‘Don’t be Evil.’ That’s the motto Google claims to live by. And while many may not agree with its diverse business approaches, the fact remains that all its inventions have gone on to immensely help the general public. In the process, they also made billions for the company, but that is beside the point.
Solve for X, brainchild of CEO Eric Schmidt, is one such novel attempt by Google. The project, which has also seen involvement of Founder Sergey Brin, is a platform for solving “insurmountable” problems by radical thinking and cuttingedge technology.
In its own words, “Solve for X is a place to hear and discuss radical technology ideas for solving global problems. Radical in the sense that the solutions could help billions of people. Radical in the sense that the audacity of the proposals makes them sound like science fiction. And radical in the sense that there is some real technology breakthrough on the horizon to give us all hope that these ideas could really be brought to life.”
Typically, for Solve for X, X is any problem (seemingly unsolvable) on which the multidisciplinary luminaries are putting their heads together to solve them radically. There are hoards of problem they are working on are the global water scarcity, cancer treatment, agricultural productivity, carbon emission, to just name a few.
The core “We Solve for X” team has been hand-picked from other major technology companies and universities such as Microsoft, Nokia Labs, Carnegie Mellon, MIT,New York University, and Stanford. The project is in no way related to the core search business of Google, and this is a huge risk for a publicly traded company to invest so much in a diversified word which does not show immediate results to its return-hungry share holders.
But then, the huge success of its core business allows Google to subsidise initiatives like this. Also, the percentage of corporate funding to technology research has increased over the years as compared to state funding in relative terms at least. The global corporate houses, especially the blue chip ones, have been aggressive in spending their billions towards new product development, partly because they have seen the returns from a successful technology or a product.
Moreover, Google has been always true to its stated commitment to innovation and outof thebox thinking. It has always motivated employees to allot 20 per cent of their work schedule to projects which are outside their normal official projects — some of these out-of-work thinking and research has resulted in products such Gmail and Reader.
Essentially, Google intends Solve for X to be a forum to encourage and amplify technology-based moonshot thinking and teamwork. As the site says, “This forum started with a small face-to-face event co-hosted by Astro Teller, Megan Smith, and Eric Schmidt — the Solve for X talks are now being posted here on this site.” It also encourages general readers to watch the Solve for X talks, take part in the Google+ conversations and post their own Solve for X talks.
Perhaps not many would know that the Advanced Research Projects Agency’s — the research and development organisation for the US Department of Defense — greatest gift to mankind, the Internet, was in direct response to the launching of Sputnik by the former USSR. (Read: Happy Birthday, Sputnik! Thanks for the Internet). A shocked US suddenly realised that the Soviet Union had developed the ability to successfully launch orbiting earth satellites and thereby exploit the regions of space for scientific and military purposes. The immediate response from the US stable was the Internet. So, the most influential invention in the last century has its roots in military interests.
However, Solve for X, because of its sheer non-business and non-competitive motto, has been a commendable step. In this world waged by ever-increasing war and political tension, it would not be prudent to expect the states to fulfill their duty of investing adequately in long-term research for solely future good of nations. With its ‘We Solve for X’ vision, Google once again lives up to its commitment of ‘Don’t be Evil’.