MIT Media Lab hires college dropout as director: Beyond Negroponte

Occasionally, college dropouts do fairly well for themselves. Will the new head of MIT's Media Lab continue his track record of successes in cutting edge organizations?

The last director of MIT's renowned Media Lab to make serious noise was Nicholas Negroponte, the flamboyant, controversial man behind the One Laptop Per Child effort. He was also the first director of the bleeding edge working group. The latest director, however, seems to be the un-Negroponte.

Joichi Ito, a college dropout turned entrepreneur and venture capitalist brings with him a string of credits ranging from investments in Last.fm and Twitter to guild master status in World of Warcraft, according to a New York Times feature:

He was also an early participant in the open-source software movement and is a board member of the Mozilla Foundation, which oversees the development of the Firefox Web browse, as well as being the co-founder and chairman of Creative Commons...

While his credentials seem impeccable from a real-world standpoint, the Register was, not surprisingly, a bit more cynical about the appointment:

MIT has appointed a new director of its Media Lab: a blogger and networker who found computer science boring, and dropped out of higher education completely after discovering that he couldn't learn physics "intuitively". But since it's actually MIT's Media Lab we're talking about, the appointment of dot com socialite and self-confessed dilettante Joicho [sic] Ito is really the perfect, perfect choice.

Why does this even matter? That so-called $100 laptop still isn't $100 and the Lab has become known for expensive stunts and demos. In a time of fiscal draw downs, couldn't the work of the Lab be distributed among other research labs at MIT with a greater focus on results and lower costs?

Perhaps, but the MIT Media Lab is supposed to inspire technologists and researchers alike, showing us the could be's if our brightest minds are allowed to run free. As computer technology becomes not only ubiquitous but utterly taken for granted, an organization like the Media Lab reminds us that there is still creation to do and innovation to chase. An investor/entrepreneur/Internet mover and shaker is going to have as good (and most likely better) sense than anybody of what the next great innovation will look like in the second decade of the 21st Century (and beyond).

Negroponte is probably cringing right now, but I'm curious what the Lab will bring us over the next several years under Ito's leadership.

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