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  • In 1962 at Rice University,

  • JFK told the country about a dream he had,

  • a dream to put a person on the moon by the end of the decade.

  • The eponymous moonshot.

  • No one knew if it was possible to do

  • but he made sure a plan was put in place to do it if it was possible.

  • That's how great dreams are.

  • Great dreams aren't just visions,

  • they're visions coupled to strategies for making them real.

  • I have the incredible good fortune to work at a moonshot factory.

  • At X -- formerly called Google X --

  • you'll find an aerospace engineer working alongside a fashion designer

  • and former military ops commanders brainstorming with laser experts.

  • These inventors, engineers and makers are dreaming up technologies

  • that we hope can make the world a wonderful place.

  • We use the word "moonshots" to remind us to keep our visions big --

  • to keep dreaming.

  • And we use the word "factory" to remind ourselves

  • that we want to have concrete visions --

  • concrete plans to make them real.

  • Here's our moonshot blueprint.

  • Number one:

  • we want to find a huge problem in the world

  • that affects many millions of people.

  • Number two:

  • we want to find or propose a radical solution for solving that problem.

  • And then number three:

  • there has to be some reason to believe

  • that the technology for such a radical solution

  • could actually be built.

  • But I have a secret for you.

  • The moonshot factory is a messy place.

  • But rather than avoid the mess,

  • pretend it's not there,

  • we've tried to make that our strength.

  • We spend most of our time breaking things

  • and trying to prove that we're wrong.

  • That's it, that's the secret.

  • Run at all the hardest parts of the problem first.

  • Get excited and cheer,

  • "Hey! How are we going to kill our project today?"

  • We've got this interesting balance going

  • where we allow our unchecked optimism to fuel our visions.

  • But then we also harness enthusiastic skepticism

  • to breathe life, breathe reality into those visions.

  • I want to show you a few of the projects

  • that we've had to leave behind on the cutting room floor,

  • and also a few of the gems

  • that at least so far, have not only survived that process,

  • but have been accelerated by it.

  • Last year we killed a project in automated vertical farming.

  • This is some of the lettuce that we grew.

  • One in nine people in the world suffers from undernourishment.

  • So this is a moonshot that needs to happen.

  • Vertical farming uses 10 times less water

  • and a hundred times less land than conventional farming.

  • And because you can grow the food close to where it's consumed,

  • you don't have to transport it large distances.

  • We made progress in a lot of the areas

  • like automated harvesting and efficient lighting.

  • But unfortunately,

  • we couldn't get staple crops like grains and rice to grow this way.

  • So we killed the project.

  • Here's another huge problem.

  • We pay enormous costs in resources and environmental damage

  • to ship goods worldwide.

  • Economic development of landlocked countries

  • is limited by lack of shipping infrastructure.

  • The radical solution?

  • A lighter-than-air, variable-buoyancy cargo ship.

  • This has the potential to lower,

  • at least overall,

  • the cost, time and carbon footprint of shipping

  • without needing runways.

  • We came up with this clever set of technical breakthroughs

  • that together might make it possible for us to lower the cost enough

  • that we could actually make these ships --

  • inexpensively enough in volume.

  • But however cheap they would have been to make in volume

  • it turned out that it was going to cost close to 200 million dollars

  • to design and build the first one.

  • 200 million dollars is just way too expensive.

  • Because X is structured with these tight feedback loops

  • of making mistakes and learning and new designs,

  • we can't spend 200 million dollars

  • to get the first data point

  • about whether we're on the right track or not.

  • If there's an Achilles' heel in one our projects,

  • we want to know it now, up front, not way down the road.

  • So we killed this project, too.

  • Discovering a major flaw in a project

  • doesn't always mean that it ends the project.

  • Sometimes it actually gets us onto a more productive path.

  • This is our fully self-driving vehicle prototype,

  • which we built without a steering wheel or break pedal.

  • But that wasn't actually our goal when we started.

  • With 1.2 million people dying on the roads globally every year,

  • building a car that drives itself was a natural moonshot to take.

  • Three and a half years ago,

  • when we had these Lexus, retrofitted, self-driving cars in testing,

  • they were doing so well, we gave them out to other Googlers

  • to find out what they thought of the experience.

  • And what we discovered

  • was that our plan to have the cars do almost all the driving

  • and just hand over to the users in case of emergency

  • was a really bad plan.

  • It wasn't safe

  • because the users didn't do their job.

  • They didn't stay alert

  • in case the car needed to hand control back to them.

  • This was a major crisis for the team.

  • It sent them back to the drawing board.

  • And they came up with a beautiful, new perspective.

  • Aim for a car where you're truly a passenger.

  • You tell the car where you want to go,

  • you push a button

  • and it takes you from point A to point B by itself.

  • We're really grateful

  • that we had this insight as early on in the project as we did.

  • And it's shaped everything we've done since then.

  • And now our cars have self-driven more than 1.4 million miles,

  • and they're out everyday

  • on the streets of Mountain View, California and Austin, Texas.

  • The cars team shifted their perspective.

