'Solve for X' to tackle world's biggest problems

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Google's launched a website aimed at solving some of the big problems facing humanity - something like TED, or a sort of X Prize without the prize.

Solve for X is essentially a crowd-sourced think-tank that the company hopes could help deal with challenges from cancer to global food shortages.

"These are efforts that take on global-scale problems, define radical solutions to those problems, and involve some form of breakthrough technology that could actually make them happen," say Astro Teller and Megan Smith, co-hosts of Solve for X, on the company blog.

"Moonshots live in the gray area between audacious projects and pure science fiction; they are 10x improvement, not 10 percent. That’s partly what makes them so exciting."

The group last week held a three-day meeting in California at which subjects ranging from synthetic biology and carbon-negative biofuels were discussed. Several talks from the meeting, which was hosted by Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, are now available online.

But anybody can submit an idea, says Google.

"At least a few times a year, we hope that people will take a few hours or a day or two out of their busy schedules to dare to push the boundaries, and to consider moonshot approaches to some of the world’s many unresolved challenges," say Teller and Smith.

Anyone interested can visit the Google+ page to submit a talk, which needs to consist of a "Huge Problem, Radical Solution, Breakthrough technology, Video (link to a YouTube video)."

There's going to be a pretty high bar, though - perpetual motion machines probably won't be welcome.