Hacking Our Digital Future
Tuesdays and Thursdays, January 9-February 1, 3:00-6:00pm
The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE) explores how people and businesses will work, interact, and prosper in an era of profound digital transformation. Major innovations we’ve already glimpsed in the digital age include self-driving cars, additive manufacturing, platform technologies, cryptocurrencies, “fake news”, and beyond.
But in the future, what are the unforeseen, unintended consequences—positive and negative—of these new aspects of the digital age? How will shifts in particular industries ripple out to other areas of the economy or society? What current challenges will be solved? What unanticipated challenges will arise and how should we confront them?
We invite students and other members of the MIT community to join a fun and fascinating exercise during MIT's Independent Activities Period: develop plausible scenarios and narratives of the future in 2030, to ask and answer questions such as:
- How will advances in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), automation and robotics impact the future of work? What does our world look like with less (or no) work as we know it today? What current jobs will disappear, but more importantly, what new jobs will be created?
- How would widespread adoption of self-driving cars impact owners, manufacturers, insurers, the license-less population (e.g., children, elderly)? Will the safety of self-driving cars eliminate 90% of current accidents, and will this further strain Medicare budgets, as more people live longer?
- Would widespread adoption of drone usage create high-profile misuse and crippling regulation, or would benefits (e.g. aiding disaster victims) accelerate use?
- How will home sharing platforms impact home ownership? What are the social consequences, implications for tax codes, and the lending industry?
- Would the use of online political ballots breed political instability, Orwellian distrust of data, or more robust engagement of an electorate?
- Will additive manufacturing create a boom in IP litigation and trade protection policies as the value of design outweighs the value of actual manufactured product?
Students will kick off this 4-week long “hackathon” with an overview lecture highlighting some of the key topics of IDE research, and choose a topic area around which they will develop multiple scenario storylines or future narratives that expand the thinking of decision-makers and stakeholders to positively impact productivity, employment and equality in the digital age.
IDE will provide suggested pre-reading articles and host guest lectures from leading futurists and scenario planning experts, but student teams will be largely self-guided.
Schedule of events: (subject to change)
- Meeting times are Tuesday & Thursday afternoons in January (9th, 11th, 16th, 18th, 23rd 25th, 30th awards presented Feb 1st; food provided.
- Final output (format is flexible , but could take the form of a story board, creative narrative, or presentation) to be submitted Jan 25th
- Five minute presentation by teams and winners to be announced Feb 1st (cash prizes for the top 4 teams: $2,000, $1,000, $500, $250).
IDE faculty and staff will evaluate projects based on the following criteria: 1.) balance of narratives’ plausibility vs. possibility; 2.) communication/presentation; 3.) creativity; 4.) “unforeseen-ness” – the ability to identify factors and possibilities that are non-obvious and thus relatively unexplored.