How Tech and Science Fiction Inspired the Idea for CIC

CIC founder and CEO Tim Rowe has deep ties in Japan. Not only was he as a programmer at the Tokyo branch of his father’s company during his high school years, but he also studied at Doshisha University in Kyoto briefly before working at Mitsubishi Research Institute. It’s no surprise that he set his sights on facilitating and expanding Japan’s innovation communities through the highly anticipated Fall 2020 opening of CIC Tokyo.

HILLS LIFE, a Japanese lifestyle magazine that focuses on high-quality design, recently interviewed Tim in their July issue. Here’s what Tim had to say when they asked him, “What three works most influenced your lifestyle and activities and inspired you to create one of the world’s largest innovation communities?”

Read a translation of this feature below.

See the original version of Japan’s HILLS LIFE July issue here.

See the original version of Japan’s HILLS LIFE July issue here.

Social Hub for the Community: Tim Rowe’s Story

CIC founder Tim Rowe, who is known for his deep knowledge of movies and literature, answers the question “What three works most influenced your lifestyle and activities and inspired you to create one of the world’s largest innovation communities?”

The Movie Casablanca Creating a Place for All Groups to Gather and Share Ideas

I was fascinated with the movie Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart, when I was young. The setting is Casablana, a city in Morocco, during the early days of World War II. I was struck by the “Rick’s Café Casablanca” run by Humphrey Bogart’s character, an American named Rick Blaine. The café serves as a neutral social gathering place for French supporters of the Vichy administration, German officers, and even resistance fighters. It served as a place where enemies could talk and solve problems.

Since watching that movie, all I could think about was becoming just like the character Rick. As a technology geek, I kept fantasizing about building a cafe like Rick’s cafe near MIT, creating a place where scientists, professors, and entrepreneurs could come together to exchange ideas. As a result, CIC — a shared space — was born. With the addition of Venture Café about 10 years ago, I feel I fulfilled my dream of becoming Rick.

HILLS LIFE magazine cover. (July 2020)

HILLS LIFE magazine cover. (July 2020)

Novel “Stranger in a Strange Land” Teaching on Bettering Society

I am interested in exploring how society works. One way to do that is to read a lot of science fiction stories, which portray a range of potential futures. Among science fiction stories, I think Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” is exceptional. The main character is abandoned on Mars after being left behind on a failed mission. He is raised by a peaceful Martian society. When he returns to Earth, he is touched by the philosophy of nonviolence and compassion for others but also confused by the prevailing hatred and violence. The story is about embarking on a better direction of society. Through reading this book, I felt that ideas can not only help people but can fundamentally change society for the better.

How Neuromancer Inspires Us to Consider How Society Should Manage Technological Advancements

Another work that influenced me is William Gibson’s Neuromancer, published in 1984. Nowadays, the storyline of artificial intelligence (AI) causing chaos for humans and businesses in Tokyo has become almost a cliché, but at the time, it was really novel. This work opened up the genre of cyberpunk, bringing realism to science fiction. At the same time, it planted doubts about the risks of technology in me and sparked my consideration of how we should manage technology as a society. Of course, another big favorite of mine is the movie Blade Runner, which many consider to be one of the earliest cyberpunk works.

Toranomon Hills Business Tower.

Toranomon Hills Business Tower.

More About CIC and Venture Café

CIC (Cambridge Innovation Center):  CIC (Cambridge Innovation Center) was established in 1999 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is the world’s largest innovation base. In September 2020, CIC will open its first center in Asia in Toranomon Hills Business Tower. Don’t miss the Thursday Gathering organized at Mori Building every Thursday by CIC’s sister organization, Venture Café.

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