Forbidden Research

MIT Media Lab


Geoengineering, or using technological interventions to address climate change, is much on the minds of scientists, policy makers and citizen groups. As our ability to “mess” with nature evolves from science fiction to reality, we are faced with serious questions about whether the possibility of success is worth the massive potential risks. Technologies for reflecting solar radiation back into space are being researched, but what will happen if we deploy them? Who should decide? Who will?

Director: Jeremy Lubman


How do you innovate in a field of massive potential and risk? When it comes to genetically engineering living things, most of the technology being developed happens behind closed doors. How do we change the perception of science and genetic engineering with an emphasis on openness for the sake of safety, ethics, and cautionary vigilance but continue to move forward? Who should be responsible for making “god-like” decisions that will ultimately affect our entire future as a society?

Director: Jeremy Lubman


With a US presidential candidate proposing a ban on Muslims entering the US, Islam has become a popular “foreign” target for demagogues and fearmongers. At the same time, the recent passing of prominent Muslim athlete Muhammad Ali has revealed ways in which Islam had become a popular, domestic target of the same groups—later turned into an engine promoting civil and political rights at home.

These two phenomena have prompted moderate thinkers to reevaluate the past and possibilities for the compatibility of Islamic and Western values. Of the anti-Islam agitators, one area of concern involves the role of women in Islamic law. Less discussed is the intersection of Islam with civil and political rights. And even less heard within this debate are the voices of Islamic law scholars, historians, and practitioners who read the Qurʾān as offering strong protections for women’s rights and for civil and political rights. Groups such as The Voice of Libyan Women and efforts such as its Noor Campaign make compelling arguments for women’s rights from within Islam, not in opposition to Islam, challenge the narrative that Islam is anti-women and anti-west.

Do we misunderstand Islam and its place in the West and in the world? If so, is it because of American misunderstanding of Islam, or tensions between modern and traditional cultural values in some Muslim-majority nations?

Director: Jeremy Lubman


Conducting research on adults who have sex with children is virtually impossible due to ethical and legal restrictions. The advancement of technologies like robots and virtual reality has opened the door to exploring questions that were previously not possible. But while a U.S. court case has held that virtual child pornography is legal, the law in this area is controversial and emotionally charged. Legal uncertainties and vast stigma make actual research difficult. At the same time, a better understanding of this deviant behavior has the potential to significantly change lives.

Director: Jeremy Lubman