With the official launch of the inaugural summer session of Singularity University just days away, the Hub sat down with the University’s Executive Director Salim Ismail to get an inside look at this exciting event (see video interview at the end of this post). For those who are a little behind on the story, 40 students from across the world have been chosen from a pool of more than 1,000 applicants to participate in the first ever 9 week summer session of Singularity University. The University will bring together some of the top names in genetics, aging, computing, and several other fields. The intent is to focus on the convergence of accelerating technologies and the promise and peril that these technologies hold for the future of mankind. The University is being hosted at the NASA Ames campus in Silicon Valley, and even now students and faculty are beginning to arrive.
The 40 students attending Singularity University represent an international sampling of individuals with serious credentials, most of them with Ph.D’s and many with real world experience as entrepreneurs and executives. These students are not coming to the University to learn the basics. Rather, they are hoping to take their already extensive backgrounds and mesh this with a broader view of the convergence of several accelerating technologies that are on the horizon.
With backing from Singularity advocate Ray Kurzweil, X Prize founder and Chairman Peter Diamandis, Google, NASA, and several high profile faculty and volunteers, the University is off to an strong start. For the first three weeks of the summer session, students will be bombarded with an intense regimen of daily lectures and workshops covering ten tracks as follows:
- Futures Studies & Forecasting
- Policy, Law & Ethics
- Finance & Entrepreneurship
- Networks & Computing Systems
- Biotechnology & Bioinformatics
- Medicine, Neuroscience & Human Enhancement
- AI & Robotics
- Energy & Ecological Systems
- Space & Physical Sciences
During the second three weeks of the session students will narrow their focus to only a few of these tracks, and the lectures will slowly fade away as workshops, discussions, debates, and field trips take over. Finally, in the last three weeks of the summer session, all 40 students will work together on a single team project called 10^9+ (ten to the ninth plus). The goal of the team project is to positively impact at least 1 billion people within a span of less than 10 years by proposing a framework to solve one of the many grand challenges facing humanity in the areas of climate change, public health, energy, or water. A website will be launched at the end of the summer session to promote the team project framework and hopefully galvanize governments, corporations, and individuals to get involved and bring a real solution to reality.
For the many who will not be able to attend this first summer session, there are several other opportunities to participate. The University intends to record video of every single lecture, workshop, field trip, and other parts of the curriculum whenever possible. They fully intend to open up as much of this video footage as possible to the public. In addition, starting at the end of 2009, the University will be launching its 3 day and 10 day executive programs. These programs condense the 9 week summer session into much shorter sessions that will be available every other month or more.
Accelerating technologies such as genetics pose a great threat, but also great promise for humanity, and Singularity University is one of the very few major efforts out there that is giving the repercussions of these accelerating technologies a good deal of thought and consideration.
Disclosure: Keith Kleiner is an associate founder of Singularity University