Sunday, September 23, 2007
The appropriate role for prizes in spurring innovation and creative expression has yet to be fully articulated. But that prizes -- the awarding of large lump sums for achieving well-defined goals -- can induce important innovation cannot be contested. Consider the examples of the search for a means of measuring longitude, of developing a smallpox vaccine, and of getting manned, commercial aircraft into space (the $10 million Ansari X Prize).
Recently, the X Prize Foundation and Google announced a $20 million prize for the first private team to land an "unmanned vehicle on the moon, drive it for 500 meters, and send back high-quality videos." To win the full prize, the team must complete the task by 2012. If the goals are not achieved by that date but rather are completed by 2014, the prize falls to $15 million. The second-place team will win $5 million, and there are separate competitions and prizes for "detecting water, traveling farther, and surviving a lunar night."
Google has put up $30 million for the competition and will broadcast the lunar videos on its YouTube site.