[sl4] Google, NASA and Kurzweil to found "Singularity University"

From: Aleksei Riikonen (aleksei@iki.fi)
Date: Tue Feb 03 2009 - 00:55:21 MST

Does anyone have more information to provide on this:


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Google and Nasa back new school for futurists

Google and Nasa are throwing their weight behind a new school for
futurists in Silicon Valley to prepare scientists for an era when
machines become cleverer than people.

The new institution, known as "Singularity University", is to be
headed by Ray Kurzweil, whose predictions about the exponential pace
of technological change have made him a controversial figure in
technology circles.

Google and Nasa's backing demonstrates the growing mainstream
acceptance of Mr Kurzweil's views, which include a claim that before
the middle of this century artificial intelligence will outstrip human
beings, ushering in a new era of civilisation.

To be housed at Nasa's Ames Research Center, a stone's-throw from the
Googleplex, the Singularity University will offer courses on
biotechnology, nano-technology and artificial intelligence.

The so-called "singularity" is a theorised period of rapid
technological progress in the near future. Mr Kurzweil, an American
inventor, popularised the term in his 2005 book "The Singularity is

Proponents say that during the singularity, machines will be able to
improve themselves using artificial intelligence and that
smarter-than-human computers will solve problems including energy
scarcity, climate change and hunger.

Yet many critics call the singularity dangerous. Some worry that a
malicious artificial intelligence might annihilate the human race.

Mr Kurzweil said the university was launching now because many
technologies were approaching a moment of radical advancement. "We're
getting to the steep part of the curve," said Mr Kurzweil. "It's not
just electronics and computers. It's any technology where we can
measure the information content, like genetics."

The school is backed by Larry Page, Google co-founder, and Peter
Diamandis, chief executive of X-Prize, an organisation which provides
grants to support technological change.

"We are anchoring the university in what is in the lab today, with an
understanding of what's in the realm of possibility in the future,"
said Mr Diamandis, who will be vice-chancellor. "The day before
something is truly a breakthrough, it's a crazy idea."

Despite its title, the school will not be an accredited university.
Instead, it will be modelled on the International Space University in
Strasbourg, France, the interdisciplinary, multi-cultural school that
Mr Diamandis helped establish in 1987.

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Aleksei Riikonen - http://www.iki.fi/aleksei

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