MIT Ups The Activism Ante — Offers $250K To Best Act Of DISobedience

By Annabelle Bamforth

Throughout history, humans across the world have engaged in innumerable courageous acts of rebellion, resistance and dissent against authority, many of which have led to revolutions and meaningful progress in society. There is now a financial incentive for such movements involving disobedience with the creation of an unusual contest from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

On March 6, MIT’s Media Lab began accepting applications for individuals and groups presenting an act of “responsible disobedience,” with a $250,000 prize awarded to the winner. Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, is funding the award. Hoffman serves on the advisory board of the Media Lab.

The concept was created “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,” according to a MIT Media Lab post. “My hope is that the prize helps us understand that the way we make progress as a society and as humanity is by recognizing the right heroes who take personal risk, and sometimes that risk is a form of disobedience to help us evolve as humanity,” said Hoffman.

While the application time window opened up just recently, the university has had this in the works for some time, as the contest was announced last July. Submissions are currently being accepted and the deadline is May 1st, 2017.

The criteria for submission is complex, and it’s clear that the university is seeking exceptional endeavors that would substantially impact society: “The award will go to a living 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.

Also among the criteria is the requirement that the “recipient must have taken a personal risk in order to affect positive change for greater society.” Applicants may be individuals or formed as a group, and there is an option to nominate others.

The college listed several influential figures from various points in history to reference as “inspiration” such as Galileo Galilei, the Founding Fathers, Sitting Bull, Martin Luther King Jr., Mark Felt, and the unidentified “Tank Man” who blocked a military tank in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Last year, the Media Lab hosted a presentation from one of modern history’s most notable dissenters, Edward Snowden, and engineer Andrew “Bunnie” Huang. The presentation, titled “Against the law: countering lawful abuses of digital surveillance,” centered around the moral dangers of digital surveillance, particularly of journalists, and discussed measures of protection from “lawful” government monitoring.

The winner will be chosen by a committee within the Media Lab network on July 21st, 2017.

Annabelle Bamforth writes for, where this article first appeared.

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31 Comments on "MIT Ups The Activism Ante — Offers $250K To Best Act Of DISobedience"

  1. Resistance to what? The restoring of freedom to America. The restoring of prosperity to America. If they really cared about TRUE resistance they would have offered such rewards during Obama’s tenure but because this is MIT this is NOT about real resistance. This is about the phony resistance to Trump trying to restore basic sanity to America such as people having control over their own lives.

    • Verging on sedition. Like hiring a hitman. ?

    • There’s always room for improvement.

      • Define “improvement” to enlighten us, please.

        • Politics are completely corrupt. Our so called leaders could improve America by not taking bribes to sell out America. Name one politician who is telling the truth about 911 or the biggest scam in the history of humanity, fractional reserve banking. I see lots of room for improvement. I support Trump but he can only do so much. Disobedience is a good thing. Only slaves are content being slaves. I have something in common with Patrick Henry beside that I live in Virginia.

      • Arnold Bandy | March 19, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Reply

        They’re not about “Improvement”, only “Impediment”…

        • I’m not so sure about that. Only slaves are obedient. Promoting disobedience is a good thing. Hitler’s favorite saying was “loyalty is honor “. FYI I support Trump but he’s not perfect and needs to improve on certain things like the environment.

  2. I’m gonna win this.

  3. Start a community bank using a reference commodity, just like the farmers in western Pennsylvania before the Whiskey Rebellion, or cigarettes in War or Prison. I would advise something more useful / less detrimental to the health of the community. A cohesive community that is self sustaining that keeps their own ledgers for trade is dangerous to the owners. Expand the concept to other communities and tie the communities by agreed upon law of the land (not merchant/maritime law – corporations are NOT people). Municipal agreements of multiple communities for projects larger than a single community can perform creates sustainable cities. City ledger system would be only for projects of agreed upon city projects using a trade of products that enhance the way of life for the communities involved. Gold, silver, stones are only as valuable as their industrial use, something that was not necessary by any people in the world for survival. Their manufactured value is from the ancient priests and teachers that took much and gave little (Sumer, Babylon, Akkad, Assyria, Egypt, Inca, Maya…). Investment is of real value, not speculation. Bankers and speculators are the parasites of civilization that depend on the efforts of several to create their living (auto dealers, bankers, financial speculators, many rentiers…). Note too that the War Industries Board of WWI was in the business of making money from the death of others from contrived differences. Nitsche said as much, most people do not like or want war. Read “War is a Racket” by Smedley Butler to find the people that profit from war, as it is a business based on deception.

  4. Debt is the result of inequitable transactions that need to be corrected by cancelation from time to time. Money, the medium of exchange of facilitate the trade of goods and services, should not have usury ever, but a fee based medium on management as a municipal of, by and for the people. The creation of debt is managed exploitation as now used. Civilization is inverted, the law of the land is Maritime Law of the Sea as people give birth and are not born. We live in a system of lies.

