Supermind Design for Responding to COVID-19

In 2020, CCI faculty director Thomas W. Malone and David Sun Kong of the MIT Media Lab co-taught a course on how Supermind Design methodology—an approach for generating innovative ideas about how to organize groups of people and machines)—might be applied to address Covid-19. This page includes links to:

  • a working paper based on the course
  • videos of guest speakers who were part of the course
  • course syllabus.

During the fall semester 2020, Sloan Professor Thomas W. Malone and the David Sun Kong, Director of the Media Lab’s Community Biotechnology Initiative, co-taught an MIT class on Supermind Design for Responding to Covid-19.

In the class, students learned and applied a new methodology, called supermind design, for systematically designing innovative ways that many different kinds of groups (including governments, businesses, communities, and others) could solve problems.

Class sessions included instruction and practice in using the methodology as well as guest speakers and substantive material about medical, economic, political, cultural, and other aspects of the pandemic.


Working Paper

As part of the class, students did a series of individual and team projects in which they developed innovative ideas about how to deal with the pandemic. Selected projects were showcased in a working paper written about the course:

Akhilesh Koppineni, David Sun Kong, and Thomas W. Malone. Supermind Design for Responding to Covid-19: A case study of university students generating innovative ideas for a societal problem. MIT Sloan Working Paper No. 6569-22, February 2022.



The videos below feature the guest speakers who presented to the class.

Introduction and overview, Link

    • Hannu Rejeinemi
      Co-founder and CEO, Helix Nanotechnologies; Science fiction author

Detection & surveillance/Basic design moves, Link

    • Professor Kevin Esvelt, Director of the Sculpting Evolution group (MIT Media Lab)
    • Alexis C. Madrigal
      Staff Writer at The Atlantic and the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology

Minimizing viral transmission via non-pharmaceutical interventions // Supermind design moves, Link

    • Susan Blumenthal, Former US Assistant Surgeon General
    • Jill Crittenden, Research Scientist, MIT McGovern Institute

Developing & deploying therapies and vaccines // How can markets help?, Link

    • Nikolai Eroshenko, Co-Founder and CSO, Helix Nano
    • Andrew Lo, Professor, MIT Sloan School of Management

Minimizing economic harm // How can governments help?, Link

    • Ro Khanna, U.S. Representative from California’s 17th congressional district since 2017
    • Michelle Wu, Member of the Boston City Council, 2014-2021 and first woman of color to be elected as Boston’s Mayor in 2021

Preserving social activity and mental health // How can communities help?, Link

    • Marshall Ganz, Rita T. Hauser Senior Lecturer in Leadership, Organizing, and Civil Society at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University

Managing businesses during the pandemic // How can technology help?, Link

    • Jeff Schwartz, Principal, Deloitte Consulting, US leader for the Future of Work

Going back to school, Link

    • Jessica Tang, President of the Boston Teachers Union

Dealing with systemic inequities, Link

    • Kate Walsh, President and CEO of the Boston Medical Center (BMC)

Validating, sharing, and communicating scientific insights, Link

    • Russell Stevens, Laboratory of Social Machines, MIT Media Lab


More information

Find the full syllabus here.