Singularity University helps execs take advantage of emerging technology.
Artificial intelligence. Nanotechnology. Digital biology. Robotics. The world will change rapidly in the next two decades, in ways most of us can only begin to fathom.
But while some of it may sound bleak, with headlines such as, “Robots Will Steal Your Job,” faster, cheaper technology also can be leveraged to create a brighter more abundant world for all, according to the founders and faculty of Silicon Valley think tank Singularity University. In other words, robots might take your old job, but new ones will be created.
Singularity, or SU, helps business leaders get ahead of the curve, learning about the innovations that will soon reshape the global economy, as well as what they need to do to leverage it for the greater good … and a healthy market share.
Instead of simply reacting to change as it heads your way, “we are skating to where the puck is going,” says Monique Giggy, a director with SU Ventures, an incubator for ideas that spring from its programs.
SU Ventures is helping 51 startups—both for-profit and nonprofit—grow and tackle some of the planet’s most pressing issues, such as climate change, clean water, and energy and food production. It also helps improve the quality of fields such as health care and education.
These aren’t niche solutions. The goal for each of the startups in which SU Ventures invests is to change the lives of at least a billion people. While the mission started with technologies focused on space exploration, it has since expanded to include products or services that touch just about every area of our lives, such as the following:
- Field Ready is a nonprofit that distributes special 3-D printers for disaster relief, allowing aid teams in remote areas to print needed supplies from buckets to eating utensils to much-needed medical supplies or vehicle parts.
- Brain Care can measure the pressure inside the skull with a simple headband monitor, eliminating the need for invasive surgery for those concussed from football, falls or car accidents.
- Calorie Cloud runs workplace fitness challenges that tackle the problems of obesity and malnutrition at the same time by converting the calories that employee teams track on wearables and burn into meals for severely malnourished children. A separate program, UNICEF Kid Power, uses tracking bands distributed in schools to help kids get active and help feed other starving kids around the world.
The technological singularity
SU was started in 2009 by entrepreneur and engineer Peter Diamandis and inventor Ray Kurzweil, whose 2006 book “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology” (Penguin Books), which describes a time in the next few decades when increases in artificial superintelligence will be more powerful than all human intelligence combined.
The pair launched a summer residency program in Silicon Valley—a kind of innovation boot camp called the Global Solutions Program—to help a diverse group of leaders from engineers to physicians to attorneys to designers learn about the newest technologies and apply them in teams to help tackle some of humanity’s greatest challenges. A total of 80 participants each year are selected to attend from more than 3,000 applicants and are funded by corporate sponsorships such as Google, Deloitte and LinkedIn.
Separately, SU also runs weeklong executive programs to help large companies innovate, as well as conferences and seminars to help entrepreneurs adapt and grow. Its global community of alums and partners is well over 100,000, and SU officials say they are hoping to widen that group of tech-savvy problem-solvers considerably in coming years with more online programs and larger-scale training.
The future is “abundant”
While the proliferation of technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics may pose a threat to some jobs that can be automated, it’s also extending the number of productive years we have and presenting new opportunities for those ready to embrace change and acquire new skills. In fact, two teams in its current GSP program are hard at work on cheaper, more effective solutions for “reskilling.”
“As a species, we are going to be living a lot longer,” Giggy says. “There are opportunities to pursue an entirely different career, acquiring new skills in a way that’s never been done before, using technology.”
Photo credit: Singularity University