MIT Solve holds annual flagship meeting

Canadian PM Trudeau: ‘Diversity is a source of strength, not weakness’

MIT Solve held its annual flagship meeting May 16–18. Participants from 38 countries came to meet and advise the Solver class, made up of the teams who submitted the most promising solutions to the previous year’s MIT Solve Challenges. Featured speakers included Mozilla Executive Chairman Mitchell Baker, VEON Chairman Ursula Burns, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Alphabet Technical Advisor and MIT Visiting Innovation Fellow Eric Schmidt, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The event included five plenary sessions, or panel discussions, involving the featured speakers. Trudeau spoke in the plenary titled “True Stories of Starting Up” held May 18.

In the first half of the event, speakers Muhamad Iman Usman, Dean Kamen, Rana el Kaliouby, and Pita Taufatofua were interviewed by Ina Fried, chief technology correspondent for Axios Media. The panelists discussed their personal and professional journeys, including what being an entrepreneur meant to them. Usuman answered, “A person who sees an opportunity and acts on it with confidence … even when everyone says it is impossible.” Kamen defined an entrepreneur as “a schizophrenic — someone who totally believes that everybody is going to see to vision — if you had any idea how frustrating it would be, how much you were going to fail, you wouldn’t do it.”

In the second half of the plenary, MIT Media Lab Professor Danielle Wood ’05 interviewed Trudeau about the place of global change, diversity, and the educational system in regards to entrepreneurship. “Diversity is a source of strength, not of weakness,” Trudeau said. “Having someone alongside you with different perspectives helps you solve a problem.”

Trudeau and Wood also spoke about present global challenges, the meaning of leadership in the present day, and the place of problem solving in government. Trudeau stressed the importance of embracing the tremendous shifts due to globalization and the development of technology in the coming years for both Canada and the world’s success. “The pace of change has never been so fast … and will never be this slow again,” Trudeau remarked.

MIT Solve presents itself on its website as a “marketplace connecting innovators with resources to solve Global Challenges.” The same website states that Solve started in 2015 as “a natural offshoot of MIT’s commitment to open technological innovation, and its long commitment to actionable thought leadership in the public sphere.”

Solve issues four challenges each year, with this year’s being Work of the Future, Frontlines of Health, Teachers and Educators, and Coastal Communities.

In 2017, more than 1,000 people from 103 countries submitted solutions to Solve’s challenges. Current Solver teams include Dee Saigal’s “Erase All Kittens,” an initiative to teach girls coding in a “playful” way, Oren Miron’s modification to Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) tests to enable earlier autism detection, and Grégoire Landel’s “CityTaps,” which aims to provide running water in every urban home.