Monday evening Singularity Hub was in attendance as Singularity University hosted the opening ceremonies to officially welcome a class of 80 incredible students to its 2010 summer session. An impressive cast of attendees, including Larry Page, Ray Kurzweil, Larry Brilliant, Peter Diamandis, and Pete Worden, made it out to Singularity University headquarters at NASA’s Mountain View, CA campus to witness the event. As with last year, the ten week summer curriculum will culminate with the completion of the 10^9+ team project, challenging students to develop ideas that will positively impact more than a billion people in ten years. Below find Singularity Hub’s exclusive coverage of the entire event, including tons of video footage. And this is just the beginning – stay tuned here at the Hub for the web’s most comprehensive coverage of the 2010 summer session as it unfolds during the next ten weeks.
Singularity University was founded two years ago with a mission to solve the world’s grand challenges by leveraging robotics, genetics, nanotechnology, and other accelerating technologies. Grand challenges, such as global warming, clean drinking water for all, and disease pandemics can be solved, but solving them will require modern technologies and the concerted effort of people around the world. Singularity University aims to foster this process.
Each summer the amazing faculty and students at Singularity University embark on a whirlwind ten week curriculum that exposes them to the individuals and companies from around the world that are leading the way in radical technological advancement. Last year 40 students were chosen from more than 1000 applicants for the coveted program, and several exciting startups were launched as a result. This year 80 students are taking the plunge, and it will be fascinating to see what ideas – and companies – they hatch up to change the world.
Below is a video of Xprize founder and Singularity University co-founder Peter Diamandis presenting his ideas on the mission of Singularity University at the ceremony. My favorite part occurs at 3:00 – Diamandis points out that in 2000 mobile phone penetration in Africa was 2%, in 2010 it was 28%, in 2013 it is projected to exceed 70%. What happens when a billion new people come online, begin to consume, and join the collective mind of the world?
Next is a video of Google co-founder Larry Page giving a short hello to the crowd. Nothing too earth shattering here, but it is always good to see Page’s continued support of the University. The reasoning behind Page’s commitment and interest towards Singularity University is clear: Singularity University represents one of the few institutions in the world with a concentrated focus on making big, positive change for billions of people.
Below is a video of Pete Worden, director at NASA Ames Research Center, explaining why his agency has been so eager to host Singularity University at its Mountain View campus. According to Worden, NASA exists for three reasons:
1. to discover where life came from
2. to discover where life is
3. to understand what is the future of life
Worden sees Singularity University as a key driver of item number #3 above, and I certainly agree:
Dan Barry, 3 time NASA astronaut and head of faculty at Singularity University as a chair of the AI & Robotics track gave an inspirational speech about having the determination to truly succeed. It is best to hear the story in Dan’s own words in the video below, but in a nutshell: the guy applied to NASA to be an astronaut for 12 years in a row and was denied each time before he was finally accepted the 13th time. Now that is how you succeed!
Keynote speaker Larry Brilliant challenged the new class of 80 students at Singularity University to do better than simply improve the lives of 1 billion people. According to Brilliant, this is not a high enough goal to strive for! Instead, students should shoot even higher, and aim for nothing less than to solve one or more of the world’s grand challenges.
Larry Brilliant, former director of Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, has a very impressive background. In the video below, Brilliant describes how he was a key member of the team that rid the world of smallpox, a devastating disease that was not fully eradicated until 1979 even though a vaccine existed as early as 1796! Brilliant points out that he and his colleagues were able to rally the entire world around the eradication of smallpox even without the aid of modern communication tools such as email, computers, and largely without phones! To this day, smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been eradicated.
At 8:28 in the video, Brilliant quotes futurist Peter Shwartz saying “it is not your imagination that there are more bad things happening all at once and that they are all intertwined.” Volcanic eruptions, oil spills, H1N1, global warming, etc are representative of how our world is at a crossroads as a result of a burgeoning human society. This is an interesting topic that I hope we will be able to spend more time reporting one here at the Hub later this year.
Brilliant’s talk is definitely worth the time, so check it out:
As you can see from above, Singularity University kicked off it’s 2010 summer session with an impressive opening ceremony. The following ten weeks are going to be very exciting, and there is no better place to follow it than right here at the Hub.
Disclosure: Keith Kleiner is an Associate Founder of Singularity University