Last week, Solve for X gathered 60 entrepreneurs and scientists from around the world to discuss 18 moonshot proposals—world-changing projects that work to address a huge problem, suggest a radical solution and use some form of breakthrough technology to make it work.
Ira Glass opened the summit with a talk on climate change entitled “Ira Glass tries to boss you into a moonshot.” Ira mixed data, devastating personal experiences, potential technical solutions and insightful ways to think about the issue and made an excellent case that generalists should consider shifting focus to climate change.
Following Ira’s talk, we heard proposals on a wide variety of topics, including: Leslie Dewan’s proposal for generating power from nuclear waste building on technology ideas abandoned in the 1950s; Lonnie Johnson’s JTEC invention, which would allow us to convert heat directly into electricity; Howard Shapiro’s global collaboration that uses some of the newest and oldest technologies in agriculture to end stunting for rural poor; Julia Greer’s exploration of the relationship between a material’s strength and its weight through 3D architected nanomaterials; Yael Hanein’s artificial solar retina, which has the potential to cure blindness; Erez Livneh’s virus decoys, which could slow and eliminate disease; and Asel Sartbeava’s proposal for thermally stable vaccines that remove the need for refrigeration cold chain during transport.
During a “show and tell” session, participants from previous Solve for X events shared updates on their moonshots. Omri Amirav-Drory showed us plants that glow when activated; Dr. Keith Black brought delicious Dr. Black’s Brain Bars; Karen Gleason brought solar cells printed on paper; Andras Forgacs brought the first “steak chips” that Modern Meadow is beta-“tasting.”
In an effort to include more people in the Solve for X experience, this year we ran 10 experiments to bring our exploration session format into other organizations’ events, including TEDx Beacon Street, SXSW and Tribeca Film Festival; we even held an event on Capitol Hill. FabLab, ReWork and AAAS recently became collaborators, joining Singularity University, XPrize, TED and others. We hope we’ll run into you at an event in your area.
To learn more, watch our video “On Taking Moonshots” in which several moonshot pioneers talk about the mindset needed to do this kind of breakthrough work. You can find all 18 of the proposals from the 2014 Summit, as well as 200+ moonshots posted by other pioneers, at SolveforX.com. You can also submit moonshots—your own or others that fit the tech moonshot proposal format. Join our #TechMoonshots conversations on Google+ and Twitter.