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What should become of the MIT Media Lab?

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The MIT Media Lab is in crisis after the extent of child-abusing billionaire Jeffrey Epstein's donations became clear. Its director resigned in disgrace after an article at The New Yorker exposed the extent of those ties and apparent efforts to cover them up. Alumni participated in a public support campaign that came to exemplify the geek social fallacies. The lab is long-accused of being more a corporate advocacy playground than an incubator of research and the arts. Destroy it, writes Noah Kulwin: What, then, is the point of something like the MIT Media Lab? What is the justification for its continued existence? After all, elite academia is rotted through with corporate sponsorship these days, particularly from Silicon Valley; a 2017 Wall Street Journal report revealed that Google had funded “hundreds” of research papers written by professors from Harvard, UC Berkeley, the University of Illinois and elsewhere, which reached conclusions favorable to the company’s anti-regulation position. As the critic Evgeny Morozov notes in The Guardian, the purpose of the MIT Media Lab is something a little more grand, a little less visibly craven: to create a “third culture” of the elite, replacing “technophobic literary intellectuals with those coming from the world of science and technology.” Put into action, the “third culture” is a safe haven for breathless bullshit, a place where the ultra-rich might fantasize about, say, administering a eugenics scheme in New Mexico with the semen of a convicted serial sexual predator. Whether or not “third culture” progenitors like the Media Lab actually go forward with such an insane idea is beside the point, as they’re just happy to help cash a check In looking for a counterpoint, someone outlining how the lab might be saved, I came up blank today, but for an old tweet. Read the rest

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