  • This is one of X's mantras.

  • Sometimes shifting your perspective is more powerful than being smart.

  • Take wind energy.

  • It's one of my favorite examples of perspective shifting.

  • There's no way that we're going to build

  • a better standard wind turbine than the experts in that industry.

  • But we found a way to get up higher into the sky,

  • and so get access to faster, more consistent winds,

  • and so more energy without needing hundreds of tons of steel to get there.

  • Our Makani energy kite rises up from its perch

  • by spinning up those propellers along its wing.

  • And it pulls out a tether as it rises,

  • pulling energy up through the tether.

  • Once the tether's all the way out,

  • it goes into crosswind circles in the sky.

  • And now those propellers that lifted it up have become flying turbines.

  • And that sends energy back down the tether.

  • We haven't yet found a way to kill this project.

  • And the longer it survives that pressure, the more excited we get

  • that this could become a cheaper and more deployable form

  • of wind energy for the world.

  • Probably the craziest sounding project we have is Project Loon.

  • We're trying to make balloon-powered Internet.

  • A network of balloons in the stratosphere

  • that beam an internet connection down to rural and remote areas of the world.

  • This could bring online as many as four billion more people,

  • who today have little or no internet connection.

  • But you can't just take a cell tower,

  • strap it to a balloon and stick it in the sky.

  • The winds are too strong, it would be blown away.

  • And the balloons are too high up to tie it to the ground.

  • Here comes the crazy moment.

  • What if, instead,

  • we let the balloons drift

  • and we taught them how to sail the winds to go where the needed to go?

  • It turns out the stratosphere has winds

  • that are going in quite different speeds and directions in thin strata.

  • So we hoped that using smart algorithms and wind data from around the world,

  • we could maneuver the balloons a bit,

  • getting them to go up and down just a tiny bit in the stratosphere

  • to grab those winds going in those different directions and speeds.

  • The idea is to have enough balloons

  • so as one balloon floats out of your area,

  • there's another balloon ready to float into place,

  • handing off the internet connection,

  • just like your phone hands off between cell towers

  • as you drive down the freeway.

  • We get how crazy that vision sounds --

  • there's the name of the project to remind us of that.

  • So since 2012,

  • the Loon team has prioritized the work that seems the most difficult

  • and so the most likely to kill their project.

  • The first thing that they did

  • was try to get a Wi-Fi connection from a balloon in the stratosphere

  • down to an antenna on the ground.

  • It worked.

  • And I promise you there were bets that it wasn't going to.

  • So we kept going.

  • Could we get the balloon to talk directly to handsets,

  • so that we didn't need the antenna as an intermediary receiver?

  • Yeah.

  • Could we get the balloon bandwidth high enough

  • so it was a real Internet connection?

  • So that people could have something more than just SMS?

  • The early tests weren't even a megabit per second,

  • but now we can do up to 15 megabits per second.

  • Enough to watch a TED Talk.

  • Could we get the balloons to talk to each other through the sky

  • so that we could reach our signal deeper into rural areas?

  • Check.

  • Could we get balloons the size of a house to stay up for more than 100 days,

  • while costing less than five percent

  • of what traditional, long-life balloons have cost to make?

  • Yes. In the end.

  • But I promise you, you name it, we had to try it to get there.

  • We made round, silvery balloons.

  • We made giant pillow-shaped balloons.

  • We made balloons the size of a blue whale.

  • We busted a lot of balloons.

  • (Laughter)

  • Since one of the things that was most likely to kill the Loon project

  • was whether we could guide the balloons through the sky,

  • one of our most important experiments was putting a balloon inside a balloon.

  • So there are two compartments here, one with air and then one with helium.

  • The balloon pumps air in to make itself heavier,

  • or lets air out to make it lighter.

  • And these weight changes allow it to rise or fall,

  • and that simple movement of the balloon is its steering mechanism.

  • It floats up or down,

  • hoping to grab winds going in the speed and direction that it wants.

  • But is that good enough for it to navigate through the world?

  • Barely at first,

  • but better all the time.

  • This particular balloon, our latest balloon,

  • can navigate a two-mile vertical stretch of sky

  • and can sail itself to within 500 meters of where it wants to go

  • from 20,000 kilometers away.

  • We have lots more to do

  • in terms of fine-tuning the system and reducing costs.

  • But last year, a balloon built inexpensively

  • went around the world 19 times over 187 days.

  • So we're going to keep going.

  • (Applause)

  • Our balloons today

  • are doing pretty much everything a complete system needs to do.

  • We're in discussions with telcos around the world,

  • and we're going to fly over places like Indonesia

  • for real service testing this year.

  • This probably all sounds too good to be true,

  • and you're right.

  • Being audacious

  • and working on big, risky things

  • makes people inherently uncomfortable.

  • You cannot yell at people and force them to fail fast.

  • People resist. They worry.

  • "What will happen to me if I fail?

  • Will people laugh at me?

  • Will I be fired?"

  • I started with our secret.

  • I'm going to leave you with how we actually make it happen.

  • The only way to get people to work on big, risky