by Briana Campbell (@MsMatchGirl)
Last week marked the 25th Anniversary of the MIT Media Lab. Having attended university in Boston and having several friends who studied at MIT, the Media Lab has long been on my radar – as something I’ve known about and admired. I don’t think, however, that I truly understood the great strides in human development that have come about because of innovation occurring at the Media Lab until I started listening to a series of interviews surrounding its silver anniversary on The Takeaway on NPR last week.
First conceived in the early 1980s by Nicholas Negropante and Jerome Wiesner, the MIT Media Lab is a place where “the future is lived, not imagined.” According to the mission statement on its website: In a world where radical technology advances are taken for granted, Media Lab researchers design technologies for people to create a better future.
Things that we don’t even think about any more – technology that has become part of our every day life – was conceived of and developed at the Media Lab. Most astoundingly, this happened at a time when many of these technologies were considered impossible pipe dreams.
The goal of the MIT Media Lab is to build a better future – it always has been. And with achievements as wide ranging as the technology behind Guitar Hero to One Laptop Per Child, no one could argue that the Media Lab has a wide reach – approaching technology from all disciplines. In an interview on WNYC, Media Lab founder Nicholas Negropante said “that when they founded the program 25 years ago, the idea of an interdisciplinary lab was completely radical in the world of academia.” He also said that those founding members “had in common sort of a rebellious nature from our respective fields, [though] none of us were in the same field.”
Maybe this is the genius of the Media Lab. Approaching new technologies with the common thread being a mission to “do the impossible”, no matter the discipline.
When the Media Lab was first conceived in 1980, until the time that it actually became reality in 1985, the people behind the MIT Media Lab saw a world very much like the one in which we currently live. They envisioned, and saw to fruition, a world where all media – radio, newspapers, books, magazines, television – would merge, where we would live together through wireless social networks. Through not seeing their ideas as impossibilities, but rather as the future yet to be made true, the innovators at the MIT Media Lab have helped to shape the future of human relationship to technology – making it a partner rather than a tool.
With many more initiatives focused on bringing these technologies to the developing world, there is no question that they will continue to succeed in their mission to build a better future.
Happy Birthday, Media Lab.
And thank you.
Above image via Amy Sun at MIT