Google Ideas think tank becomes tech incubator Jigsaw

We know Alphabet is working on driverless cars, and bringing Internet to far-flung corners of the world. Earlier this month when Alphabet reported quarterly results, we got a further glimpse into the Google parent’s many other businesses, or what it calls Other Bets. There’s life sciences and Google Fiber and Nest and biotech and more. But wait, there’s even more.

Google Ideas, created five years ago as a think tank to explore how tech might help address the many issues facing the world, is being expanded and rebranded as Jigsaw. Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt said in a Medium post Tuesday that Jigsaw is becoming a tech incubator that will invest in finding solutions to “the toughest geopolitical challenges.”

So add censorship, digital attacks, money laundering, organized crime, police brutality, human trafficking and terrorism to the list of problems Alphabet is trying to tackle. They’re puzzling problems, hence the name.

“For one thing, the new name acknowledges that the world is a complex puzzle of physical and digital challenges,” Schmidt writes. “For another, it reflects our belief that collaborative problem-solving yields the best solutions.”

Jigsaw — which will address the aforementioned issues, many of them policy-related — will continue to be headed by Jared Cohen, who has served on the staff of former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. Cohen has also co-written a book with Schmidt.

Schmidt mentioned some of what the think tank has worked on so far: Project Shield, which is technology to help against DDoS attacks; Password Alert, which helps protect against phishing; and visualizations that track digital attacks worldwide as well as the global arms trade.


Photo: Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt talks about the book he co-authored with Jared Cohen during a talk at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. on Monday, March 3, 2014. Schmidt and Cohen co-authored the book “The New Digital Age,” which explores how the Internet is changing society and governments around the world. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)


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