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it goes to show like the netflix prize, x prize etc. Is that contests cause 10X the investment of time, energy, and money as compared to the prize. The expected value on these contests is very low.

Instead of government grants, we should have government X prizes for solving various problems. Solar for under $x/watt, fuel efficient vehicles, etc etc.

This is the approach the British and several other governments took for finding a reliable way to find the longitude of a ship at sea [1]. Dava Sobel's Longitude is an interesting but quick read about the problem and John Harrison's eventual solution.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longitude_rewards

This is an interesting proposition in how to effectively allocate funds in a way that brings in far more value than direct application.

For me it does raise a few questions: What happens to teams who lose a competition? If their only monetary incentive is the govt prize, are they then in the hole financially? Can non winning projects incentivized by govt xprizes always be repurposed to still have value? Will individuals burn out or be emotionally drained and forfeit future competitions?

This is not to say that the idea isn’t interesting; clearly x prizes are still ongoing and there’s never a shortage of interest to participate.

> ...may be a hidden treasure chest whose contents are worth millions.

In a way, the startup scene is a type of X Prize contest for capitalism. How many millions would this chest potentially hold? With the amount of time and effort needed to find it, the endeavor arguably provides worse ROI than attempting to start your own business. The level of effort and probability of success might be better for entrepreneurship as well.

This sort of assumes the only return from seeking a prize is the prize.

Xprize and HeroX do this sort of thing.

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