Monday, October 5, 2009


Google started a project last year, called 10^100 to try to come up with an idea to help as many people as possible. 150,000 ideas were submitted, and now Google needs your help choosing one idea from the 16 finalists.

While there are good ideas for the project, some of these 16 aren't actually that great. Many of them would benefit with a more expanded, specific mission statement, not a broad idea. Here are my thoughts on the ideas.

Build real-time, user-reported news service
It's... well, unoriginal. Not that it's a bad idea, but it's been done, with varying degrees of success. A problem with user-reported news is that it varies greatly in quality. Rating systems don't work very well with real-time reporting, though you could rate reporters, I suppose. What would be better would be to aggregate news sources (a la Google News) and rate news sources.

Help social entrepreneurs drive change
This sounds a bit recursive to me. It's kind of what Project 10^100 is already. How do we decide what social projects get funded? Besides which, it's already being done. There are lots of organizations that are attempting social change. What would Google add? How about supporting them with some other idea?

Besides, there's a lot of silly politics about who gets funding for stuff. I don't think it's in Google's best interest to go down that route.

Make government more transparent
Also being done already.

Provide quality education to African students
People have been trying to accomplish this for a very long time. I'd like to see details on how Google could tackle this differently and decisively. I honestly don't think the resources exist to do this decisively.

Create real-time natural crisis tracking system
I imagine Twitter data will be instrumenal in this.

Promote health monitoring and data analysis
I think this is an interesting idea, actually. And, it builds on Google's Flu Trends.

Enhance science and engineering education
Interesting idea. I'm not convinced there's a lack of scientists and engineers.

Create real-world issue reporting system
Isn't this the internet?

Create genocide monitoring and alert system
Another interesting idea, possibly supported by Twitter. I'm concerned that this only helps a very small portion of the world, though it's a portion that needs a lot of help.

Work toward socially conscious tax policies
Wow, this would be very controvertial. This is something best handled by economists, I think. People have a lot of opinions on what would constitute good tax policy, but there are people who devote their lives to this sort of research and they're still looking for answers. And, "socially conscious"? Wow, that's vague. Are we trying to maximize GDP or using a concept of fairness? Are we going to consider metrics like the Gini Coefficient? That'd be interesting, but I don't think it'd be very popular.

Build better banking tools for everyone
Bill Gates started an initiative to do something along the same lines of this. It seems like he's focusing on savings accounts. While potentially giving people a return on money rather than hiding money, this also potentially increases the velocity of money, which potentially has a number of benefits in the economy.

Collect and organize the world's urban data
I love this, as well as Google's first attempts to do this. I thought they were going to continue working on this regardless.

Encourage positive media depictions of engineers and scientists
This seems to have a similar goal as another idea, and I'm still not convinced that we need more scientists and engineers.

Drive innovation in public transport
I remember hearing about research concerning analyzing the traffic patterns of ants to enhance our own traffic. I wonder how that went. Being from a transport-needy city, I understand the desire for this, though I'd want to know how much this is projected to actually help people.

Make educational content available online for free
There are many attempts to do this already. The more the merrier, I suppose.

Create more efficient landmine removal programs
My understanding was that this actually affects a very small part of the world.

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