[Humanode Special Interview Series]: Shannon, media lead at Humanode

[Humanode Special Interview Series]: Shannon, media lead at Humanode

Please introduce yourself. Where are you from, and what is your history?

Ok, well. I was born in the USA, back in 1970, so that makes me the oldest core member of the Humanode team. Although I still feel I'm 25, I have unfortunately doubled that.

I grew up in Japan, and I've mostly been in Japan since I was 7 years old.

You see, my parents had a firm belief that the world is getting to be a smaller place and that, eventually, the world will work its way to become as if it is one country. It's based on the belief that “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens”. But in order for the world to be able to work as if it is one, there are many things that need to be overcome, including understanding other cultures and building bridges between various nations and thoughts and ideas.

My parents had spent some time in Europe in the late 1960s and were shocked at how closed minded America was when they got back.  That was probably one of the reasons why they wanted to bring their children up in an “international” environment. Basically for us children to be raised to become bridges between nations and cultures to build the future.

They applied for jobs all over the world, and they got jobs in Japan, so Japan was where we went. Although I have spent a few years living in other countries, such as in Taiwan and Korea, as a family, we've been in Japan ever since January of 1978.

For a majority of my professional career, I was a photographer. I am still a photographer.

Does this greatly affect your interests and professional experience?

Yes. Yes, actually it does, because growing up in Japan and in various cultural environments, I am able to look at issues or even daily things from multiple perspectives or angles. My view of something as an American or as a Westerner would be very different from how a Japanese or somebody from an Asian country would view things. Even a simple word spoken in the right place, which could be in the wrong place for the other culture, can have great effects. And if you do not understand the cultural nuances, it makes things very very difficult.  For example, an American would want a clear yes or no answer, whereas a Japanese would take that as being rude, and they will try to give more leeway to the answer, allowing a non confrontational way out for both parties.  Or, for example, a Japanese would think it is rude if you did not thank them (or at least mention to them how much they enjoyed it) for a dinner on multiple occasions, whereas it would be extremely rude if you apologized more than once when the party you apologized to verbally forgave you.  On the flip side, in Korea, if you do not say your sorry for something multiple times, you are absolutely rude and disgraceful and did not mean it in the first place, whereas if you thank someone more than once for a dinner you are rude, and others will take it as if you are demanding more.

Anyhow, I grew up in an environment where I constantly had to think of how other people would view a certain point of view, or how people would feel towards even a gesture, simple hand gesture or anything.  So I had to be very very very observant.

I guess, all through my childhood it was a great learning experience in trying to find the middle path, so to say. I believe that no matter how different a person's opinion is towards something, there's always something that I call “points of unity”.  There are deep underlying principles that people agree on, such as “children need to be cared for”, “to love someone is important”, “family is important”, “we need to make a living”, or “I want to be understood”, and so on, meaning the deep lying principles or virtues that people agree upon. You will find that quite often people are arguing about points that in reality, they 100% agree on, but are just expressing it differently, or only listening to their own voice.  Sometimes all you need is one person who is able to “translate” the differences, making it clear that the two parties actually already deeply agree on the subject but just need to work on learning how to appreciate the difference in the strategies.

So, as a professional photographer, journalist, or even in my roles of being a business person, my job is to find, then communicate the points that need to be communicated, or understood the most.

And you propose the Humanode motto ‘Unity within’.

Well, I try to.  The one thing that I have always tried to do is to find those points of unity, even in chaos I am trying to find the unity within. I guess the reason why I really wanted to become a journalist was to be able to find a way to express those truths in a way that people will understand, along with the fact that there's actually a middle path, and this middle path addresses everybody's needs or at least the underlying needs of people. So I try to find that balance, and try to communicate the fact that not everything needs to be a “win or lose” or “take all or nothing”.  The world is so interconnected and every nation is totally dependent on each other, even if you don’t realize it.  People can be different, yet equal.  My conclusion in life so far is that the only way for us, as a human race, to move forward, is to realize that the key is unity in diversity.

Could you tell a bit about your journalistic experience?

