The 21st Century Is a Wild Time to Be Alive

Last week in San Francisco, Singularity University hosted its first-ever Global Summit. In three days, we heard over 100 science and technology experts give talks in more categories than one human mind can fully process.

Whether you attended the conference and need help making sense of the information or missed it and want a taste of the action, I’ve collected Singularity Hub articles on some of the major themes to give you takeaways from the event.

If you’re curious for a look inside the conference, you can watch:

Singularity University Global Summit is the culmination of the Exponential Conference Series and the definitive place to witness converging exponential technologies and understand how they’ll impact the world.


Theme: We’re living in amazing times. As technology permeates almost every aspect of life, industries and institutions need to adapt how they think and operate. That’s easier said than done—the bigger the organization, the harder it is to shift.

“We’re Living During the Most Extraordinary Time Ever in History”
“Founder and Executive Chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation Peter Diamandis kicked off Singularity University’s first ever Global Summit. Diamandis says we’re living during the most extraordinary time ever in history. It’s a time where the power and passion of the human mind is truly being unleashed by the unprecedented power of exponential technologies.” –Alison E. Berman

Moonshots in education: Leila Toplic and Esther Wojcicki

Why We Need Moonshot Thinking in High School Education
“With about 20% of teens dropping out of high school and 5.6 million Americans between the ages of 16-24 (that’s 1 in 7) disconnected from both school and work, it isn’t too wild to say that we have an engagement crisis in the US…[Education experts Esther Wojcicki and Leila Toplic] both point to moonshot thinking as a way of addressing these challenges.” –Alison E. Berman


Theme: Machine learning is at the peak of Gartner’s hype cycle. AI is entering an increasing number of industries beyond tech—law, medicine, finance, and manufacturing. We’re seeing heavy investment from big tech companies and also lots of experimentation in the startup ecosystem. The next round of AI has begun.

7 Key Factors Driving the Artificial Intelligence Revolution
“Under, behind and inside many of the apps we use every day, a revolution is underway. It’s a revolution that started decades ago but today is empowering companies to deliver better, smarter services with greater ease and on broader scales than ever before. It’s the artificial intelligence revolution, and it’s changing everything.”–David J. Hill

Steve Jurvetson and Peter Diamandis

Engineering Will Soon Be ‘More Parenting Than Programming’
“ ‘What’s a crazy idea you believe in that others don’t agree with?’ Peter Diamandis posed this question in an interview with Steve Jurvetson…Jurvetson’s answer was telling, ‘…I think the majority of engineering will not be done in a way where people understand the products of the creation. It’ll be more like an act of parenting than programming. It might take 10 to 15 years before that sentiment is widespread.’…Jurvetson is likely referring to the emerging field of generative design and its possible convergence with deep learning.” –Sveta McShane

  • Read about generative design here.
  • Learn more on AI here.


Theme: Advances in genomics, genetic engineering, and synthetic biology will change how we feed the planet, have children, and integrate technology into our lives. Biotechnology is becoming a very powerful tool—are we ready for it?

Geoffrey von Maltzahn

Surprisingly, Plant Microbes May Be an Answer to Our Growing Food Needs
“Geoffrey von Maltzahn, a biological engineer and entrepreneur, argued that we are at an important junction in our history: our biological engineering abilities are maturing so fast that we now have the opportunity to create a healthy, thriving planet and fulfill humanity’s growing needs as well…He believes ‘this will be the century where we actually get to make cathedrals in biology.’” –Sveta McShane

Are We at the Edge of a Second Sexual Revolution?
“According to serial entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky, all our existing beliefs about procreation are about to be shattered again…The second sexual revolution will decouple procreation from sex, because sex will no longer be the best way to make babies.” –Vanessa Bates Ramirez

Hannes Sjoblad

Biohacking Will Let You Connect Your Body to Anything You Want
Hannes Sjoblad informed the audience that we’re already living in the age of cyborgs…Sjoblad said that the cyborgs we see today don’t look like Hollywood prototypes; they’re regular people who have integrated technology into their bodies to improve or monitor some aspect of their health…Smart insulin monitoring systems, pacemakersbionic eyes, and Cochlear implants are all examples of biohacking, according to Sjoblad.” –Vanessa Bates Ramirez


Theme: Virtual reality and augmented reality are still in early stages in terms of design and mainstream adoption. But even now, the power of immersion is clear. VR and AR won’t be just new mediums of expression; they’ll closely reflect real life.

