A few years back, I came across a quote that has really stuck
with me: “You can’t incrementalize your way into the
future.” With this quote in mind, I’d invite you to read this
short article from Popular Mechanics
discussing the new X-Prize to create an automobile that achieves
100 miles-per-gallon or more—and can be mass-produced.
What I like about the contest is that it is not trying to
“incrementalize” the automobile industry into the future. In other
words, the sponsors of the contest are not looking for a crappy 5
or 10 mile improvement in MPG performance
from the automotive industry. They are looking for a 4X
I’m optimistic that the contest will succeed and that within a
decade’s time many of us will be able to purchase a safe, stylish
and comfortable car that can run more than a 100 miles on a single
gallon of fuel. This is because by freeing researchers, scientists,
hobbyists and tinkers from the constraints and paradigms that have
so far mired the automotive industry in a century of un-innovative
thinking; the sponsors have provided inventors a sufficient
financial incentive – in the form of a $10 million prize – to
approach the issue from a completely fresh perspective.
As an analogy consider the following: If you asked a high jumper
to improve his jump by 5 to 10%, he would probably focus only
improving his leg strength – so he could jump higher. If, however,
you told him the goal was to “jump as high as possible” and that he
would be rewarded for reaching the highest level, he would llikely
look at a whole new set of tools with which to achieve the goal. To
keep the analogy simple, he might consider using a pole vault – an
advance which would effectively double the height he could
NYC Mayor Michael
Bloomberg, who last week proudly announced that
his city has agreed to host the first leg of the 2009 competition,
is a big fan of the impact the event could have on the way we
approach the future.
“We really do need some new thinking, we need some innovation,”
urged Bloomberg, “We’ve got to get people to participate, and to
change their lives and to understand that we’ve have to use less
energy and that we have to find alternative energy sources that
aren’t destroying our planet.”
Check out Bloomberg and XPrize CEO
Peter Diamandis in action at Thursday’s XPrize Announcement press
conference, just released to the web a few hours ago:
“I don’t think there’s any bigger threat to our world and out
country than global warming and our dependency on oil,” added the
Peter Diamandis, Chairman & CEO,
XPrize Foundation, echoed Bloomberg’s sentiments, stating, “It’s a
challenge to every one of us. We face these issues together. We
must solve them together.”
As the costs associated with orbital escape and space flight continue to drop the stage will be set for a daring new company to lay claim to parts of the moon and nearby asteroids, posits X-Prize CEO Peter Diamandis.
Diamandis envisions that such a future could produce a “land rush” for rights to lunar surface area, as in this future fiction piece, and asteroid mining rights which could be valued at “hundreds of billions of dollars”. He believes such a resource race is likely to “drive huge investments in launch vehicles, brings the cost down, and open up the future in space that all of us can enjoy.”
Do you agree with such a scenario? Might space industry drive massive economic growth and get us up there along the way?
“Might this be a first step toward a Singularity X-Prize? :) What do you think a “Singularity University” might consist of?”
I address these questions directly in comments, but all of the foregoing inspires me to suggest a future X-Prize for the good doctor’s consideration: The Island Hop Challenge.
Here are the terms:
A $10 million prize to the first vehicle that can travel from Staten Island in New York to Coronado Island in California, within a six day period and using only the fuel carried by the vehicle at the start of the challenge (plug-in recharge of electric vehicles is forbidden, but an on-board mechanism to re-fill the internal fuel storage is permitted if such is powered from the vehicles on-board power system).