Having accomplished some of its goals in organizing the world's information, Google is now turning to crowd-sourcing for solving the world's remaining problems. The new effort is centered on a Web site, WeSolveforX.com, which the company said will be a place to discuss "radical technology ideas for solving global problems."
By "radical," Google means solutions that could help billions of people, and proposals whose audaciousness "makes them sound like science fiction." But they're redeemed from falling into make-believe by the fact that they are based on some real technology breakthrough, now or on the horizon.
The Web site -- devoted to "moonshot thinking" -- is sparsely populated for moonshots at the moment, with no real interactive discussion capability or descriptions of ideas, but that is expected to change soon as the Solve for X project evolves.
Richard DeVaul, a former Apple senior prototype scientist who works on Google's small Rapid Evaluation team, is a key figure in the Solve for X project, and he has said via Google+ that various invited individuals held discussions earlier this month at an unpublicized conference.
The Rapid Evaluation Team, according to DeVaul's personal Web site, is "charged with finding, inventing, or discovering the Next Big Thing for Google."
On Twitter, DeVaul, who goes by the name of Dr. Headcrash and posts under #solveforx, has tweeted some ideas that apparently were discussed at the conference, videos of which were posted this week on the X site.
The ideas include an "incredible" Web-based synthetic biology compiler for do-it-yourself genetic engineering, something called a "breathable" caffeine shot, a celebration of bugs -- apparently software ones -- as the key to learning, stretchable silicon sensors over skin, active electronics embedded in contact lenses, and others.
Education, Agriculture, Biology
On Friday, DeVaul posted on Google+ that the talks in the "Solve for X" conference have involved transformation of education, decision support improvements in agriculture that could lead to a five-fold improvement, synthetic biology, and carbon-negative biofuels. Material from the conference is being posted on the X Web site.
Some Google-watching Web sites have posted a list of 10 guidelines for conference presenters, which, for some reason, was reportedly buried inside the Solve for X's site style sheet. The list gives tips on how to give a great talk, such as know your material, limit your talk to 12 minutes, be humble, be specific, and make your talk matter to people.
Google hasn't yet indicated if Solve for X is related to Google X, a secretive technology lab that has been working on the outer edges of Google's endeavors. These include driverless cars, elevators to space, and the next generation of connected appliances.
While Google X appears to be more oriented toward the next-generation corporate goals, and Solve for X is looking to save the world, it's conceivable that the Google X engineers could be used to create prototypes of some of the better worldwide-saving ideas.