed it either - but appreciate that whether you needed it or not, you _had_ it, and a lot of other people do need it, whether white man or not. We all need role models to aspire to. Stop acting like other people getting the things you've always had is taking anything away from you.


Those four role models don't look like me, and I think they're all awful examples of people someone should look up to. But you need to acknowledge both sides. Stop being so stubborn and look at it objectively. We do need more diversity in role models, however by saying you want less of the current role models you are initiating a direct attack. It's tricky business either way. But perhaps it would be better to say that you wish four great role models that look like you also held such prominent mindshare.


>We do need more diversity in role models, however by saying you want less of the current role models you are initiating a direct attack.

Literally nobody is saying this. If people are reading "we should have more role models who aren't men" as "we should have fewer male role models" then that is _their_ problem, not a legitimate point which needs to be debated.


Did you even read the post? It says he wants more Grace Hopper rather than more male role models. It's an absurd and offensive thing to say but unfortunately one which will be cheered in many echo chambers.

Practically speaking, how can anyone make more role models that satisfy some arbitrary appearance standard? The implication is that we have those role models because of their appearance and reject equally deserving ones of other appearances. Again that's absurd and offensive.


"I'd rather have more X" != "I want less Y". This is not a zero sum game.


<throws wrench> ... why does X need role model X? Can't an X have role model Y? Why wait for there to be role model anything. Those who want to come in, come in!


Some X don't. I didn't. Some X do.

Realise that you're talking about human beings, not machines. Human beings are raised from birth in human society and do not make decisions like "what kind of things do I want to be interested in?" in a perfectly logical and informed manner.

When you come across popular figures in any area, if they look like you the immediate reaction is "wow, so I could do that too?". If none of them look like you, then the reaction is not that. You might end up doing that thing anyway - no corellation is 100% - but the idea that children have role models that they can relate to is not some hard hitting hot take.


Who are these people that need a role model? How do you know they even exist? It really sounds like you've just cooked up a theory with no supporting evidence.


I know because, staggeringly, there has been actual research done and I talk to human beings who this affects. Like, literally five seconds on Google Scholar could have answered that question.

Do you have counter-studies to cite, or is just a case of academic consensus not agreeing with you and so being ignored? I'm actually astonished by your responses here. You're writing with an air of superiority and authority while asking basic questions like "Who are these people?" and "How do you know they exist?" which I had assumed were fundamental bases of any legitimate discussion on the topic.


No, it is not a fundamental truth. I haven't seen any evidence. It sounds like you could show me, but you haven't.

My original point was nothing to do with whether such people exist or not, by the way, I'm just asking that question now because you seem to be referring to some research that I'm not aware of.


>Like, literally five seconds on Google Scholar could have answered that question.

You're probably going to consider this flippant, but: Having the same arguments over and over again with people who haven't done any research is too boring for me to be willing to do it again. I have limited time and it isn't my job to google for you. If you were saying "I disagree with the research" or "I have problems with the research" then that's interesting enough to be engaging, but "I am unaware of the research" means we'd just be having the same conversation I've had a dozen times before. No thank you.


> The point is that when _anyone_ thinks about role models in computer science and programming, all of the options fit into a pretty small niche.

Men are not a "niche" and, again, I really don't care that those people all have penises. To equate Donald Knuth and Steve Jobs because of their genitalia is absurd. Those men have actually done things and it is those things that we might choose to admire.


Have you heard of "examples." They are things you provide in order to make your point more clear. Seriously.


> when in reality it is, "slow moving, traditional, and (frequently) inefficient."

Since you just moved here, I would also consider the "whys" of those problems you see. Approaches are probably different from what you're used to elsewhere, but that doesn't necessarily make them inefficient or bad -- just different from what you're used to.


Agreed. You can see my other comment, but I think it takes some time to wrap your head around and reconciling the differences.


Having Alan Turing as a role model helped me immensely with internalized homophobia.

When I was younger I honestly thought there weren't many intelligent gay man, and that it was somehow a proof that I was never going to be really good. That was until I discovered Alan Turing was gay, and actively researched about intelligent gay people.

