Sometimes you aim for the moon and get surprisingly close. This summer I’m at Nasa Ames research centre in California, attending Singularity University, a new institution that aims to educate “a cadre of leaders” about the rapid pace of technology and to address humanity’s grand challenges, such as climate and health (www.singularityu.org).
The university is the brainchild of Peter Diamandis, who founded the X-Prize challenge to encourage private spaceflight, and Ray Kurzweil, a futurist in exponential technologies. It is supported by Google, Nasa and ePlanet Ventures.
I’m part of the inaugural “student” class of 40 entrepreneurs and scientists from around the world, selected from more than 1,200 applications.
The nine-week course promises lectures and discussions with some of the world’s best technologists (such as internet pioneers Vint Cerf and Bob Metcalfe), Nobel laureates and NGO leaders to share ideas, undertake practical experiments and build businesses. The goal is ambitious – to work out how technology could help a billion people within 10 years.
Arriving at the campus, housed on Federal land, I pass through the nearby town of Mountain View, which is adorned with university flags emblazoned with messages such as “How would you feed a billion people?”