Monday, October 11, 2010

Investing in Genius

The MacArthur Foundation recently announced this year’s recipients of their “genius” grants. For those who don’t know, each year the MacArthur Foundation chooses 12 individuals “who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future” and award them each a $500,000 no-strings-attached grant which is dispersed quarterly over five years. They make their decisions based on applicants’ “breadth of experience, excellent judgment, and curiosity.” I can think of no better criteria.

I’m consistently impressed with the diversity of the group they select each year. This year is no different. The recipients include a type designer, a jazz pianist, a population geneticist, a quantum astrophysicist, a stone carver, and even a television writer.

What I find most inspirational about the MacArthur Fellowships, however, is the group’s innovative approach to dispersing money in a way that will make a difference. Instead of giving support to a specific cause, the members of the MacArthur Foundation go to great lengths to identify individuals who have the potential to change the world in exciting and unexpected ways.

Implicit in this method is the idea that we can’t predict what problems lay ahead; we can only make sure that those most suited to overcome the complex challenges of the future are well-equipped to do so.

If ideas are the currency of the future, then financing the leading ideas people of the present is a sound investment.

3 comments:

Susan P. said...

Congratulations to all recipients.

The world of the future though requires, I believe, the synergy of these types of folks with the everyday person. Accessible ideas and visions tend to offer opportunities for commitment and action. After all, these important recipients must, in the end, rely on the billions of people in the world to follow their lead (where appropriate).

Cameron Gallagher said...

If the engine of human progress is being driven by the 'interaction of hunches' as mentioned in the video by Steven Johnson, then 12 Hunches set off in spectacular style like this can only put us in the ballpark of producing something amazing.

Bravo to the MacArthur Foundation!

chrisMsimon bracketboys said...

Nicholas Benson’s perfectionist ways with inscriptional art reminded me of his fellow genius David A Smith and that amazing BBC or such type of TV Documentary that everyone says should have won the recent Vimeo U.S. Documentary Awards.

www.youtube.com/user/torbaysurfing channel has UK film director Danny Cooke’s documentary “David A Smith – Reverse Glass, Gold Leaf Sign Artist”. Also, Jason Moran is a brilliant artist and I believe he is evolving his music to include special secure online and mobile access, after the controversy of hundreds of remix and audio files being deleted due to new private setting and disable features being added to a site last August that has not quite decided its U.S. based future sharing platform yet.

chrisMsimon bracket boys