Role models that are like you are so important. One day a friend asked why I got excited when I discovered some guy I admired was gay, and then I realized that he doesn't understand because he has lots of people like him in any area. I know it sounds kind of tribalist in a way, but when society puts you down because you are in a certain group, it's really hard to avoid thinking you are "limited" because of who you are. After seeing lots of people like me, it's less important to me to have these role models since now I know I'm no less of a person because of who I am.

Point is, I don't think most people understand the impact of having role models that are like you, and that's why they don't "get it" when people talk about it.


> When I was younger I honestly thought there weren't many intelligent gay man, and that it was somehow a proof that I was never going to be really good. That was until I discovered Alan Turing was gay, and actively researched about intelligent gay people.

Indeed. Young people believing in themselves and feeling that the field will accept them is incredibly important. It reminds me of this quote from an article [1]:

> ...any healthy child—if taught early and intensively—can be brought up to be exceptionally successful in any field.

Children should be allowed to enjoy their childhood, but I think there is some ground to be covered in exposing more demographics to computer science early.

[1] - https://daily.jstor.org/chess-grandmastery-nature-gender-gen...


I attended a Microsoft developer event in Tokyo today and was surprised that all of the keynote engineer speakers were female.

Might have been a bit of a marketing exercise, but nonetheless it’s a really good thing to see.


If gender doesn't matter, why is it a good thing to see more of a specific one?


If 100% of their engineers are women then yes they still have a problem. If it's a sign that they have a more even balance then it's a good thing because they're not wasting/ignoring 50% of the potential pool of people, and because diversity of backgrounds leads to better decision making and more innovation[1] which presumably as a tech company is a desirable outcome.

[1] See references to papers in this blog posting: http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbli... and also https://hbr.org/2013/12/how-diversity-can-drive-innovation


It might be a sign of exactly the opposite. Unless we know the method used to pick the speakers, it's all speculation.


Interestingly, I've was unable to attend a developer event in Japan last year due to my gender.

I find all sorts of different types of sexism in Japan, but also lots of young hardworking people who have no time for it.


Can you elaborate? What happened exactly and how were you informed?


>> I can comment more as to why / how.

please, I'd like to hear your observations.


I'm from the south in the US, specifically the Appalachia (`app-uh-lai-chuh` for us) region. The culture I grew up in and Japan aren't so dissimilar. That's partly why I live in Japan.

Aside from people being on time and getting food to you -- "things" (for lack of better term) move slow here. Some examples:

- It took me three weeks to get a debit card from one of the national banks here. They have a web login and send me an email every time I swipe my card; however, there's no way to check my balance online.

- At restaurants / coffee shops you'll stand in line for an exceptional amount of time. In NYC, if a line gets "out of hand" baristas / servers shorten the amount of attention they give to each customer. It's expected when you get to the counter, you know what you want. Not in Japan (or at least all the places I've visited). Many times people will get to the counter, after standing in line, and debate with their friends what to purchase. It's always great that you know the person behind the counter is giving you their full attention, but it's frustrating when you're behind 2 - 3 people who are taking their time with their purchase. It's especially ironic in a culture that is fixated on not inconveniencing others.

- Swiping a credit card is weirdly complicated. In most places in the USA / the rest of the world -- it's a 'swipe and go' sort of deal. In Japan many systems are geared more toward physical money and transit cards (Passmo / Suica). In many cases, using your bank card requires closing the transaction on the register, printing a receipt, keying this in on another machine, waiting, and signing (in some cases). The efficiency that transactions happen with in the USA is definitely something I took for granted.

- In terms of it being traditional here, I liken current Japanese culture to the US in the 1930s - 40s. A majority of people who work in Tokyo will be in suits (sometimes known as 'salary men' depending on their position), and the gestures of bowing and greeting are much like America's pre-WWII culture of tipping hats / more formal language. I've always been fascinated with more humble, traditional culture(s). I think it attributes to better humans.

Though it seems like I'm giving Japan a hard time in some ways -- it's just "different," but I wanted to highlight some of the ways that (as a foreigner) your predispositions affect your expectations of a culture. I largely attribute my own to media coverage of Japan in the U.S.

