Updated 11:32 am, Tuesday, Feb. 7
The first set of talks — involving “fifty scientists, entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world” — were already held on February 1 through 3rd at the CordeValle Resort in San Martin, CA, co-hosted by Google Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt, but the company kept the lid on them until now.
As Teller and Smith wrote in the blog post announcing the new series on Monday night:
The Solve for X gathering, which we co-hosted with Eric Schmidt, is a place to celebrate a concept we champion internally and that we believe will inspire many others: technology moonshots. 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. Moonshots live in the gray area between audacious projects and pure science fiction; they are 10x improvement, not 10%. That’s partly what makes them so exciting.
The blog post also included the following video, which had been leaked by Google earlier in the day:
Indeed, the two websites for TED and Google’s Solve For X bear a striking overall resemblance, with users able to click on individual speakers’ videos and read a brief summary, as well as providing details on how users can get involved. Some of the talks listed on the Solve For X website have yet to be uploaded, but the company promises they will be coming later in the week.
There’s a certain irony to those comparisons, or perhaps a natural progression, as several famed Google employees — including co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the company’s current CEO — have given TED talks in the past, and Google in 2006 announced it would be posting a number of TED Talks on Google Video.
But now, there’s no mistaking Google’s clearly trying to leverage its own reputation as an unorthodox, somewhat kooky, yet wildly successful tech company as a motivation for why people should be excited about these new talks.
Indeed, Google’s Solve For X guidelines limit the talks to a merciful 12 minutes at most. The company also created a separate Solve For X page on Google’s growing social network, Google Plus, posting a series of unique drawings made during small group breakout sessions at the first set of talks.
As the blog post from Teller and Smith concludes: “Solve for X isn’t about developing a new business line or building an investment portfolio. Rather, it aims to be a forum where technology-based moonshot thinking is practiced, celebrated and amplified.”
Google also tried to build suspense around the launch of the new series, posting a preview version of the Solve For X website earlier in the day and the vague video about the series posted above, but giving little in the way of detailed information about what exactly the series would consist of.
And indeed, the plan worked to some extent, with speculation surrounding the Solve For X website building throughout the day among some tech and Google-focused blogs, especially after former MIT Media Labs scientist and current Google employee Richard W. DeVaul tweeted early in the morning “The #solveforx conference videos are supposed to be up this afternoon at http://www.wesolveforx.com/”
Whether Google’s Solve For X talks take off in quite the way that the TED Talks have remains to be seen. Stay tuned.
First update: TED has responded with a statement applauding the creation of the new Google talks series, but saying it had no part in it.