Now for the Y Prize and the Z Prize…

Now for the Y Prize and the Z Prize…

: Now that the $10 million X Prize has motivated private geniuses and daredevils to go into space, wouldn’t it be great to use some rich guy’s money to motivate similar free-enterprise development in other areas that matter to our lives. Y not a $10 million Z Prize for:

: An AIDS vaccine.

: The first fuel-cel car driven across the U.S. (or any safe non-fossil-fuel alternative).

: The first city completely covered in broadband access for $25 per month or less.

: The head of Osama bin Laden.

: What else?


  • Y Prize could be great cause-related marketing for Yahoo

  • Insufficiently Sensitive

    The founding of a newspaper or TV station that presented news from a set of journalists of real diversity. Any journalist could write up a story, but the others would have rebuttal rights in the same issue, particularly to point out omitted items providing perspective. It would be practically mandatory that there be intense differences, even hatreds, across the newsroom; and the editors would require the patience and wisdom of Solomon.
    This would counteract not only the blatant bias now arising from the groupthink of the 95% liberal journalist establishment, but also a phenomenon so well described by Renata Adler in her 1986 book, “Reckless Disregard”. It is a phenomenon of pack behavior: once a reporter has broken a story, those following on it make no effort to examine or refute it; they simply pile on more of the same.
    “As a competitor, [a reporter] wants to publish [the facts] before anyone else. And the difficulty with that form of competition is that once a journalist has been the first to publish certain “facts” amounting to a “story” all other journalists tend to go after the same story, wanting only to tell more of it, sooner. At the same time, there has arisen in the profession an almost unimanageable solidarity; it is exceptionally rare for a story in one publication to contradict, or even to take the mildest exception, to a story published in another”.
    This diversified approach to news reporting (it is understood that we’re not talking opinion columns) is something that NPR and PBS should have been doing from day 1 – but somehow in assembling their staffs they established the coziest gang of groupthinkers since the ants that Wart visited in The Once and Future King.
    Come on, you bazillionaires, what are you waiting for?

  • OK, this drives me nuts when people say that space travel has no bearing on our lives. It’s even worse when smart people like you, Jeff, say it.
    Space travel in its early and middle days helped bring forth MANY of the technology innovations we enjoy today. Without the accelerated and focused goal of space travel, we would still be schlogging through technology that was around in the 1980s. How much computer technology came directly from a direct need for space flight?
    That innovation has stagnated, and the need for an X Prize arose because of a lack of attention and interest in that area of science and technology.
    Imagine what happens to technology, travel, and who knows what else once commercial space flight becomes a reality.

  • Um, you mean like this?
    X Prize sponsors plan other prizes

  • 1. A revolutionary new method for curing bacterial infections — to replace our weakening arsenal of antibiotic drugs.
    2. A set of benign, effective methods for controlling invasive species throughout the world. Imported plants and animals, if robust, take over their new ecosystems and ruin them. Examples: kudzu, the northern snakehead fish, purple loosestrife. Supposedly, the annual cost of managing invasive species in the U.S. is $100B and rising. The existing management techniques are like fighting a forest fire with wet blankets.
    P.S. I like the news organization diversity idea. But it’s not an X prize type of thing. It doesn’t require innovation. We already have the the methods to make that happen. It needs someone with the means and the will and the faith.

  • Jeff –
    …as far as the Ansari prize goes, I read somewhere speculation that Paul Allen spent something like $25M at Scaled Composites to achieve that $10M prize. For Allen and Rutan’s group, at least, I don’t think “da’ money” was the focus of the exercise.
    And. I’m not sure that you meant to, but it seems like you’re unaware that you’re coming across as just a bit of a contemptuous-sounding Luddite, the way you framed your list.
    …at least two items on your list (fuel cells and cheap widespread broadband access), would likely be commercial by-products of such ventures.
    …the biology “industry” spin-offs from a broad range of deep-space ventures would almost surely move things right along in the various research lines on-planet too.
    Regardless, aren’t you even the least bit curious about the rest of the solar system …and maybe, someday, the stars?
    There’s a lot of us who are convinced (for myriad highly rational reasons) that human expansion into the solar system is FAR more important to humanity – on ANY historical scale – then ALL the pet projects on your list.
    Are you worried that fiscally, capital expenditures on space ventures would be some kind of zero-sum game, soaking up otherwise scarce economic resources?
    I don’t think that’s a tenable position; and it betrays a lack of historical perspective as to the importance of the US Apollo program of the 1960s and ’70s to the industry spin-offs that resulted from those expenditures. Our entire current tech-base is based on projects initiated in that era; none of what we are now would be possible if not for what we did back then.
    This was …and would be …money well spent.
    The desire to move off-planet is not just some visionary dreamquest lust for adventure: the suspicion is that there’s money to be made out there, somehow and somewhere …not that the visionary part isn’t sufficient in and of itself to some people, but money is always going to be the inducement for business investment.
    For me: anything to get us moving toward getting off this rock. As Ledeen says about Iran, faster please.

