Summer school at Singularity University?

2 minute read

Ray Kurzweil, Larry Page, and Peter Diamantis are teaming up with NASA to bring us the next step in graduate and postgraduate education:

Singularity University, which will be housed on the NASA Ames base near Mountain View and begin classes in June, is the brainchild of Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis. The two world-renowned scientists were expected to unveil their plans at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference beginning in Long Beach today.
The school hopes to attract students from a cross section of emerging disciplines - including nanotechnology, biotechnology and information technology - to tackle huge issues facing humanity. Pandemics and global health care concerns would be typical in scope and import.

This seems to be a growing trend – the idea that if you get infotech, biotech, and nanotech people together, great things will happen. Every day on my way to work, I pass by a massive construction site that is going to be the University of Wisconsin’s version of this idea. Called the “Wisconsin Institute for Discovery”, it has a lot of private and state money, with the idea that they are going to house info, bio, and nano in one big, well-endowed building.

Here’s a good catchphrase, which I think I’ll use myself:

"Disruptive innovation usually comes about when you mash together different disciplines," said Ismail, who will be the hands-on manager of Singularity U.

“Disruptive innovation” is a good name for our mashup of anthropology and evolutionary genetics. Heck, “mashup” is a better term than “interdisciplinary”.

One of the advantages of putting a bunch of people together and calling it a “university” is that it puts your institution on a very favorable grounding for patents. I could imagine great things coming from such collaborations, if they get the right combination of people. It could be a present-day answer to the Bell Labs of the 1940’s.

Or, with a bunch of “world-famous” egos, it could turn into a major fiasco. What’s interesting about the Singularity University is its interesting economic model:

Unlike a traditional university, Singularity will consist of a single, nine-week course of study every summer, during which 120 students from a cross-section of disciplines will mix together to tackle weighty issues. Tuition will be $25,000. Candidates will be chosen mostly from graduate and post-graduate programs around the world.

Will it be worth it? Depends who they attract, I guess. Sounds like students are paying for face time, not necessarily information.