Image credit: Within

VR Pioneer Chris Milk: Virtual Reality Will Mirror Life Like Nothing Else Before (Interview)
Chris Milk, founder and CEO of virtual reality company Within (formerly Vrse), has a vision for the future of stories, ‘I don’t think the future of VR looks like video games; I don’t think it looks like cinematic VR; I think it looks like stories from our real lives.’…‘Imagine being able to live stories that are as rich and formulated and fantastic as the movies you see. That’s what we’re talking about. We don’t have quite the technology to do it, but you can see how it’s possible.’” –Jason Ganz

  • Read more on virtual reality here.


Theme: Biotech combined with progress in our understanding of biology may help diagnose and fight disease earlier and keep our bodies healthier longer.

Peter Diamandis

Peter Diamandis: We’ll Radically Extend Our Lives With New Technologies
“Peter Diamandis, cofounder and executive chairman of Singularity University and founder and executive chairman of XPRIZE, believes radically extended life is by no means impossible…Now, modern biology has deepened our understanding of the aging process, and biotechnology is beginning to apply these learnings to spot disease earlier and even regenerate the body. Diamandis highlighted two key areas that are making progress today.” –Jason Dorrier

  • Read more on human longevity here.


Theme: Self-driving cars are clocking millions of miles on the road, and many major car companies have a stake in the technology. Cars will soon be reimagined to focus on mobility and efficiency, and companies offering carpooling services will continue to grow, as will the power and influence of the sharing economy.

Brad Templeton

How Self-Driving Cars Will Change It All—From Energy to Real Estate
Brad Templeton informed attendees, ‘Self-driving cars are going to change the world.’…His presentation gave details on the industries and areas of our lives that will be disrupted by the advent of self-driving cars…Templeton concluded with his vision of the car of the future: it will be small, electric, have hundreds of parts rather than thousands, few controls, no dashboard, and limited vehicle-to-vehicle communication.” –Vanessa Bates Ramirez

  • Read more on the future of transportation here.


Theme: From the birth of off-Earth manufacturing to probes traveling the solar system and telescopes finding exoplanets—technology is driving space exploration forward. Looking ahead, we wonder when we’ll establish a more permanent presence in space and if other life like us has already done the same thing.

Jill Tarter
Jill Tarter

Finding Intelligent Alien Life Would Offer Hope For Our Own Future
“Are we alone in the universe? We don’t know. But as Carl Sagan said, if we are, it seems like an awful waste of space…The SETI Institute is one way we might find out. By sifting through the electromagnetic chatter of the cosmos, we may find something a little too structured, something only another technological civilization could have produced. This is the world-shaking signal SETI’s after.” –Jason Dorrier

Are There Other Intelligent Civilizations Out There? Two Views on the Fermi Paradox
“Scientists have now discovered a few thousand planets orbiting other stars and, based on these observations, believe there may be as many as 8.8 billion potentially habitable Earth-sized planets in the Milky Way alone. Include stars smaller than the sun and that number increases to 40 billion potentially habitable Earth-like planets…when I stare up at the sky, I still wonder if we’re alone in the galaxy. Could there be another technologically advanced civilization out there?” –Alison E. Berman

  • Read more on space discovery here.
Alison E. Berman
Alison E. Berman
Alison tells the stories of purpose-driven leaders and is fascinated by various intersections of technology and society. When not keeping a finger on the pulse of all things Singularity University, you'll likely find Alison in the woods sipping coffee and reading philosophy (new book recommendations are welcome).
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