A Google-backed university out of Mountain View, California aims to encourage innovation by educating its students about exponential technologies.
A recent piece at TechCrunch introduced us to Singularity University, located on NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Founded by futurist Ray Kurzweil and X Prize founder Peter Diamandis in 2009, the university is based on the notion that technology may push humanity toward the next great evolutionary leap (earning its name from the title of a book by Kurzweil). Its aspiration is to help solve the grand challenges of humanity – issues like poverty & hunger, disease and a diminishing energy supply – by educating its students about advances in ‘exponential technologies‘.
Exponential technologies are those that grow at light speeds – in fields like robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), computational neuroscience, and nanotechnology. Students of the university’s 10-week graduate studies program – or shorter executive programs – include select business executives, technologists and government leaders. Classes are taught by leading experts in each field, including Dan Barry, three-time NASA astronaut; Vint Cerf, Internet pioneer and Google executive; and Daniel M. Kammen, UC Berkeley energy resources professor and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Students learn about the implications of disruptive innovations and brainstorm on the sequences in which the next technology revolutions will happen.
In its two years of existence, the school has already inspired some successes, including the launching of 19 new companies, including Acasa, which constructs houses through 3D printing; www.getaround.com, which provides peer-to-peer car sharing; and Escape Dynamics, which is looking to use beamed power to launch spacecraft.
With increasing conversation in our industry these days on how design thinking can help encourage innovation for social good, we found Singularity to offer an interesting concept and additional perspective to the innovation dialogue. Singularity seems to ultimately aim to help these new, little-known technological advances reach a scale where they can be applied to massive human challenges – by exposing them to the business and government leaders that may be in the right position to employ them, if they only know about them. We’re curious and will keep an eye out for what Singularity and the technologies it focuses on bring to the world.