MIT Media Lab Wants to Reward One Citizen's Disobedience with $250,000

2016 undoubtedly marks a moment in the modern era when the global population was not only blatantly confronted with a number of troubling problems, but also stimulated by a heightened sense of direct responsibility for what the future holds. “This is the age of rebellion,” social justice activist Van Jones noted to MIT Media Lab, and as such, it’s also time to reform the way we look at right and wrong. This is why yesterday MIT Media Lab announced the search for the recipient of their very first Disobedience Award. The press release for the award states,

“This idea came after a realization that there’s a widespread frustration from people trying to figure out how can we effectively harness responsible, ethical disobedience aimed at challenging our norms, rules, or laws to benefit society…The award will go to a person or group engaged in what we believe is extraordinary disobedience for the benefit of society. Specifically, we’d like to call out action that seeks to change society in positive ways and is consistent with a set of key principles. These principles include non-violence, creativity, courage, and taking responsibility for one’s actions. We’re seeking both expected and unexpected nominees. This could include–but isn’t limited to–those engaged in scientific research, civil rights, freedom of speech, human rights, and the freedom to innovate.”

Looking back at visionaries like Harriet Tubman or Nelson Mandela, the idea of disobedience is nothing new. However, with the introduction of this new award, MIT Media Lab hopes to complicate the idea that disobedience should always be cast in a nefarious light. In the promotional video, Harvard public policy senior lecturer Marshall Ganz notes that disobedience is “sort of like being confronted with a disruption—it can be construed as either a threat or a challenge. And if it’s construed as a threat, that’s where the fear comes in; if it’s construed as a challenge, that’s where the engagement comes in. If hope is what’s driving it, it tends to be more open, more inclusive”.

For the next three months, MIT Media Lab will be accepting nomination for potential recipients of an incredible $250,000 cash prize award. The winner will be announced live on Friday, July 21.

Read more about the award at MIT Media Lab’s website.

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