Let's see.  As a photographer and as a journalist, I've worked with all of the major newspapers in Japan, most of the top news magazines in Japan, and quite a few international magazines. I've done work for National Geographic Japan, and shot the cover for Newsweek in like 10 different editions. I have 10 books under my name, some on sports, some on photography.  I do a lot of interviews, so I do a lot of portraits work. I did a lot of work with the musicians, actors, and big name politicians and business people because I am one of the few people (if not the only at that time) that could interview in English, while shooting photos, and then turn around and write the story in Japanese without requiring translation.  So for Japanese media, I was the goto person to interview anybody important coming from an English speaking nation. I was also an official photographer for EMI Music in Japan. So, let's say, if Norah Jones came to Japan I was constantly the photographer assigned to Norah Jones. I was also the photographer assigned for Sarah Brightman, Celtic Woman, Prince... I did work with Coldplay, and I did work with Queen. I've also done work with, actually, most major Hollywood actors. Angelina Jolie, I photographed her. Tom Cruise, I've interviewed him. As for politicians, I have, of course, interviewed many Japanese prime ministers. I worked with Bill Clinton when he came to Japan. I also worked with Rudy Giuliani once, when he wasn't so crazy. In the world of computing, I've interviewed Steve Wozniak, he was one of the founders of Apple Computers.  And finally, there was my journalistic work with the homeless in Japan and the Japanese slums, work documenting the demining and rebuilding of Bosnia Hertzigovina, and work focusing on baseball that ranged from the Dominican Republic, to Japan, to the US, to Taiwan and Korea… So, yes, photography and journalism was my life and is my life.  

Maybe you have some memorable moments to share about interviewing or photographing celebrities?

There were quite a few memorable moments that are great stories that I am happy to share over coffee.  But for me, the photographs that I took did all of the talking, and in the end, to me that is, there is nothing more interesting than the moments I was able to cut out and immortalize as a photograph.

Having said that, from around the year 2007, as the internet became more prominent, I realized that the traditional business model that existed in the world of journalism was changing and would go through a major change that would affect the livelihood of many journalists and many photographers. Everything was digital, and people assumed it was “a lot easier” because everything was now automatic.  Anybody can take and post a picture, anybody can write a story (lets not get into the discussion of quality here.  lol), no need for editors, no need to worry about how many photos to use or not use, no need to worry about length of article, and no one to say what can be published and what couldn’t be.  No need for professionals right?  At least, that is what it seemed like at the time.

In any case, I started to realize that the world was going to become a much smaller place and will be even more connected because of the Internet.

Thus I tried to assist in that process, of course, not only by writing articles, but getting more involved in the business aspect trying to find a way forward for the media in a new age that is not bound by national boundaries.

I remembered that I had been raised with the viewpoint that the world was going to become as if it was one country, so I just started to think, OK, if the world is to become one country someday, what is the vision we are aiming for, and what are the steps that it needs to take?   Then backtrack the steps and see what I need to do today to make that step a reality.

Of course I also realized that if the people in the businesses and the industries did not have the right vision, it would be a much tougher path, and if they act on a one sided vision based on greed and more money for those who stake their claim first… that would be spelling a global disaster.

So, while continuing some of my work as a journalist, I chose to get more involved in the hands-on work.  In order to brush up or to learn the skills that were required, I started working with startups, even founded a few startups and had some great ideas too.  Naturally, at first I failed miserably, but I also learned a lot and eventually got to the point where I actually was able to put plans into comprehensive action, assist in building business development frameworks, assist in PR and marketing structures that go beyond a quick marketing blurb, and assist in hardware and software development - stuff that I never was good at.  Basically, through this process, I got proficient in business enough that I started to become a part of the management of the startups I assisted. We had some success, some of the companies that I worked with exited. I also became known to be, I guess, a decent consultant in business development. So I've been working with some of the top companies in Japan to assist with their business development, especially in the field of IT and international business.

How did you meet the Paradigm team and how did you get involved in crypto?

Well, I, as you know, am a latecomer in crypto. I, of course, watched the world of crypto from the outside, but never got really involved because Japan is so conservative when it comes to crypto, and I had always been a person that used cash to buy everything. I still hate using credit cards and digital wallets.  I guess I am just from the generation that does not really trust computers due to too many wipeouts and data losses because we used tape drives and unstable memory.   Having said that, I know how messed up the banking systems and financial systems are first hand… I have been a serious journalist for far too long not to…  So in the back of my mind, there was always a little voice asking me if there was anything that I could do to assist the restructuring of the financial systems so that they could address the global needs.  Also, I have this strong voice in my heart that tells me if you want something to change, you have to be part of the movement to change it, and if possible, you should actually be there leading the change.

