The Value of Answers in Search of Questions
Nicholas Negroponte famously called the Media Lab a place full of answers looking for questions.
The really important thing about the Media Lab is that we actually encourage doing research in areas that aren’t necessarily hot or big or even very clearly defined as to exactly what the application will be. The idea is that we are trying to do the sorts of things that wouldn’t typically be done by other institutions and we’re trying also to really push and discover the boundaries. And when you’re doing this kind of discovery, it’s actually very difficult to tell which technology is going to have the most impact.
Every single project in the Media Lab, I think, has the potential to become incredibly impactful because we don’t necessarily know what question the answer is actually for. Nicholas Negroponte famously called the Media Lab a place full of answers looking for questions. It is interesting because in some of the most unexpected ways, technologies that we’re working on turn out to have tons of impact. For instance, there’s a project where we’re testing skin conductivity, working with autistic kids. There’s a huge problem in some of the developing countries in terms ort infant mortality. Now they can measure when a woman goes into labor. And so they’re trying to build these low cost devices that the women can wear in which as soon as she goes into labor, it sends a message to a hospital with GPS coordinates so that a doctor knows that the woman in going into labor.
With these sorts of devices, the impact is really difficult to tell because it wasn’t until that NGO and that engineer or that student got together that they realized that this sort of solution could happen. So I think the importance is that research is unbounded. And so for me, it’s really very difficult to say that any particular piece of research is more important or more interesting than others. To me what’s most exciting is the process that we use for discovery, the process of looking for the questions for the answers we’re developing.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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International poker champion Liv Boeree teaches decision-making for Big Think Edge.
One way to limit clutter is by being mindful of your spending.
- Overbuyers are people who love to buy — they stockpile things as a result. These are individuals who are prone to run out of space in trying to store their stuff and they may even lose track of what — and how much of what — they have.
- One way overbuyers can limit their waste, both money and space wise, is by storing items at the store, and then buy them when they really need them.
- Underbuyers tend to go to extraordinary lengths to not buy things. They save money and do fewer errands, however, they often make do with shabby personal items. They may also, when they finally decide to go out to buy a product, go without entirely because the item may no longer be available.
Explore a legendary philosopher's take on how society fails to prepare us for education and progress.
- Alan Watts was an instrumental figure in the 1960s counterculture revolution.
- He believed that we put too much of a focus on intangible goals for our educational and professional careers.
- Watts believed that the whole educational enterprise is a farce compared to how we should be truly living our lives.
A new study has investigated who watched the ISIS beheading videos, why, and what effect it had on them
This is the first study to explore not only what percentage of people in the general population choose to watch videos of graphic real-life violence, but also why.
In the summer of 2014, two videos were released that shocked the world. They showed the beheadings, by ISIS, of two American journalists – first, James Foley and then Steven Sotloff. Though the videos were widely discussed on TV, print and online news, most outlets did not show the full footage. However, it was not difficult to find links to the videos online.
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