Elite university aims to solve world's problems


Robots that take your place at meetings? Plants that can light up a room? Leather grown in a laboratory? These are all ideas created by students at Singularity University, a school with one goal…to improve the lives of a billion people.

The school is the brain child of Google executive and best-selling author Ray Kurzweil, and X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis.

"We've actually created an institution we're extraordinarily proud about where a level of conversation is taking place unlike any other place in the world," said Diamandis.

Kurzweil added, "When our brains evolved thousands of years ago things were linear - we didn't have technology, so people's intuition about what is possible is really governed by a linear expectation and there is a profound difference 40 steps linearly is 40, 40 steps exponentially is a trillion. "

Singularity University was created in 2009 based on Kurzweil's theory of "technological singularity." He believes that emerging technologies like nanotechnology and biotechnology will massively increase human intelligence over the next two decades and fundamentally reshape the future of humanity.

The school is at the NASA Ames base near Mountain View.

"Today we have about 1,300 hundred alumni in 85 countries, the best and brightest today can be found anywhere on the planet, so we actually cast a wide net," said Rob Nail, CEO and Associate founder of Singularity University.

Singularity University hosts an executive training program like this one to help corporate leaders understand how quick changes in technology will impact tomorrow's businesses. It cost $12,000 a person - it always sells out.

The university uses that money to hosts a 10 week graduate studies program in the summer. Three-thousand people applied this year. Eighty were accepted.

"That program is targeting the next generation of leaders in the world. These are post graduate students, the average age is around 31 - the range has been 18-58, so it's incredibly diverse," said Nail.

Francesco Mosconi went to SU. He said, "You wake up 8, you study or take classes and activities from 9-7, and a little gap for dinner, and then you are back in activities until very, very late at night."

"It really shaped the way I view the world , it really created my world view and going to class there was a multiple paradigm shift," said another Monica Ebert, another Singularity University alumni.

The students who attend the graduate program work together to form real companies. Twenty companies are currently up and running and another 10 are about to launch.

East Bay native Ann Rogan also went to SU after working around the globe. She said, "you are learning first about technology that is moving, very, very fast and that's very cutting edge, and then you are learning to take that and apply it to solving health care in developing countries, or how to think about energy and environmental issues around the world, whether it is the us or elsewhere."

The next class of Singularity University students will arrive next month.

Written and Produced by Ken Miguel

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