I met Paradigm out of a coincidence. Paradigm happened to be looking for somebody to assist them in gaining entry into the Japanese market, and I just happened to be available for the job with a business partner of mine.  It was just a coincidence really, and we were introduced to the Paradigm team.

Of course, you know, the first thing that we hear is that the Paradigm team is from Russia, and they deal with crypto. The first thing that goes through our minds is: “Oligarchs? Are these people dangerous?’ But we said, ‘Meh, let's give it a chance, for some reason I have a good feeling here’. So, we met online and started working together.  The more things moved forward, the more I liked what I was hearing and seeing.   After actually meeting the Paradigm team when they visited Japan, I realized that the Paradigm team was very much in sync with what I felt was needed in the financial world. The possibilities that we talked about went beyond just the financial world, but applications that could be used in the future and in the fields of journalism and sharing knowledge globally. Yes, money is nice, but it isn't the main thing, and sharing this knowledge with the world and making the world a better place will actually benefit not just the world in general, but benefit you and benefit me. I was really happy to meet people that are actually, you know, practically half my age that not only firmly believe this, but were actually seriously working on trying to find a solution.

When we first met, the whole concept of Humanode was just a concept, and was a concept that we talked about in Japanese onsens, Japanese hot springs.  Buck naked, taking a bath, talking about the possibilities, and the actions that we needed to take in the future to make a better future.

Humanode was something that we originally talked about being something we could do maybe in 5 or 6 years. But after only one year, maybe a year and a half, it actually became a reality.

Dato and Victor realized how to do it technically, and the more we talked about it with various people, the more we realized that the world actually needed the solution badly and that we could actually be in position to provide it because the whole team had been thinking about this for quite some time, making preparations, and Dato and Victor had clearly envisioned the path forward.  As a result, we were able to move the project forward at a very rapid pace.

I am actually very, very happy with how we have progressed and am even more happier about the team that has been assembled. Every single member of this core team, and we have 15 people right now, but every single member is thinking about how to make the world a better place.  Not in general terms as in “I wish for world peace.. Perhaps it will happen someday”, but as in action.  Each member is using their highly trained professional brain to put forth their best effort to make sure their part brings life to this platform being created . Some work with coding, some with cryptography, some with visuals, UI and UX,  some with communication, some work with the theories of economy, some work with project management, but the aim is the same, to make the world a better place for the generations to come, knowing that this is a game changer, knowing that this can actually assist in re-setting the balance, giving power and hope to people, and become a foundation for a truly global financial platform that does not rely on capital, where money does not have the biggest voice.

So yes, I'm very proud to be part of this team.

What is your role at Humanode?

My role is a bit of a mix and match. My main role is in the media and marketing team, so as some might have seen I've been working on videos.   They're not the best quality videos, but, you know, as we get more funds in the future, we might actually get some professionals to get some work done here.   But just to let you know, for the first year we were all bootstrapping, and you know what that means in terms of video production…  home production video time using a 10 year old camera and your closet as the studio!

In any case, my job here is to try to communicate the concept of what Humanode can bring.  Being the person with the least experience in crypto, my focus has been trying to explain the various concepts to people like “me from two years ago”, who may know something about technology, may know what Bitcoin is, may know what Ethereum is, sort of… but not really.   So communicating the concepts and communicating the vision is really my role. I also write articles, and I edit the articles as the editor for Humanode media.

Also, because of my previous experience of being in various executive roles in a number of companies, I tend to be proficient in reading legal papers and preparing legal documents, just enough so that it won't cost as much money when they are reviewed by official lawyers. So I do assist with some of the legal work.  Otherwise, I guess, my other main role is to be a sound board.  Whenever Dato or Victor or anyone comes up with a wild idea, I'm there to listen to and see if I can come up with anything to object to the concept, or enhance the thoughts and concepts through my years of experience in various fields.  For Dato or Victor, it is probably like “visiting the oracle to see if the gods bless the new idea or if they need to offer more sacrifices”... or just shooting breeze with the old man.  lol

And what do you like the most about Humanode?

