A recent story from BloombergBusinessweek dives deep into the mystery that is Google X (Google [x] is the official company spelling). This low key, yet high octane division of Google is where real risks are taken on new technology. It is the incubator for innovation of the new and the outlandish that are in no way related to an internet search. X is the business segment that has produced Glass, is working on the driver-less cars zipping around California’s highways, and has recently purchased an interesting alternative energy company called Makani Power.
In keeping with Google’s theme to “do no evil” the folks behind the curtain at X have been discussing humanity saving topics like nuclear fusion reactors and eye scanning devices that can detect Alzheimer’s at very early stages. The culture of the division is truly amazing as it operates fairly autonomously from the rest of the company. Although Sergey Brin spends nearly his entire time working at X, the group is restrained little and encouraged to think big, take huge risks, and go for what they call “moonshots.”
Google X seeks to be an heir to the classic research labs, such as the Manhattan Project, which created the first atomic bomb, and Bletchley Park, where code breakers cracked German ciphers and gave birth to modern cryptography. After the war, the spirit of these efforts was captured in pastoral corporate settings: AT&T’s Bell Labs and Xerox PARC, for example, became synonymous with breakthroughs (the transistor and the personal computer among them) and the inability of each company to capitalize on them.