Last summer, MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito announced his admiration for creative scofflaws and aberrant innovators in a blog post titled “Rewarding Disobedience.” No, he is not interested in civil discord. He is interested in off-the-walls activities that may dent contemporary norms as they set inspirational heights—for MIT and the world.
“I like to think of the Media Lab as ‘disobedience robust,’” Ito noted. “The robustness of the model of the lab is in part due to the way disobedience and disagreement exist and are manifested in a healthy, creative, and respectful way. I believe that being ‘disobedience robust’ is an essential element of any healthy democracy and of any open society that continues to self correct and innovate.”
To encourage this foment, he announced an MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award that seeks to highlight effective, responsible, ethical disobedience across disciplines. The announcement came appropriately enough at last summer’s Forbidden Research conference. The reward is hefty—$250,000, which is funded by Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn co-founder and member of the Media Lab’s advisory council.
“A prize for good, solid useful disobedience is a really important signal that we would like to send,” Ito noted in an online conference video.
Who are the innovators who might have earned such as award in the past? Individuals like Nicolaus Copernicus or Sojourner Truth might have been in the running. Or consider groups like those who created the Arab Spring or Black Lives Matter movements.
Nominees may be individuals or a group living anywhere in the world, and they can be nominated by anyone (other than themselves). They may work in a scientific realm, in civil or human rights, arts, or other fields and should demonstrate “extraordinary disobedience for the benefit of society.”
Deadline for submissions is May 1. Award recipients will be announced at a Media Lab event on July 21, 2017. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.