Tangent to all of this. One of my favorite things that was unexpected, but obvious once I knew about it was the Japanese concept of "monozukuri"[1]. Many things are so well crafted here, because of a cultural emphasis on producing things with quality. I also think this is a part of why things move slow here. Americans are so focused on immediacy that there's a line of books exploiting that, Sam's "Learn X in 24HRs." I respect Japan for not being the "face paced" culture SF / NYC have turned into. Tokyo feels so tame in comparison, and (for me at least) that's a good thing.

1 - http://www.japanintercultural.com/en/news/default.aspx?newsi...


Interesting observations. But for me, (been in Japan many times over the last 5 years), I didn't notice any of the items you mentioned.

Seemed similar to NY/SF speed in Tokyo, Osaka, and Yokohama.

To me, there is less or no small talk- definitely in places like Lawson and 7/11, but even department stores, with local or foreigner customers.

I noticed things go slower in Kyoto and other small towns, but no slower than small towns anywhere else in the world.


> To me, there is less or no small talk- definitely in places like Lawson and 7/11, but even department stores, with local or foreigner customers.

Even though I'm pretty basic, there are a couple of cashiers I'm friendly with / make small talk. I think it's there if you initiate it. Albeit, I'm pretty friendly / jovial.

> I noticed things go slower in Kyoto and other small towns, but no slower than small towns anywhere else in the world.

I think it depends on where in Tokyo you are. Ginza feels slower than Shibuya and Shinjuku to me. I'd say Tokyo is most like LA in how many different "feeling" neighborhoods / micro-cities you have within one area.


> It's especially ironic in a culture that is fixated on not inconveniencing others.

I can explain this paradox: Japanese will wait patiently for their turn without complaint, but when it’s their turn it’s THEIR TURN.


> - At restaurants / coffee shops you'll stand in line for an exceptional amount of time. In NYC, if a line gets "out of hand" baristas / servers shorten the amount of attention they give to each customer. It's expected when you get to the counter, you know what you want. Not in Japan (or at least all the places I've visited). Many times people will get to the counter, after standing in line, and debate with their friends what to purchase. It's always great that you know the person behind the counter is giving you their full attention, but it's frustrating when you're behind 2 - 3 people who are taking their time with their purchase. It's especially ironic in a culture that is fixated on not inconveniencing others.

I never got this. The thing is, it seemed to me that the people who are waiting are totally "cool" with it. They are not bothered and will, in turn, take their time to pick. I think it is just a cultural thing. But yes, it is interesting given that Japanese are not annoying people, and they value time.

The points you make are valid. I think people perceive Japan as a high tech country because they have a highly developed and efficient transit system. I mean when you go there as a tourist, that's practically what you are interacting with. Oh, and high speed Internet. That certainly will strike the average person as a high tech country.


> I never got this. The thing is, it seemed to me that the people who are waiting are totally "cool" with it. They are not bothered and will, in turn, take their time to pick. I think it is just a cultural thing. But yes, it is interesting given that Japanese are not annoying people, and they value time.

They are definitely cool with it. I think Americans and a lot of the world are consumers out of convenience, whereas (for coffee and other similar goods) people in Japan are consumers for the experience. I think the choosing portion is a part of this experience that they're there for. Just a hypothesis, though.

> The points you make are valid. I think people perceive Japan as a high tech country because they have a highly developed and efficient transit system. I mean when you go there as a tourist, that's practically what you are interacting with. Oh, and high speed Internet. That certainly will strike the average person as a high tech country.

Transit is amazing here. Except when it rains, it seems to cause the local trains some trouble, which is unexpected. My internet experience has been hit or miss, but work and cafe speeds are amazing here. Not Seoul[1] amazing, but solid.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_in_South_Korea


I find a lot of the preconceptions on Japan seem to carry over from perceptions of their economic and industrial prowess from the 80s and 90s and consumer electronics and mobile technology dominance in the 90s-00s.

Things have changed a lot since then - besides high tech the other preconception is the assumption that costs/expenses are quite high - I’ve found these days Tokyo (and doubly so for the rest of the country) on the cheaper end of world class cities/developed countries these days.

