Google to open 'Google Ideas' global technology think tank

August 15, 2010: 8:51 AM ET

Hoping to apply technology solutions to solve the world's problems, Google is hiring Washington technology insider Jared Cohen.

Jared Cohen in 2007. Image Credit: Washington Life Magazine

A rumor surfaced last month which put Washington insider Jared Cohen on the fast track to Google-dom.  Cohen is famous for his work as 'Twitterer in Chief' of the State department where he has lasted through two administrations.

He's a fascinating fellow.

Cohen was hired during the Bush Administration by Condoleezza Rice's State Department's policy planning staff at age 24, just after getting his M.Phil at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.  Since then, he has become an incredibly well connected and well traveled diplomat versed in '21st Century Statecraft'.  He's also written a book called Children of Jihad where he advocates for the use of technology for social upheaval in the Middle East and elsewhere.

We've been told that Cohen is busy building a new entity for Google which is tentatively called Google Ideas.  Ideas is a global initiatives 'think tank' office inside of Google and will be run out of New York.  Cohen will be working for Google full time by this fall. His job will be to spearhead initiatives to apply technology solutions to problems faced by the developing world.

Another source tells us that Cohen's current boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is aware of his impending departure.  Google told Fortune that it doesn't comment on topics of this nature.  Cohen didn't respond to requests for comment.

Cohen counts among his friends Twitter and Square founder Jack Dorsey as well as entertainment figures like Whoopi Goldberg and Jimmy Buffett.

He's no stranger to Google either. Below is a talk in March with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen and Alec Ross.

I've bookmarked the end but the full video is highly recommended. Or, view a shorter, easier to watch interview here.

This Stanford article tells the story of Cohen's rise to prominance in Washington:

Cohen who has traveled widely in the Middle East, was tracking developments on the ground by following the English and translated Farsi postings of Iranian dissidents and opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi on Twitter. Their protests about fraud in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election, and the violent government crackdown that followed it, were flying to the outside world in 140-character-or-less bursts of comment.

Cohen read that the microblogging service was about to shut down its operations for maintenance. Although the shutdown would be routine and brief (and in the middle of the night in U.S. time zones), the prospect chilled the dissidents' leaders. Because the government was blocking cell phone texting, Twitter had become a lifeline. The protests were reaching a crescendo: What might happen if Twitter went silent in the middle of a turbulent day?

So Cohen emailed his friend Jack Dorsey, Twitter's co-founder and chairman. Dorsey had been part of a Silicon Valley delegation that Cohen had led to the Middle East earlier that spring to explore prospects for rebuilding Iraq. In a series of emails, Cohen asked Dorsey if the company was aware of the suddenly prominent role that it was playing on the international stage.

The rest—more or less—is history. Twitter agreed to postpone its upgrade for a few hours, and the pipeline of free expression continued uninterrupted in Iran. The Iranian government accused the Obama administration of meddling in its internal affairs, but a spokesman said Cohen's call was "completely consistent with our national policy. . . . We are proponents of freedom of expression." By the end of the year, CNN was including Cohen's call to Twitter on a list of the Top 10 Internet moments of the decade, along with the launch of Facebook and the introduction of the iPhone.

From that same Stanford article is a collage of interesting meetings:

Image Credit: Stanford

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Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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