Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Singularity Summer

Dear all,
This blog perhaps is my most exciting blog ever.
I share my experiences at Singularity University at NASA Research Park, USA.

Singularity summer

Students and diversity
Peter & Ray & Firesides
Lectures and insight by various faculties
Site visits & Workshops
Team Projects
Concluding Remarks

Students and diversity
It was humbling to be among a highly diverse class with students from 35 countries. Women represent 40% of the class and that was positively a striking contrast to what I typically see back in India. It was good to know that I was selected among the 3000 odd applications and was one of the 20 global competition winners.

Average age being 35, most of the students are entrepreneurs; many of them have already started a company as early as 19 years of their age. Sharing experiences and knowledge being a learning experience every day, making you realize that ones achievement is not enough in comparison to the rich background of the class, and that much has to be done in life.
All share a common goal - of creating an impression on the global scene, and helping millions of people at the same time.

Peter & Ray & Firesides
Most amazing part of the Singularity Summer has been a close interaction with visionaries like Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil. It’s an immense pleasure to see the aura of passion for technology-change for good in them, that it is nothing less than infectious.

Whether its listening to Ray talking about increasing life expectancy, not worrying about robots replacing human jobs, his predictions to the precise time and date in future and how his positive influence of his father on his childhood made him think the way he does was just an amazing experience. He however reiterated that technology changes would not be able to eliminate the influence of sex love and money. And he was serious about it.

While Ray’s passion reflects in his unique style of calmness, Peter Diamandis just exuberates with energy. Very approachable, and humble and it was an amazing experience interacting with him. While everybody worries about privacy and security due to Facebook and other social media sites, Peter has been positively insisting that such openness has been the biggest neutralizer to threat of security everyone being there, creating a more transparent community. He is a strong propagator of radical transparency and reflected the same in his fireside chat with Philip Linden of Second Life Virtual World.

The Fireside sessions in late evenings of Peter Diamandis where he invited many leading successful entrepreneurs for a close interaction is unforgettable.

Philip Rosedale AKA Philip Linden of Second Life and his out of box ‘commit to pay’ crowd source ventures like coffee&power, Eric Migicovsky of Pebble and how he raised 10 million dollars on Kickstarter site, Josh Kopelman’s marketing genius to rename a town to his company name ‘half.com’ which got sold to eBay later were amazing stories to listen to. It was encouraging to hear from Philip Linden say that great ideas sound crazy or of disinterest few years before they happen.

Lectures and insight by various faculties
The core strength of the Singularity summer was the faculty and invited guests to interact with the students. We had some amazing personalities interacting with us on various subjects including exponentials of Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Robotics, Space, Health, policy law and ethics, Information Technology, and many more. While we were excited to gain an insight into the cutting edge technology, Marc Goodman reminded us of the dark side of the technologies - be it stealing a persons DNA, or 3D printing Guns. It was chilling to hear his work against terrorism & his insight on the technology used by terrorists in the Mumbai attacks.

Very approachable Salim Ismail discussed purpose of life, while Aubreyde Grey discussed curing ageing and longevity. Ever-spoken Vivek Wadhwa updated us with exponential technologies with his frequent Forbes articles and write-ups.

Eric Reis of Lean Startup encouraged us not to be insecure of ideas being stolen, and instead worry about execution, while Greg Maryniak told us about energy resources and future of energy. Bob Richards discussed multiplanatary civilization, and Navin Jain spoke about social enterprises. SR Das on economic modeling, Sushmita Gosh from Ashoka Foundation, Catherine Mohir's concern on gradually shifting agriculture land scape to developed countries, and Matt Ranen of GBN on forecasting future were among many lectures which helped us form a vision for our team projects which could help a billion people.

Hod Lipson introduced us to 3D printing allows printing customized implants, flexible batteries, bio cartilage, food using any material

India and Indian companies were frequently citied as good examples by many of the faculty.

Interaction with Hugo award winning science fiction writers like Verner Vinge, Greg Bear, David Brin, was very engaging, I specially being an avid science fiction reader.

Ben Goertzel on Genral AI via skype spoke about problems with the Turing's Test & wozniak cofee test and challenges to make AI better than humans.

Nano tech H2 fuel cells, terraforming desserts, supercomputing, early disease detection indicates that this is a Nano decade for sure.

Dan berry, astronaut and space faculty shared his passionate story of his desire to be an astronaut and how his persistence paid off.

The women at Frontier Event was organized by Singularity University which had inspiring speeches by women entrepreneur’s like Lakshmi Pratury of TED India and Kay Koplovitz founder of channel-SciFi.

Peter Schwartz predicting space travel by year 2200 & Bangladesh underwater by 2050, and exclusive revelation of Cambridge Decleration by Philips Tevenlow that Humans are not the only conscious beings, interaction with Dr Amy Lehman of Lake Tanganyika Floating clinic were other highlites.

Insight by Yasuyuki Motoyama of Kauffman FDN that VCs invest typically within 70KMs of their base was interesting to know.

An interesting coincidence observed though listening to all these technologies was that ‘something is happening at Global IT as an organism. Total transistors, web links are now similar to a human brain synaptics now. Whether a super AI brain in making was extensively discussed.

Site visits & workshops
Google site visit was a beautiful experience, and I experienced up and close the great working environment it had. Interacting with teams behind Google car and Google maps was exiting.

We visited Autodesk, flew real aero models, had hands on with genetic sequencing during various site visits, built robots, moon rovers, programed circuit boards, and much more.
Team project workshops by external faculty, marshmallow challenge and an amazing session by Tom Wujeck & Maurice Conti was very helpful in preparing for our team project.
The students made Ignite presentations, and I did an ignite on use of the ‘Force Field’ as an answer to global grand challenges.

Team Project:
My team project was called as ‘CARE9’ and addressed Global Grand Challenge of Healthcare. The Team project integrates exponential technologies like Artificial Intelligence and sensors to make an artificial doctor to bridge the gap of inaccessible healthcare in remote corners. The application also has an extension to monitor falls and fainting for care of elders staying alone in developed world.
The team is strong and has diverse expertise from fields of sensors, artificial intelligence, public health and policy, Venture capitalists and others. Our team project already has got traction from companies like Genentech.
Our Care9 team project was rated as the best project with potential to reach 1 Billion dollar valuation in 10 years. We are working towards formation of a formal company and making a business plan to get funded.
Other exciting team projects in class included Zero G drones for economical lab experimentation, Artificial Womb and many others.

While were extremely busy, the diversity called for a lot of fun. We were invited to the Tony Robbins Motivation event, and many of us including me ended up doing the adventurous Firewalk. Tony Robbins also came for a exclusive one on one interaction at the Singularity University and it was very engaging.
We had various culture nights and the Asian/Indian culture night was very popular.
I got to participate in the annual San Fransisco Marathon, and had a lot of fun.
The class was very fun loving and ended up with a surprising flash dance to entertain the stressed staff and management. Video link -http://t.co/wQlEXKx6

We had various competetions which my team won including a 1000$ Android Application development opportunity, and other contests.
I got the opportunity to test various products including a foldable electric Bike ‘Yike Bike’

Concluding remarks.

The Singularity Summer has been a great unforgettable experience. Thanks to Ramanujan Bose Award that I could participate in this un-expectable journey of unique over whelming knowledge of exponential technologies called as ‘Singularity University’

My students in India have been following me and have insisted that I share my experiences when I return.

I plan to share such opportunities in schools and colleges as I feel the seed of exponential technology to help one billion people need to be sown in the young minds to affect in future.

Dr. Akash S Rajpal

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