This is an interesting concept. It seems to be all about getting people to innovate by thinking outside the box. More specifically, by disobeying existing rules and norms. It’s also open to multiple disciplines which could make choosing the winner a bit difficult.

The announcement was made this week on the MIT Media Lab website:

Rewarding Disobedience

On July 21, 2016 we announced the creation of a $250K cash prize award for responsible disobedience. 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…

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.

Of course, there is a risk that this could simply devolve into a social justice competition. As you’ll see in the promotional video below, Van Jones and other progressives are really into the concept of the contest.

CNN goes out of its way to note “protesters” in the streets when reporting on this while quickly pointing out that the award was conceived months before the election:

MIT offers $250,000 award for breaking the rules

MIT has created an award for rule-breakers. The university’s Media Lab announced this week it will award $250,000 to a group or individual for disobedience.

“You don’t change the world by doing what you’re told,” according to Joi Ito, the director of MIT’s Media Lab.

“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 department’s website says.

Protesters have taken to the streets often in the last few months — from the Women’s March to Standing Rock — but Ito is quick to explain the award is not a response to the the current political administration. The award was conceived last July, he said.

If this competition produces a real and useful invention or innovation in learning, that will be great. If it merely rewards a leap forward in protest culture, that will be a major disappointment.

It’ll be fascinating to see what is ultimately offered as serious contenders.

Featured image via YouTube.