February 04, 2009

Call the Singulary University a Super-sized Futurist Startup Bootcamp

Jamais Cascio does not like the Singularity University and suggests a Futurist liberal arts program.

No corporate executive will pay $25,000 for future social studies/liberal arts crash course with a future twist.

The target is Singularity executive MBA and advanced tech business brainstorming. People who have money or super techie geeks who have money or have someone who will pay for them.

Call it super-sized Singularity startup bootcamps if it makes you less offended about the word University.

None of what Jamais proposes to teach would get the participants or attract the participants who can ride the leading edge of the wave.

Why would someone who could make a difference spend 10 weeks and pay money getting the cliff notes to be a futurist debater, philosopher and ethicist ? Just because they are too busy to read a liberal futurist or future environmentalist blog or forum ?

This is why you need a finance, entrepreneurship and futurist business plan track. You would end up with something that does not have a viable business model and end up with a non-profit charity.

The Actual Program Tracks

1. Future Studies & Forecasting
2. Networks & Computing Systems
3. Biotechnology & Bioinformatics
4. Nanotechnology
5. Medicine, Neuroscience & Human Enhancement
6. AI, Robotics, & Cognitive Computing
7. Energy & Ecological Systems
8. Space & Physical Sciences
9. Policy, Law & Ethics
10. Finance & Entrepreneurship

Open the Future Program

[Intro:] Future Studies & Forecasting:
* With Ray K as the chancellor, you're not going to get away without a Singularity 101 session -- but this doesn't need to be a full track.
1. Remaking Our Bodies:
Understanding biotech, radical longevity, and enhancement.
2. Remaking Our World:
Understanding energy, ecological systems, and nanotechnologies.
3. Remaking Our Minds:
Understanding neurotech, cognitive systems, and AI.
4. Power and Conflict:
Emphasizing the role that political choices have in shaping technology.
5. Scarcity, Trade, and Economics:
How does scarcity manifest in an accelerating tech world? How do you deal with mass unemployment, technology diffusion, leapfrogging?
6. Demography, Aging, and Human Mobility:
Shifts in population and cultural identity; understanding impact of extending life.
7. Human Identity and Communication:
Understanding the changing nature of identity in a densely-linked world, looking at how different forms of identity clash.
8. Governance and Law:
How does governance emerge? How are laws about technology shaped?
9. Ethics, Morality, and Unintended Consequences:
How ethics emerges in a swiftly-changing environment; morality and technology; precautionary/proactionary principles.
10. Openness, Resilience, and Models for Dealing with Rapid Transformation:
Open source, open access, open governance; understanding resilience.

Modelled After International Space University

They indicated that were modelling after the International Space University.

Since 1987, ISU has graduated over 2400 students from 93 countries from the Space Studies Program and the Masters Programs.

21 years and 2400 students. How much change leverage will Jamais get if he could convince some of the potential students and graduates to think as he does ? What is the percentage of the students who would really listen ? What percentage would actually act in a meaningful way ? How much of a difference would it make in 2030 with that percentage of people thinking differently ? Would people pre-disposed to the messages about politics and social issues for a Singularity not seek out this message or hear it online and via books and other media ? Why would a Singularity University be the best place to hear it ? How many people got some politics and social message at actual universities. (like Berkeley). How effectively has that social messaging been retained and acted upon.

The 9 Week International Space University Program

Space University Program Calendar for one week

There is a list and details on the team projects that have been done over the years.

- ALERTS: Analysis of lunar exploratory robotic tasks for safety Masters 2007/2008 - Student report
- Great expectations: an assessment of the potential for suborbital transportation, Masters 2007/2008 - Student report
- Full Moon: Storage and delivery of oxygen and hydrogen for lunar exploration Masters 2006/2007 - Student report
- and many more

So ISU does some good work and graduates get internships and are able to enter the field of space technology.

The most transformative aspect tangentially related to for space is that Diamandis set up the Xprize to give a big boost to suborbital tourism.

The Singularity University is geared to similar levels of achievement. More people will be able to get meaningfully involved in the technologies in the different program tracks.

Diamandis has some successful momentum and will be launching more Singularity related Xprizes.

The SU should have success similar to other startup bootcamp programs.

Singularity Musings
I very much doubt the hard take off scenarios. There will be disruptions and changes but I doubt a smooth and straight shot to Post-Singularity. 99.99+% of the people will not be ready for the disruptions or the hard takeoff. They will not believe it now. It has to happen first, then most people will respond.

The forecasting and planning that I do now is to look at exactly what is around the next corner and giving the earliest most detailed heads up about it and to figure out how things will impact and to get in a position to advise on the best way to handle it.

I think the new tech has to be accelerated so we have the tools to better handle our current problems. If anything the tech development is happening too slow. Yes, we will have new downside to deal with or prevent, but I do not see people getting it together on a mass scale to do anything about the downside of the next tech when they are still dealing with the downside of tech that is a century old.

I think we will still have much of the same social problems as technology advances.

Certain problems are ameniable to technological fixes. Disease, starvation, energy etc...

The politics, ethics and social matters do have their place but as part of a TED conference or a conference specifically on the risks and issues. Trying to force feed it in this kind of program will not work. If you want another program then go ahead and start one.

When has there been effective action to totally pre-empt a developing future social or environmental problem ? Action now against climate change and environment happens as the problem is already happening. Definitely try to do something about it but I think we have to expect that certain actions will not be taken on sufficient scale and thus try to make a general move for multi-purpose robustness and preparedness. Ride along with what people are willing to take action against or for and try to beef it up for robustness against other problems.
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