by Brian Hoffstein: This past week at Singularity University has been stimulating, to the say the least. Everyone here is on the same wavelength: we’re thinking exponentially, dreaming up ways we can improve the world, and we’ve all been experiencing SU’s cross-disciplinary, future-oriented education, which I can definitively tell you, is totally unparalleled in the world today.
The faculty, teaching fellows, and guest lecturers we have here comprise an unprecedented degree of brain power, and the learning process has been tenacious. A morning lecture on synthetic biofuels and solar energy pivots right into how we can manufacture on the atomic level through nanotechnology. We learn about the implications ofreading and writing genomes, and how robotics and AI are converging faster and more powerfully than anyone outside the Singularity bubble could imagine. We’re three weeks down this rabbit hole of tomorrow and I am in awe of what we can expect in the coming decades. I’m serious, dear reader, things are about to get crazy.
In the near future we’ll have 3D printers operating all around the world, capable of printing everything from your clothes, your organs, and even your food. Around the same time computing will become ubiquitous and the Internet of things will take on a life of its own. We’ll be sequencing genomes like we take our temperature and we’ll start synthetically creating life forms with increasing complexity and applicability. By 2030 we will have some form of anEnernet where energy is widely available and globally distributed like the Internet is today. At this point we will probably have already figured out the cure for aging; whether it be through biological or mechanical means – both look promising.
Based on everything I’ve learned thus far, in addition to the conviction of all the experts in these fields, I feel this surreal vision of the future is a reality we are encroaching towards with accelerating speeds. The exact time frame is debatable, but the technology behind these ideas is definitely promising. However, not everyone here at Singularity U may necessarily agree with me on this, and in my opinion that’s a really good thing. The diversity in perspective has sparked some incredible conversations.
We’re talking about the future here, so nothing is certain; But what is certain is that we can’t be blindsided by all these breakthroughs. SU is very clear about its mission: “to assemble, educate and inspire a new generation of leaders who strive to understand and utilize exponentially advancing technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.” This guiding ethos is crucial as we depart from today’s norms and enter this radically new world.
Amidst the lectures, presentations, site visits and parties, we’ve been discussing these questions that have no right or wrong answer, but must be addressed in an a priori fashion. What should government 2.0 look like? If indeed you could live much longer than 100 years, would you? What happens to the financial system in a totally-automated, jobless economy? What are the laws for robots when they’re a mainstay in society? Moreover, amidst all of these paradigm shifts, what does it even mean to be human in this day and age?
Mankind is headed into uncharted waters, and it’s vital for planetary prosperity that we’re all aligned with our ultimate destination. The vestiges of what’s to come are seen through(non)organizations like Anonymous, licensed driverless cars, and cyborgs in the Olympics; but we are just at the tip of the iceberg. These are exponential times, and according to a leading researcher at MIT who visited us this week, we have just reached the second half of the chessboard.
As things move forward at Singularity U, all of these ideas about the future are taken into account as the students look to create their team projects. We’re about to go from talking to doing here at the NASA Research Park, and everyone is stoked to utilize what we’ve learned to create real impact in the world. In past years we’ve seen ingenious companies like Matternetand Made In Space incubated from these coming weeks, but it seems like this year’s class is ready to take on even bigger, bolder challenges. I’m not quite sure what to expect, but I’m looking forward to seeing it all unfold.
Check out the conversation on Twitter hashtag (#) SingularityU !