    A system of consumption and consumerism is not sustainable and never will be. The future is to be a managed pet population of consumers for an elite few to be the puppeteers of the lives of their pets, which will be used in every way possible just as any other animal and life today (destruction of the spirit, the slaughter of those with a soul).

  5. Edward Snowden, who’s as inspirational for what he said (which was tipping off John Q. Public that the intelligence agencies were spying on and recording everything from everyone illegally) and did as any of those mentioned, would get my vote. In 4 years Trump will get this award I would assume, especially if he’s successful at draining the swamp which is Washington DC…

    • Have you looked at his infrastructure plan? It is solely based on selling off our public assets to corporations & his rich friends at fire sale prices to create temporary jobs [which they can bring in temporary possibly even prison labor – no minimum wages. They put up front money which taxpayers will match to repair roads, bridges, & ageing public utilities. Once done the PRIVATE owners can install endless tolls and jack up water rates with no public control. No limit to how long, how much they can charge. No standards as to how maintenance will proceed. In every county& country that has done this it has been a DISASTER.
      Certainly no FDR “New Deal” that he suggested it would be.

  6. Garry Compton | March 19, 2017 at 6:05 am | Reply

    I believe that NFL player that sat down instead of glorifying the National Anthem etc. should be a nominee for this MIT award.

  7. James Stamulis | March 19, 2017 at 7:02 am | Reply

    Okay how about if we hang the MIT moron who wrote OBAMACARE and hen joked about how it was so easy to fool the people he thought of as idiots? You didn’t fool the Tea Party did you? Hows that for activism?

  8. Susan Henley | March 19, 2017 at 8:48 am | Reply

    societal disobedience is a cowards way out. why not use the law; vote, organize, spread a message people want to hear, put people in key positions who can advance the agenda with ideas that benefit communities? For a school to offer a reward with one of the stipulations is that you must take a risk borders on aiding and abetting such the “act” go awry. So far the only bravery that has been exhibited is by Trump supporters who have been beaten, threatened, stopped from taking part in the political process they are guaranteed under law, they are the hero’s of this time. This is a total scam that is being perpetrated in our learning institutions currently and for some time. Just look back for a year and a half during the campaign, even the leader of the Dem party has admitted trying to further the agenda of “her” candidate by giving her advantages during the debates, she said it is her responsibility to do so? This is the non-reality they live in and expect normal people to go along with their lunacy!

    • Adrianus van Herp | March 19, 2017 at 7:28 pm | Reply

      Why not use the law? Because that does not work. Many tried and most failed.

      The SYSTEM has the game sown up.

      I practice civil disobedience. Had a fight with two cops who thought that they could walk into a room and shove me around without telling me why; this is assault and I used my nature-given right to self-defense.

      Another person would be arrested and severely punished.

      Because they know I don’t care they now commit me under the Mental Health Act.

      The doctors do not agree and discharge me.

      But this is how my acts of disobedience never become known, they are not on the public record unlike a conviction in court.

  9. Zaphod Braden | March 19, 2017 at 9:43 am | Reply

    Burn down MIT —- 🙂

  10. JohnnyNoonesSockPuppetAccount | March 19, 2017 at 11:49 am | Reply

    Sounds like a great way to identify dissidents and then go kick their doors in and ship ’em off to a FEMA camp….

  11. The best act of disobedience may be to destroy the winner of the contest.

  12. Alleged Comment | March 19, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Reply

    Cowardly racism. Never done it under Black Obama. An illegal Kenyan sodomite.

  13. I think burning down MIT would be the best act of disobedience and further the advancement of our society. Turn MIT into a pile of ashes that you can store up in an empty 55 gallon oil drum. Can I collect the prize?

  14. Arnold Bandy | March 19, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Reply

    True and honest resistance does not require monetary gain, this only promotes lawlessness to acquire the the “Prize”…I would expect this from a pukegressive org.

  15. Issa Amro,will be facing an Israeli military trial for his non-violent activism in a few days. Someone who’s made it his life’s work to pursue and teach non-violen tsolutions may be prosecuted and in all likelihood incarcerated. And violent settlers, protected by IDF soldiers, will continue unpunished and free.
    Issa is being prosecuted for his political effectiveness. Plain and simple. Instead of this absurd prize accomplishing nothing, a fund for protecting the rights of those already being effective in civil disobedience practices is what must be acted on right now. Israel is targeting Americans for supporting BDS . Why aren’t we sanctioning this racist criminal state and allow them to abuse and threaten American citizens for their beliefs ? What has happened to this country of zombies who announce all these great intentions but ignore acting on the issues hurting us NOW ?

  16. I nominate Jesus who took the greatest risk and died for even your sins MIT staff! How about you stop disobeying and start obeying GOD while giving HIM the respect he deserves as your creator?

  17. A modest proposal: Stop paying taxes

  18. So long as it remains peaceful. MIT is just short of sedition.

  19. I got one… go into any college today, and scream you’re a ‘conservative’.

  20. Nonviolence? Boo this contest!

  21. Money to burn?

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