Are You Disobedient for the Good of Society? Nominations Open for $250K USD Award

By Aaron Brophy 3/13/17 |

Sitting Bull is an example of positive disobedience, according to MIT Media Labs — public domain photo
Civil disobedience may potentially earn someone $250,000 USD ($336,023 CAD). That is the recently announced cash reward that will go to the winner of the first ever Disobedience Award being presented by MIT Media Lab.

"Questioning authority and thinking for yourself is an essential component of science, of civil rights, of society," says Joi Ito, director of MIT Media Lab, in a video explaining the value of disobedience. "At some level disobedience is at the root of a lot of this creativity."

The award, which will be given out July 21, will go "to a person or group engaged in what we believe is an extraordinary example of disobedience for the benefit of society," according to a description on the MIT Media Lab website.

"With this award, we honor work that impacts society in positive ways, and is consistent with a set of key principles," the description continues. "These principles include non-violence, creativity, courage, and taking responsibility for one’s actions. This disobedience is not limited to specific disciplines; examples include scientific research, civil rights, freedom of speech, human rights, and the freedom to innovate."

The eligibility requirements for the prize are that the person must a) be living, and b) has "taken a personal risk in order to affect positive change for greater society."

Both individuals and groups are eligible for the prize and nominations are being accepted between now and May 1.

The MIT Media Lab was created in 1980 and focuses "on the study, invention, and creative use of digital technologies to enhance the ways that people think, express, and communicate ideas, and explore new scientific frontiers."

The MIT Media Lab identified examples of people who exhibited disobedience for good reason. They include:

Sitting Bull — In 1868 this member of the Lakota tribe refused to sign an agreement with the U.S. government forcing his people on to reservations. He was shot and killed by Standing Rock police in 1890.

Harriet Tubman — An escaped slave, Tubman is credited with guiding hundreds of escaped slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad in the mid-1800s. She also acted as a Union Army scout and spy during the U.S. Civil War.

Mahatma Gandhi — The leader of the Indian independence movement, Gandhi was a pioneer of nonviolent resistance. He was assassinated in 1948 by a Hindu extremist.

Rachel Carson — A biologist at the U.S. Department Of Fisheries, in 1962 she published a report called Silent Spring which documented the harmful environmental impact of the pesticide DDT. Despite a campaign from the pesticide industry to discredit her, Congress would eventually ban DDT.

Watch the Disobedience Award video:


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