"A university for the coming singularity" -Ray Kurzweil
Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of joining Singularity University for a week, visiting a good friend of mine who’s attending. (Thanks Asaf!)
Singularity University brings together amazing people from all around the world: Scientists, entrepreneurs and free thinkers to try and mash them into a problem solving collective that can talk all the world’s biggest problems.
Similar to several other programs with a pre-filtered group of people, it feels like an inspiring sub-group will emerge that finds the right mindset to change the world and start executing on it.
One of the cooler things about Singularity University is that it’s hosted by and on the NASA campus in Mountain View California. Walking by hanger day in and out rubs off and adds to the feeling of scale that the program tries to instill in its attendees.
The talks and and leaders revolve around exponential technologies, ones that can and are likely to affect millions and billions of people within the next 10 to 20 years.
All the usual suspects are there: Nanotechnology, biotech, robotics, quadcopters, virtual and augmented reality and 3D printers. Going beyond just talking though, a fully equipped lab with many of the aforementioned technologies is next to the main conference room, always available for tinkering.
By having everything as accessible as possible, everyone quickly passed the ‘If I had an Oculus Rift’ stage to ‘How can we leverage this?’ stage.
Talks were similar to what you could catch on TED Talks or singularityhub.com but in person; What I found to be excellent though is how the combination of people from different countries and backgrounds contribute to the talk.
A different experience emerges when you have physicist, chemists, engineers, computer scientists, social activists, biologists and a dozen other backgrounds of people who are smart and talented.
The variety lends itself to a broader conversation with a wider scope, surfacing multi dimensional rounded questions and answers.
Needless to say, lunch time was the best part of the day
Being in California and around the Palo Alto area gave me the opportunity to meet up with some cool friends I got to know from back home.
First stop was meeting up with Dan Barak at Facebook’s HQ. It’s always fun sensing the vibe of companies who affect a billion+ people every day.
The atmosphere was young, vibrant and urban, with skateboarders running around. It feels to me that Facebook benefits by having these interactions and ‘flatness’, especially in retaining that ‘startup-y’ feel of the company. (at least to the outsider)
One thing that did catch my eye was the cool vending machines that don’t have any food or drinks in them but various components and cables and hardware that you would need for your phone or PC.
It’s one of those things that you think you don’t need and probably don’t but is cute to have around.
One of the main highlights of this visit was meeting up with Michael Vassar. Michael and I met a few years back in Kinnernet and stayed in touch since.
Conversations with Michael tend to go in-depth very quickly. If Michaels conversations were equatable to intercourse, he’d be the porn star.
Michael introduced me to some more of his evermore intriguing and insightful friends – we had an awesome 4th of July barbecue and spend 30 minutes discussing the hilarious design of our euthopic country we would shape and live in.
Next time its SXSW in Vegas, coming soon.