Thursday, March 16, 2017

Poverty, Chastity and Disobedience

In the 13th and 14th centuries various religious orders took vows. Sometimes it worked at others it led to a mess. Just look at the battle between William of Ockham and the non resident Bishop of Rome in Avignon, John XXII. That was over the definition of poverty.

Along comes the MIT Media Lab where they will issues a Disobedience Award. Perhaps an award for the other two vows, reversed of course, as well. Just think, a greed award (Wall Street), an award for licentiousness (Hollywood) and disobedience (MIT or the Academy at large). Pity that MIT used to be an academic bastion but it now seems to become land of snowflakes.

The Tech states:

The topic of civil disobedience has sparked conversation in pockets around MIT, and was recently brought into the spotlight by last week’s launch of the Media Lab’s Disobedience Award. The $250,000 award will go to an individual or group, anywhere in the world, that is engaging in “extraordinary disobedience for the benefit of society,” according to the Media Lab. Joi Ito, the director of the Media Lab who helped conceive the award, sees it as a way to support and encourage those furthering society even when laws get in the way. Launching the award from the Media Lab, however, raises the issue of what disobedience has to do with the Media Lab and the broader MIT community. In Ito’s view, MIT is a place ripe for thoughtful disagreement, where creativity and controversial ideas are welcomed.

 In the above there is a difference between disagreement and disobedience. Scientific progress is often driven by disagreements. Try disobedience in a cancer lab. "Why can't I eat my PBJ sandwich at my lab bench! Johnny does it?"

There are rules, agreed many may be foolish, but there are some which can save your life. Like; don't light that Bunsen burner over that open ether can!

But enough is enough. The real question is; whose quarter million is being spent on this? What is the role of the Media Lab? Does MIT Administration support and approve the use of the Institutes name for this effort? Ultimately one should ask; how does this affect alumni funding? There is well over $10 billion at stake.