I came home yesterday evening just in time to hear the 10 o’clock live team making fun of Google X’s Astro Teller whose job title is ‘Captain of Moonshots’. Perhaps funnier was Jimmy Carr making jokes about Google’s tax affairs.

Anyway, I think there is something in the idea of moonshot thinking, even if the language doesn’t quite fly on this side of the Atlantic. As Astro says, it’s really all about choosing the right problems.

When they’re choosing projects for Google X, they look for three things:

  • Something that is a huge problem
  • Where technology is the answer
  • And a radical solution (at least a 10X improvement) is just at the edge of being possible.

One of the things that Astro said that I found interesting was that they’d decided solving education wasn’t a project for Google X. The reason wasn’t the scale of the problem or the need for a radical solution — it was that they didn’t believe it was a technology problem. It sounds like it wasn’t a completely straightforward decision. It led to Sebastian Thrum — one of the founders of Google X — leaving to set up Udacity, which is trying to become the tech startup that does revolutionise education.

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