Rhinoceroses are heading to
a safer continent. To protect
the species from rampant
poaching, the Australian
Rhino Project aims to airlift
80 rhinos from South Africa
to Australian zoos. It’s no
small task, but the nonprofit’s
team did much of the heavy
lifting up front by conducting
an extensive feasibility study
and securing approval for the
forced rhino migration from
both countries’ governments.
It estimates transportation
costs to be nearly US$6 mil-
lion; the rhinos should all be in
their new homes by 2020.
Project teams working in Google’s “moonshot factory” know how to kill a project. The company’s R&D
lab—simply called “X”—located in Mountain View,
California, USA strives to invent and launch radical,
world-changing technologies. That’s a tall order—but
failure isn’t frowned upon: It’s encouraged. The X
methodology is simple: identify a problem, propose a
solution and then find how to kill it. More than 100
moonshot projects were killed in 2015.
“We spend most of our time breaking things and
working to discover that we’re wrong,” said Astro
Teller, head of X, during a 2016 TED Talk.
This brutal process helps project teams identify fatal
risks early. An automated vertical farming experiment
sought to tackle world hunger but couldn’t grow fun-
damental crops like rice and grain. Another moonshot,
don’t need a
runway to land,
was derailed once the team found a prototype plane
would cost US$200 million to create.
But X has also delivered some of Google’s most
innovative initiatives. The first X project, the self-driving car, is now being tested. And wearable tech products Google Watch and Google Glass both were born
in the X labs. These innovation projects don’t come
cheap—Alphabet, Google’s parent company, spent
US$3.6 billion on moonshot projects in 2015 alone.
But Google doesn’t view each X failure as a waste of
money, said Mr. Teller: “We may get a phoenix from
the ashes of this project.” —Kelsey O’Connor
Fail to Succeed
Google’s Project Wing team
tests automated flight and
delivery in rural California, USA.