MIT To Begin Offering $250,000 Award For Rule-Breakers


History is filled with stories of people who broke certain rules that ended up challenging existing norms and redirecting society.For instance, the late Nelson Mandela considered an African hero in his own right, was a thorn in the flesh of SA’s apartheid government; a rule-breaker through and through.

For instance, the late Nelson Mandela considered an African hero in his own right, was a thorn in the flesh of SA’s apartheid government; a rule-breaker through and through.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts has created an award for rule-breakers in their midst. The university’s Media Lab announced this week that it will award $250,000 to a group or individual for disobedience.

Joi Ito, the director of MIT’s Media Lab said a couple of profound things about the award;

“You don’t change the world by doing what you’re told,”

“You don’t get a Nobel Prize for doing what you’re told, you get it for questioning authority,”

He then went on to mention values embodied by people like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Galileo. The department’s website also explains more about the initiative;

“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 website goes further to say that the award will go to a person or group engaged in what is believed to be extraordinary disobedience for the benefit of society. They would focus especially on action that seeks to change society in positive ways and is consistent with a set of key principles.

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The principles they look to reward include non-violence, creativity, courage, and taking responsibility for one’s actions and since MIT is looking for both expected and unexpected nominees, the nominees can come from groups or individuals involved in scientific research, civil rights, freedom of speech and human rights.

The first recipient of the award will be announced in July and the eligibility requirement is pretty simple;

“The recipient must have taken a personal risk in order to affect positive change for greater society.”

MIT’s rule-breaker award is certainly a unique initiative and reminds us of how valuable people who go against the norm are in every society and generation.