X-Prize CEO Peter Diamandis Announces the Formation of a SINGULARITY UNIVERSITY

October 26 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 9 Hot

So it is true! Peter Diamandis, Chair and CEO of the increasingly mighty X-Prize Foundation, and some high-level folks are working on something big called a “Singularity University.” Who else could be involved? It seems like Ray Kurzweil would be a prime candidate, especially considering their back-to-back presentations at today’s Summit.

Might this be a first step toward a Singularity X-Prize? :) What do you think a “Singularity University” might consist of?

Comment Thread (3 Responses)

  1. You ask two separate and somewhat oppositional questions.

    Singularity X-Prize: Since I don’t consider “the singularity” to be an event as such, let alone a single objective, I would have to say that any such prize system would have to involve numerous classes of advancement funded as stages within each class.

    To use Aubrey de Grey’s SENS as illustration, each of the seven primary catagories he delineates would have particular stages of development identified and it would be these stages that were assigned awards. A hypothetical “SENS Prize” of US$50 million could be divided into 8 primary sub-classes. The seven basic SENS catagories would each have six prize stages funded at US$1 million apiece. There would also be up to eight unifying prizes of US$1 million for developing technology that matches one catagory’s stage winner with some separate catagory’s stage winner. All of which is predicated on the prize management costs being funded separately, of course.

    Singularity University: First, what it shouldn’t be. There are already an abundance of technology/science acadamies in existence; one more would simply be complicating an already over-engineered wheel. That said, Singularity University (SU) absolutely should arrange (ie: buy) access to those school’s technical curriculum via tele-presence if nothing else.

    SU should primarily be modeled after the historical liberal arts education of the 19th century (particularly the English university model of Oxford, Cambridge and the like). The objective being to teach students how to think for themselves by providing them with the lessons learned by previous generations. I think it reasonable to expect that SU graduates would go on to gain advanced degree’s in at least one primary area of specialization and quite possibly two or more additional fields of interest or utility (exploration will still be a viable human occupation I think, whatever capability future robots might achieve).

    There would need to be a technological infusion throughout the instruction process since the student is assumed to be preparing to excel in an environment that largely cannot be predicted. That said, the curriculum would primarily concentrate on preparing students to transition from a human-centric labor economy to a cybernetic/robotic labor economy.

    Alan Turing was a very smart fellow, but his famous test for sentience doesn’t really address spontaneous imagination very well. Is the AI really making something entirely new up or simply drawing on it’s store of human history to present known data in some obscure but unoriginal format? Since most cerebrally unenhanced humans would be unlikely to recognise the difference (if a story is new to you, what matter if Aristotle told it first?), SU should be structured to develop that inate human capability for spontanious originality and imagination.

    SU should also be structured from the outset as a model for near-term transition to the traditional high school student market. This can be most readily accomplished, I think, by making SU’s curriculum as available to home school students and private/parochial acadamies as financially possible to arrange. Along this line of thought, SU should create a “traveling road show” of cadre that stage 6 to 9 week “Skills Camp” instruction anywhere they can be arranged. These would consist of group interaction and physical training that incorporates the historical and physiological courses of instruction the students are studying (basicly, military boot camp for intellectuals without the overt nationalistic indoctrination).

    There should be at least one physical campus (I would expect an exponential growth of regional campus’s to develop), but for the most part local satellite campus’s should consist of a small office, a clerk or three and a tractor-trailer load of servers with a (several?) T-1 connection (or it’s future technological equivalent).

    Given the US-centric nature of such an endeavor at this earliest stage of growth, the campus ought to be centrally located in a temperate zone of the country, so I nominate Texas and hereby apply for the position of Maintenance and Custodial Supervisor. Somebody put in a good word for me with Peter, will ya’? :)

    Posted by: Will   October 26, 2008
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  2. Might this have something to do with it?

    Posted by: FutureFly   October 27, 2008
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  3. Will, Your assertion that there are plenty of science schools doesn’t ring true to me. There are maybe a dozen elite technical schools (MIT, Caltech, Berkeley, Stanford, Carnagie-Mellon, Cornell, etc) most of which are nearly impossible to get into and/or prohibitively expensive. These are typically the only schools that have “cutting edge” technology classes (in other words, they’re the only schools that have classes pertinent to where technology will be in 4 or 5 years when a student graduates). Why do you think that a Singularity University should have a physical infrastructure (as well as the “traveling cadre”). Why not have a completely online school that (as you suggested, leverages existing online classes from MIT, Stanford, etc.) concentrates on creating programs that are unavailable from most schools (nanotechnology, Gershenfield-esque FAB, robotics, AGI and computer science). Beyond this, they have the opportunity to adopt learning sytems that have proven themselves more effective than the direct (lecture) instruction that we’ve grown used to and replace it with something like Keller’s Personalized System of Instruction (freeing students from much of the unnecessary regimentation of “normal” schools). While I agree with this: “curriculum would primarily concentrate on preparing students to transition from a human-centric labor economy to a cybernetic/robotic labor economy” I absolutely don’t see how “modeled after the historical liberal arts education of the 19th century…” meshes with preparing students for a transitional economy.

    Posted by: commandersprocket   November 10, 2008
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