One is the fact that we are trying to seriously protect privacy. This is a fight that many say we have already lost.  But what makes it interesting is that we're not just trying to protect privacy, but are doing it in a way where people can be held accountable. When we say auditable pseudonymous biometric identification, the key here is, well, it's pseudonymous, meaning it's private, but it's auditable, meaning that you can be held accountable for your actions, meaning you are not anonymous, which I feel, is quite important.

There's too much that goes on in the world these days where people think they can do anything, or say anything as long as people don't know who they are.

The second point is that this project recognizes the fact that people are valuable because they're different, that human beings as a being have value, equal value for being.

I believe this is a message that too many people forget and sometimes they think ‘Oh, this goes into too much of a utopian concept’, or some people think it's unrealistic, it might sound like a preacher being too religious. But I fundamentally believe these concepts.

I am not saying that everybody is going to be making the same salary, as you know people put in different efforts in life and they achieve different things and value different things, so there are differences there. But I believe that setting that aside, fundamentally people have equal value for being, no matter your gender, no matter your background, your ideology, your beliefs, how much money you own or do not own, where you live, what you drink or eat, none of this changes your value as a human being.  And this is something that I feel is represented in one of the fundamental core concepts of Humanode.

Giving each person one vote and each person a voice that we can equally practice is something that deeply attracted me to the Humanode project and what I like the most about it.

I won't go too much into it, because the interview will become 20 pages long, but I do believe that this system is something that will revolutionize how finance can work, and how companies and projects can be structured.

Finally, one of the most important things about Humanode, I believe, is that there is no single corporation that will have control over it.  It is truly decentralized.  You know, even the Humanode core members that are building the system now, once this goes live, will turn everything over to the community, and we will just become, you know, part of the community. Remember, each and every person participating in this network will have equal ownership of the system.

So, yeah,  I believe that this is a game changer at a scale that the world hasn't seen yet.

Could you please describe the project in three words?

Auditable pseudonymous biometric-identification?  Haha, I guess that was four.  How about “revolutionary”, “uniting”, and the ”future”.

Outside of Humanode, what is your favorite thing to do?

Outside of Humanode I love reading. I like spy novels and I also like reading about history, especially about the Sengoku era and the Meiji restoration era of Japan. It is something that I find fascinating. I love music, I listen to a lot of music. And I'm an avid gamer. I love grand strategy games. Actually, when Dato and Victor and I can find free time we will be either fighting against each other or cooperating with each other and trying to dominate the world in some grand strategy game.

What is your favourite book, band, and game?

My favorite book and book series is Hyperion by Dan Simmons. This is a book or a series, it's a 4 book series, but I firmly believe everybody should read it - it's that good. As far as music, I listen to almost anything. If we're talking about jazz, I love a piano player called Horace Tapscott, not many people know about him, but I think he's a genius. If we're talking about rock or popular music, I love an old band called Fleetwood Mac. I also love Dire Straits, Dire Straits guitar player Mark Knopfler is one of my favorite guitar players. As for games, probably my three favorite games right now are Crusader Kings 3, Europa Universalis 4, and RimWorld.

And one last question. Could you give any advice to the Humanode community, to human nodes?

Don't be shy and get involved is one thing. In different phases of whatever project there are different requirements, different needs, different types of skill sets that are needed. Some of them are in programming, some of them are in cryptography. I can tell you that I'm useless there…  but some roles are more artistic, some are in marketing, some are in PR, sometimes it's just needing somebody available to say ‘Hi, how are you doing today?’. There are many skill sets that are required to run a project.  We need everyone.

Although at this stage, it may not be “as rewarding” as some of the projects that hand out free money and free tokens, I believe that this will be one of the most rewarding experiences for those who get involved early in whatever way.  Even if it is just to have bragging rights to be able to say that you were one of the first human nodes, that will be a story that you can tell your grandchildren and your grandchildren will be telling their grandchildren saying ‘You know, my grandpa or my grandma was one of the first human nodes in the world’.

I hope people will not be afraid to join the community and invite people to the community.  There is, and will be a role for you too.  Even if you are just a silent backer of the community whose main role is “being” - do join, you are needed.