Tech-wise there are a few things that I think continue to be interesting:

* As mentioned their transit system is first class. Their touchless pay system continues to develop and works pretty much seamlessly across the country now (there are some cash-only country buses still) and you can use it at just about every convenience store. Phones support Suica natively now and can auto refill - I’m not sure I’ve seen another transit card around the world that works across the whole country. There isn’t real-time GPS tracking for buses and the like but everything runs on schedule so maybe not so necessary

* Japanese vending machines are the best and the rest of the world should get with the program. This is as much infrastructure as technology - having the supply chain to restock and maintain vending machines every 100m (max) in cities and in literally the middle of nowhere across the country is really something if you think about it

* Japanese people still like tiny gadgets and you’ll often find slightly miniaturized versions of everything, which can be neat/charming, although not the insane feats of engineering they were in the past

* Japanese software generally sucks but it’s interesting for me to see where there engineering effort has gone like into pikakura machines, networked arcade games (like MMO horse racing simulators, NFC card-based RTS arcade consoles, etc), etc

* I’ve heard lots about domestic robots but I haven’t seen anything out in the wild. There’s that one somewhat automated theme hotel, but that’s more of a gimmick than anything. The Robot Restaurant is awesome for many reasons, but the mechanical stuff is all RC’d.


> I’m not sure I’ve seen another transit card around the world that works across the whole country.

HongKong but it is a small city. The card also functions in Macau.


As is Singapore's EZ-Link. In fact, you can buy a EZ-Link SINO Visitor Pass, which is both a Singapore EZ-Link card and a Guangdong Lingnan card... I know Hong Kong issues a few cards like this for cities across the border in the mainland.

Still, not nearly as impressive as the Japanese system.


A couple weeks ago, a popular post here on HN was how U.S. culture was actually lagging Japanese culture by about 10 - 20 years, while much of the rest of the world lags U.S. culture by a few years, and how things that were trendy in Japan quite a while ago are just now getting popular in the U.S. and then they will spread to Australia and other places in a few years.

So it's interesting to see your opinion that is contrary to that article.


Do you have a link to that post?



Thanks!


> In most places in the USA / the rest of the world -- it's a 'swipe and go' sort of deal.

In most of EU you never swipe. I have swiped maybe 2x in my life and only because the chip did not work. (The swipe then did not work either...) You either use chip/pin or contactless and pin over 20eur


In most places the magstrip is disabled (both on the cards and in the readers) because it's insecure and there was a lot of low-effort cloning going around.


The hardware to clone magstripe cards is shockingly cheap and easy to get hold of.

I was tickled a few years ago when Samsung tried to roll out mobile payments in the US and had to include a kind of hardware magnetic stripe emulator in their phones, chip & pin is nowhere near ubiquitous yet.


> Many things are so well crafted here, because of a cultural emphasis on producing things with quality.

I think this, at least partially, is the culprit behind being slow. Quality requires time, years of practice, sweat, dedication and experience. And it works really well for craftsmanship. Japan is well known for it's craft, art, cuisine and aesthetics - even in trivial cases like design of manholes or disposable shopping packages. Unfortunately, the same doesn't seem to work for technology, especially for IT. Learn a language/framework today, forget tomorrow, rapidly switch to more efficient solution, keep up with industry standards and everyday learn something new. There's no place for "learn once - master whole life" concept in current enterprise environment. Maybe with exclusion of basic principles. Everything else change on a daily basis. Yet, Japanese web pages tend to look like messy amateur pages on GeoCities 20 years ago and financial institutions wouldn't change for ages (actually, their online pages looks even worse.)

I do disagree about restaurant lines, though. I've yet to see so well organized crowd. And people do know what to order when they reach the counter because in most places they have a menu in their hands long before they get there. And any other lines, on that matter, especially when you compare Western train/metro stations.


> I do disagree about restaurant lines, though

Restaurants ( especially soba / ramen ) are so efficient it's insane.

I should have clarified, I'm talking more about coffee shops / cafes ( 喫茶店 ).


you are just talking about buying stuff, and money

I think your point of view may be a little too americanish


I do like that the Japanese culture seems more apt to actually stop and smell the roses.


Why Grace and not Jobs/Gates/Woz? Please elaborate - I'm curious.


I am in Japan, too How to contact you?




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