Skip to Content
From the president

A maker mindset

Not all the tools we develop at MIT are physical—but that does not diminish their power and potential.

December 17, 2021
MIT President L.Rafael Reif
MIT President L.Rafael Reif
Simon Simard

People outside our community often ask me what makes MIT different. The answer has many facets, of course. It includes our distinctive grounding in the analytical rigor of the STEM fields, our appetite for very hard problems, our passion for learning by doing and hands-on problem-solving, our openness to working with industry, and our commitment to building a better world. Another feature I like to emphasize: MIT is a place where we love to make new tools—the kind that allow us to detect the undetectable, predict the unpredictable, measure the unmeasurable, make possible the impossible, ask novel questions, and explore new frontiers. 

GPS. 3D printing. The technologies the LIGO team developed to detect gravitational waves. When you invent tools this powerful, everyone wants to use them. They can open the doors to new knowledge, advance entire disciplines, inspire new industries, and provide the wisdom to help society make better decisions on a grand scale. 

And as we were reminded when Ford Professor of Economics Joshua Angrist was awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, not all the tools we develop at MIT are physical—but that does not diminish their power and potential. 

Professor Angrist and his colleagues at Blueprint Labs have developed analytical tools that put complex societal questions “under a microscope.” The research methods developed by Angrist and his fellow laureate Guido Imbens of Stanford allow them to draw reliable conclusions about cause and effect using “natural experiments”—real-life situations like a change in education policy, a wage increase … or a pandemic. 

Using these techniques, economists can answer all kinds of previously unanswerable questions about everything from the fair allocation of medical resources to the effectiveness of charter schools to the relationship between military service and lifetime earnings. This approach has changed the course of economics.

Not every exciting new tool produces an early-morning call from Sweden. But I am convinced that one of MIT’s essential strengths is our passion for making tools that help us make a better world.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

Yann LeCun
Yann LeCun

Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI

One of the godfathers of deep learning pulls together old ideas to sketch out a fresh path for AI, but raises as many questions as he answers.

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

Europe's AI Act concept
Europe's AI Act concept

A quick guide to the most important AI law you’ve never heard of

The European Union is planning new legislation aimed at curbing the worst harms associated with artificial intelligence.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.