It’s still a little surreal to me when I think about the fact that we’re currently living in the year 2012. When I was a kid growing up on a steady diet of science fiction the year 2000 was mind-boggling enough, never mind anything beyond it. Now we’re over a decade into the new century, a time for which science fiction has predicted every sort of wonder, from flying cars to moon bases and metal men. While our everyday lives may still be lacking in some of SF’s more outlandish notions, it’s equally true that science is still pushing at the boundaries in exciting and bizarre ways. Now Google is launching a new website dedicated to tackling huge problems with “moonshot thinking”…to transforming science fiction into science fact.
The website is called Solve for X, and it describes itself as a “forum to encourage and amplify technology-based moonshot thinking and teamwork.” The New York Times previously reported on Google’s “X lab” as a top-secret project where engineers were working on all manner of out-there goals, such as cutting-edge robots and driverless cars. Solve for X seems to be the public face of that project. Here’s how the site explains its goals:
Solve for X is a place where the curious can go 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 audaciousness 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.
This combination of things — a huge problem to solve, a radical solution for solving it, and the breakthrough technology to make it happen — is the essence of a moonshot.
The use of that terminology, referencing one of mankind’s greatest collective accomplishments, is no doubt both intentional and intentionally bold. Google seems to be placing the bar considerably higher than inventing nifty new products to sell. A short video teaser posted on their site namechecks global problems such as climate change and cancer. Whatever Solve for X proves to be, you certainly can’t accuse them of aiming too low. Here’s the video.