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, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

Nicholas Negroponte is founder of MediaLab and one of the founders of Wired. In a recent interview he described the evolving direction of MediaLab:

“The biggest criticism I hear is, ‘Nicholas, you’re not crazy enough — the lab should be nuttier’,” he told a corporate audience on a visit to Dublin-based Media Lab Europe, or MLE.

The MIT labs are facing funding problems. But their backers don’t want another set of traditional research labs, Negroponte insists.

“They don’t need us to do those things,” he said. “They need us to be on the lunatic fringe — a very interesting place to be, but you can go over the edge very quickly. It’s a very delicate line.”

Negroponte goes on to describe the consequences of the recent recession and the resulting shift toward industries with market dominance and government. One can’t blame him, he’s got to follow the money if he wants to keep working – but where’s he going to find the “lunatic fringe” when he’s buried the bureaucratic lunatics?

There’s two ways to get emergent information. One is to be a lunatic – which is costly (as Negroponte discovered). The other is to watch them. The hitch is that option two is time consuming and most entrepreneurs can’t spare a minute.

sift is an experiment to see if young companies benefit, in a measurable way, when given access to emergent lunacy.

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