February 4, 2009

New University To Use Technology To Address World’s Problems

Google Inc. has donated at least $250,000 to a new school that will help graduate students understand ways to use emerging technologies to address a variety of the world's issues.

Google, alongside NASA and renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil, unveiled plans for the university at the annual Technology Entertainment and Design Conference in Long Beach, Calif.

Singularity University will focus on coordinating technologies to help solve problems like global warming and energy. Thirty graduate students are scheduled to begin attending classes at a temporary location on the Moffett Field campus of NASA in June.

"The law of accelerating returns means technology eventually will be a million more times powerful than it is today and cause profound transformation," said Kurzweil.

"We are now in the steep part of the exponential trajectory of information technologies in a broad variety of fields, including health, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence."

"It is only these accelerating technologies that have the scale to address the major challenges of humanity, ranging from energy and the environment, to disease and poverty. With its strong focus on interdisciplinary learning, Singularity University is poised to foster the leaders who will create a uniquely creative and productive future world."

Kurzweil is credited with devising the concept of the school in his 2005 book "The Singularity Is Near."

"One of our greatest challenges is to get people to anticipate the consequences of our inventions and how they can upset the apple cart," Paul Saffo, who will be part of Singular University's faculty, told the AP.

Peter Diamandis, CEO of the X Prize Foundation, which grants $10 million awards for scientific breakthroughs, will be vice chancellor and trustee of the university.

"We are reaching out across the globe to gather the smartest and most passionate future leaders and arm them with the tools and network they need to wrestle with the grand challenges of our day," Diamandis said in a written statement.

He added that SU will also offer three-day and 10-day programs for CEOs and executives.

Former Yahoo Inc. executive Salim Ismail will be named executive director.

Students will be required to spend three weeks immersing themselves in 10 fields of study, including computing, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, energy, law and finance.

Only 30 students will be admitted during this summer's first session with plans to expand to 120 students by next year.

Tuition at SU will cost $25,000 per nine-week session.


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