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Blockchainers Who Deserve the MIT Lab Disobedience Award

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:53 PM
Justin OConnell
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:53 PM

In March, one day after he participated in a Free Software Foundation protest, Joi Ito , Director of MIT Media Lab, wrote a blog post  on disobedience.

He had seen a panel on the Digital Rights Movement. It covered a topic he had considered “quite a bit.”

He wrote in a Medium post : “Over the past months, as it has become increasingly difficult to locate the world’s moral center, disobedience has once again come to the forefront of my thinking: How can we most effectively harness responsible, ethical disobedience aimed at challenging the norms, rules, or laws that sustain society’s injustices?”

On July 21, the Media Lab’s Forbidden Research  symposium announced a $250,000 MIT Media Lab Disobedience award. Funds were donated by Reid Hoffman, co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn.

“An individual who cares deeply about righting society’s wrongs,” he writes.

“This prize is a one-time experiment that, if successful, we will consider repeating in the future,” he continues in the Medium post. “It will go to a person or group engaged in what we believe is excellent disobedience for the benefit of society. The disobedience that we would like to call out is the kind that seeks to change society in a positive way, and is consistent with a set of key principles. The principles include non-violence, creativity, courage, and taking responsibility for one’s actions.”

The disobedience can be in the fields of scientific research, civil rights, freedom of speech, human rights, the freedom to innovate, and all others.

With this in mind, Bitcoin Magazine thought it would be prudent to consider those blockchain minds who might be best considered

Bram Cohen – While Mr. Cohen doesn’t first come to mind when one thinks about Bitcoin, he’s commented regularly on blockchain issues – in particularly, his desire for Core to remain the main Bitcoin client.

His insights are particularly poignant. As the creator of BitTorrent, Mr. Cohen introduced much of the world to distributed technology, forever changing the way individual view media and file sharing – essentially, he paved the way for Satoshi Nakamoto and Bitcoin. BitTorrent was the shot heard around the world in the Copyright debates of the past 15 years. Ultimately, Mr Cohen’s disobedience stems from the liberal views on Copyright Law the technology made possible as the debate around file sharing and copyright took center stage. Mr Cohen’s technology, and the technology it inspired, starved legacy propaganda outlets of hundreds of trillions – or so they claim. This has created a more diffuse market for art.

Jeff Garzik – The longtime Bitcoin core developer routinely gives detailed talks on how bitcoin and blockchain technology works, as well as the future implications of such technology.

Although his day job is building his new Blockchain As A Service platform, called Bloq,  he often ponders the implications of Bitcoin for the future of artificial intelligence. He calls Bitcoin “the currency of AI.” When he networks with financial institution  representatives, he’s also the loudest advocates for Bitcoin in the blockchain space. Instead of parroting the virtues of private blockchain technology only as he meets with the most influential members in financial technology, he disobeys this status quo and preaches the virtues of the world’s first publicly practiced blockchain.

Satoshi Nakamoto – Though pseudonymous, the creator(s) of Bitcoin changed the future of life on planet earth. For that alone, he is the epitome of what Media Lab seeks in its activists for his work to re-envisage the way the world sees finance by enabling individuals to take part in a new economy powered by a decentralized virtual currency. His vision for a currency of the future, which focuses on privacy and sovereignty of the individual, disobeyed the previous status quo of centralized fiat currency.

Elizabeth Rosiello – As the CEO of BitPesa, a payment processor, Rosiello has helped to slash the cost of sending and receiving money in Africa, one place in the world where the people need it most. She disobeyed the status quo of big banks ignoring peripheral markets in developing nations, Rosiello and BitPesa stepped up. Having worked as an investment banker for Credit Suisse, she travelled to far out places. She noticed the banks were lackluster where people needed them most. She leads the way in blending technology and finance in regions where  there is under-developed infrastructure.

Balaji Srinivasan – As CEO of 21.co, Srinivasan has been on the forefront of decentralized Bitcoin technology. One of the most innovative companies in the space, Jeff Garzik points to 21.co when he discusses one of his favorite Bitcoin topics: the melding of bitcoin and artificial intelligence. 21.co’s flagship product, a computer with an embedded mining chip and a marketplace for trading, strives to decentralize Bitcoin mining – disobeying the trend of warehouse mining operations and thus a centralization of the Bitcoin market. In Srinivasan’s version, more people – not fewer – can connect a node and partake in the Bitcoin experiment.

Image of the MIT Chapel from Shutterstock.