Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/02/03/singularity_uni/
Kurzweil to found 'Singularity Uni' in Silicon Valley
In the sense of technogasm, not matter-implosion
Renowned futurologist Ray Kurzweil has teamed up with space promoter Peter Diamandis and Google to set up annual techno/zeitgeist workshops at the famous NASA Ames research centre in Silicon Valley. The discussions will be known as "Singularity University", and will offer courses of varying length to paying customers.
The title of Singularity University refers to Kurzweil's book The Singularity Is Near, in which he suggests that exponential advances in technology will shortly transform human life beyond all recognition, citing Moore's Law as an example of such processes.
This is Kurzweil's own take on the widespread science-fiction use of the term "singularity" to refer to the day when artificial "intelligence" and/or processing power surpasses that of the human race's collective brains. Sci-fi writer Vernor Vinge probably did most to hijack the word "singularity" from its use in physics to describe the breakdown of normal principles near a black hole.
Singularity University is intended to attract "the smartest and most passionate ... from around the world ... leaders and entrepreneurs ... the next generation of CEO’s [sic*], University Deans/Presidents and Government leaders ... internationalists; people who are bilingual or multilingual with a strong command of English ... who have traveled widely ... people interested in understanding and addressing the world’s grand challenges".
There will be the traditional strong friendship between IT/net/AI enthusiasm and space-o-philia. In keeping with the NASA setting, SU will have strong involvement from the International Space University. ISU, founded in 1987 by Diamandis and others, is seen as having been key to the vast strides humanity has made in space technology and exploration in the last two decades**.
According to Diamandis:
We are reaching out across the globe to gather the smartest and most passionate future leaders and arm them with the tools and network they need to wrestle with the Grand Challenges of our day.
Apart from developing the exciting new gladiatorial sport of tool-armed tag team network challenge-wrestling, the smart passionate internationalist future biz kingpins, academic managers and politicians will learn to some degree from each other. They will also study at the feet of "a world-class faculty", a "significant number" of whom "will be selected from the Bay Area out of industry and academia". It is generally understood that there will be chances to soak up wisdom from Kurzweil, Diamandis and other luminaries of the futurology/technologist community.
Several kinds of course will be on offer at Singularity Uni. There will be a nine-week Graduate Studies Program for the world's top postgrad students to "learn about the various exponentially growing cross-disciplinary technologies (bio, nano, info, AI, etc.)"
There will also be a ten-day executive package for ordinary biz types, managers etc; and a three-day one for "C-level" executives (CTO, CIO, CEO etc). Costs of the courses haven't been determined yet, but "a significant amount of scholarship support is expected to the top deserving students".
It seems that Singularity U won't do research in the boring traditional sense: but nonetheless its founders expect it to significantly better the lot even of those unfortunate enough not to attend. Here's how:
The [9-week postgrads' course] will organize detailed student Team Projects which will allow the student body and faculty to look at how to use exponentially growing technologies to solve some of the world’s grand challenges. One could imagine, for example, that issues such as global poverty, hunger, climate crisis could be studied from an interdisciplinary standpoint where the power of artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, genomics, etc are brought to bare [sic*] in a cooperate [sic*] fashion to seek solutions.
There's more - so much more - from SU here. ®
*It doesn't seem as though SU intend to be super picky about their "strong command of English" requirement.
**If you're some party-pooping curmudgeon who doesn't think there have really been any such strides since 1987, that's OK. We aren't arguing with you.