  • Michael

    Replacement for the Electoral College.
    Open-source & reliable electronic voting machine.

  • Jake: You misquote me; you project. I didn’t say that space travel did not have an impact on our lives. I said I wanted more prizes to motivate more development in more ways that affect our lives. “In other areas” means in additional areas. Read first, then post.
    Ditto Brandon, you Luddite, you. I’m asking for more of the same. Jeesh.
    I’m agreeing with you, guys. I’m saying this is a good thing. I’m saying gimme more.
    Space nuts are a defensive breed, aren’t they? Wonder what what happens if I call them Trekkies….

  • There’s already a $25 million bounty on Osama.

  • I did read first, Jeff. In fact, I read twice because I was surprised at my reading. I’m sure this is simply an issue of text communication, and projection as you say. I’ve heard so many people in the last few years say “We should go to space, we should spend the money on *important* things, that I read your post as more of the same. My bad.
    OK, my vision of you as a very intellegent guy has been retained! :)

  • rick d

    * Malaria vaccine
    * A photovoltaic cell of, say, 50% efficiency
    * An effective Alzheimer’s preventive/treatment
    * A cure for hip-hop and “new country” music

  • GCW

    Free markets already have a reward in place for AIDS vaccine and fuel-cell.
    I’m wondering where you’re coming from on the city/broadband. You mean wireless? $25/mo/citizen? In the form of a tax?

  • Ditto Brandon, you Luddite, you. I’m asking for more of the same. Jeesh.
    Well, Jeff …that’s why I gave you the benefit of a doubt, and indicated that I wasn’t sure that you meant to come off sounding like a Luddite …at least, to us anti-Luddites.
    The problem with your lead-in verbiage is that it is exactly the same trite, tired intro that the true Luddites use to presage all their generally illogical fiscal reasons why money for space ventures is “thrown away”, and could be better used to provide for the common weal, as it were.
    Space nuts are a defensive breed, aren’t they?
    Heh …yeah prob’ly.
    …but not usually defensive on the personal level (we’re like mothers hovering over their babies on the tactical and strategic level arguments though).
    In our [personal-level] defence, when you argue the same valid/rational points over and over {and over …n+1} again to the same flat-earthers as some of us have done over the last 40-50 years …well, we immediately assume the worst, and immediately go into full blown rational sales pitch mode (i.e., tactically, or stratigically, as warranted by the context).
    …just moving the mountain, teaspoon by teaspoon full.
    …glad to hear you’re one of us though! “More of the same” indeed!

  • “Free markets already have a reward in place for AIDS vaccine”
    You’re kidding, right? Anyone that comes up with an AIDS vaccine and doesn’t give it away for free ( or so close to free as to not make any profit ) would be branded as the lowest form of life around. The formula would be confiscated by governments the world over.

  • Mumblix Grumph

    If a company can make millions off a treatment for icky toenail fungus, I know an AIDS cure will be a huge pot of gold. A “prize” is not needed as an inducement.
    A company who creates an AIDS vaccine or cure will make billions. Some Lefties will bitch and moan that people will actually have to (GASP) pay for it, but boo-hoo.

  • Mumblix Grumph

    Oh, and by the way.
    A couple of guys drove cross-country back in the seventies using in a car that ran on wood scraps. It was probably a Stirling engine variant. I don’t remember the details, I was just a kid and saw it on Real People.
    A Sirling engine is an external-combustion engine that can run on just about any combustible material. We’ll probably see more of that in the future.

  • If a similar prize could be directed to cleaning up our increasingly junked-up and polluted earth, it would be a great leap forward. Our oceans are a dumping ground with large ‘dead zones’ devoid of life-sustaining organisms. A scenario/method of cleaning the oceans would be worth our best efforts.
    On the East Coast in the 60’s in the fall dolphins migrated south, and along the beaches the beautiful creatures would swim by, cavorting, all day for a couple of days. Now, an occasional dolphin sighting is all that remains.
    Restoring the earth would be a great goal for a Y prize

  • How about stem cell research