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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Opinion: The Dalai Lama Supports a Unique Opportunity

April 16, 2009

A Case for the Center for Ethics
By Kai-yuh Hsiao
The Tech (MIT)
April 14, 2009

At the end of this month, a host of influential
people will be coming to MIT to speak at the
opening of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and
Transformative Values at MIT. The opening event
will be headlined by the Dalai Lama and
influential composer Philip Glass. The speakers
cover a wide range of disciplines, including
ethics, political science, environmental policy,
psychology, neuroscience, economics, music,
theater, religion, and spirituality. The
educational focus of the Center for Ethics is to
be similarly multidisciplinary.

I’d like to explain why the opening of the Center
is critically important for MIT, and why the
support of both MIT and the Dalai Lama is vital
for MIT to derive the most benefit from the Center’s existence.

As our world becomes increasingly interconnected,
future leaders need access to more than just the
skills necessary for technical and managerial
leadership. Awareness of the larger global
landscape and of the far-reaching impact of every
decision will provide leaders with the
resourcefulness, the wisdom, and the social
responsibility to build stable, sustainable
enterprises. As a top-tier university, it is in
MIT’s interests to provide its students with access to such awareness.

The Center for Ethics is intended to promote this
global, multi-disciplinary perspective. As a
technology-focused school, MIT trains students
primarily for technical leadership, to create
innovations that make the world a better place.
However, truly great technical leaders guide
their organizations to sustainable success by
also being aware of how their innovations impact
other aspects of life around the world, and to
balance technology-centered improvement against
any potential costs to culture, economy, and environment.

This is not meant to discourage innovation or
progress, but to initiate dialogue and to provide
awareness of the complex interactions between
disciplines. The hope is to enable people to
choose principles for themselves that allow them
to select the best innovations to pursue in a
balanced manner. Ideally, this balance will
enable individual leaders to not only succeed in
the short-term, but also to assist each other in
building a more sustainable world, socially and
environmentally. MIT’s support for the Center for
Ethics is a critical step in supporting such
awareness, both for the sake of its students and for the sake of the world.

Having the support and the name of both MIT and
the Dalai Lama is another key component of
promoting this awareness. Nobody doubts that MIT
excels at science, technology, and all things
intellectual, and can thus bring the finest
technical minds together to improve the state of
the world. What the Center for Ethics adds to
this is the clout to add highly-regarded experts
in non-technical fields to the discussion. Having
the Dalai Lama’s support and name allows the
Center, and thus MIT, to engage with a larger
selection of highly-regarded policymakers,
spiritual leaders, and influential thinkers.
Likewise, having the direct support of three
Nobel Peace Prize winners — the Dalai Lama,
Desmond Tutu, and Betty Williams — brings further
credibility and makes it clear that the theme of
this effort is to encourage sustainability and
coexistence. This confluence of minds will
provide students with opportunities to join in
dialogue with leaders and thinkers from all fields.

As MIT continues with its mission to train the
greatest leaders of the future, it behooves us to
bring awareness of global impacts in all
dimensions, whether social, spiritual, or
environmental, into the educational program.
MIT’s inception and continuing support of the
Center for Ethics is a very encouraging step in this direction.

Kai-yuh Hsiao is a member of the Class of 1999
and received his PhD in Media Arts and Sciences in 2007.

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