NewScientist has a Q&A with X Prize Foundation CEO Peter Diamandis. An exceprt:
Why do you think prizes work?
First, as humans, we’re genetically predisposed to compete; we do it in sports and in business. That’s what encourages us to take risks, which drives breakthroughs. Secondly, if you’re going to try to do something on your own that’s considered audacious or outlandish and you fail, people say, “Look at that stupid idiot who tried that crazy thing.” However, if a third party puts up, as an objective, a very difficult goal, which you attempt but fail to achieve, then it’s, “Good try old chap, too bad you didn’t make it.” The psychology of the prize changes the way society views you as a risk taker.
Read the full interview.