Google has just announced an end to their “X Prize” contest which would have awarded $20 million dollars to a team that could put a man on the moon. Earlier today, they stated that that they’re not awarding the prize.
Here is Google’s announcement as it appeared on Twitter:
The reason, as given by Google, was that none of the five finalists could meet the March 31 deadline for a launch. Therefore, Google did not succeed in getting someone to the moon by dangling a heap of money as an enticement.
As anyone who has ever argued with their little brother can tell you, victory can still be claimed by changing the conditions of victory and then saying that you’ve met them.
In that light, here is what Google executives have to say on the matter:
“As a result of this competition, we have sparked the conversation and changed expectations with regard to who can land on the moon. Many now believe it’s no longer the sole purview of a few government agencies, but now may be achieved by small teams of entrepreneurs, engineers, and innovators from around the world,”
-Peter H. Diamondis and Marcus Shingle, Google executives (emphasis added)
That sounds great; you were able to challenge beliefs and expectations. But what about actually getting someone on the moon? Also, since when is the truth of any matter determined by mere belief? Why would it take a campaign involving tens of millions of dollars just to challenge the beliefs and expectations of an unspecified “many”?
Of course, we all know that the point of any corporate-sponsored contest isn’t to award a prize, but to win positive publicity for the corporation holding the event. In this case, Google’s Lunar X contest was a smashing success for Google because of all the positive publicity that they’ve gotten since the contest was announced in 2007. After all, the contest did succeed in giving Google a pro-science veneer which is all the rage with the science-chic millennials whose only real involvement with science is using consumer electronics.
Google could at the very least award the cash prize as a consolation to the team that came the closest to the goal. They may not have achieved the conditions of victory as stated in the rules of the contest, but considering how much time and expense the contestants put into it, it doesn’t seem wrong to at least award a consolation prize. I don’t know, but I suspect that the reason has something to do with the fact that such a choice might cost Google $20 million.
Now that Google’s contest has succeeded in netting them their pro-science publicity, they’ll probably go right back to censoring the internet and pushing their political agenda. By the way, Firefox is an awesome browser, and DuckDuckGo is an awesome search engine.
Maybe there’s more to solving problems than throwing a ton of money at them.