“International” is all the rage. These days, American educational institutions are not exempt from the sudden competition of private international educational programs such as this Geneva, Switzerland headquartered International Baccalaureate Program (h/t Citizen Carrie) along with Silicon Valley’s newly launched Singularity University (Singularity “U”) that promise the precious cargo of global elites the Moon. These days, if you’re not “international”, you haven’t arrived.
So what happens when you combine a bunch of international student-elites with an enterprising entrepreneur, Google Inc. and NASA? Singularity-U. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that during these economic hard times when our public school district budgets are being slashed along with our jobs and the taxpayer base, attracting international investment in just about anything around here – including education-- has become the new black.
A brand new, stealth “institution” described as a very “hush-hush, carefully selected group of the tech world’s best and brightest” assembled to address the elite mission of Singularity-U’s “post-human future” preparations last year, prior to its stealth launch:
“It was all very hush-hush. On Saturday, September 20, 2008, a carefully selected group of the tech world’s best and brightest assembled in a windowless conference room at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley – barely a mile from the Googleplex as the rocket flies – to discuss preparations for our impending post-human future. This was the founding meeting of Singularity University, an academic institution whose mission, as founder Dr. Peter Diamandis told the elite audience, would be “to assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies (bio, nano, info, etc); and to apply, focus and guide these to the best benefit of humanity and its environment.”
Singularity-U’s stated mission is to
“tackle the world's 'grand challenges' and the world's brightest young minds to come together to attack humankind's worst problems — things like climate change, poverty and disease” and “to harness the collective smarts of the world's brightest young scientists and entrepreneurs in fields like artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and genetics to help the planet.”
How much does it cost and how long does the program last? The founders expect tuition to be about $25,000 per student, but added that “aid would be available.”
“Singularity University is less a traditional university and more an institution that will feature intensive 10-week, 10-day, or 3-day programs examining a set of 10 technologies and disciplines, such as future studies and forecasting; biotechnology and bioinformatics; nanotechnology; AI, robotics, and cognitive computing; and finance and entrepreneurship.”
The ten-week summer institute at Ames, to start in late June, 2009 with an initial class of 30 students, is expected to grow to 120 in future years. Singularity-U intends to recruit “people hungry to learn about other disciplines.” So what “other disciplines” does this elite program offer that our world-class higher private and public educational system apparently does not provide?
“Unlike many universities, the program would not conduct traditional research, but would aim to brainstorm "Team Projects" that would take on humanity's "grand challenges," according to the university's Web site. There would be an international as well as interdisciplinary focus, and one goal would be to develop a network of future leaders in government and science.”
For a whopping $25,000 per student to take a ten week program, if Singularity-U does not conduct “traditional research” but aims to “brainstorm Team Projects that would take on humanity’s grand challenges,” this begs the question: what exactly are our public educational institutions doing with our taxpayer money and why can’t the overwhelming majority of the public who can’t afford $25K per student/”business leader” for a ten week program demand such cutting edge, “post-human” and “Team Project” classroom innovation at the pleb level here?
Corporate sponsored and inspired Singularity-U is described as NOT being competitive with Stanford, Berkeley or MIT. Singularity-U also has its sights on adults, particularly those in the corporate world. Note below that “business leaders” will be “offered short courses” all year-round, too. How would that work? Corporations pay for pre-selected, global elite employees/candidates from Silicon Valley to Shanghai to take a class from Singularity-U on how the “post-human” world should run:
“Singularity University, which will also offer short courses to business leaders year-round on the frontiers of technological change, will draw faculty from Google and other companies, as well as universities. Students would come from disciplines as divergent as robotics and genetics, for example, and would be expected to work together. "We don't see this as competition with Stanford or Berkeley or MIT," Diamandis said.
But just as those universities have spawned countless startups in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, Diamandis predicts Singularity University will do the same, and the program would aim to connect students to the valley's venture capitalists to pitch their most promising ideas.
"We expect many of the students that are coming to Singularity University to have an entrepreneurial bent," Diamandis said, "and we expect companies to spin out of the university."
Is Warren Buffet also bankrolling Singular-U? And who will its instructors be? Daniel Terdiman of CNET describes the VIP lineup of leading futurists, thinkers and entrepreneurs primed to deliver its core payload:
"It's about learning the vocabulary" of the disciplines, Diamandis said, "the basic principles, so they can communicate better between themselves.”
Great to know that stealth educational organizations with an emphasis on "leadership" like Singularity-U are on the horizon. It is wonderful to read that Singularity-U may offer “aid” for those who can’t afford the pricey tab. But for $25 grand a pop, it had better -- in the unmistakably gruff words of one world-class, dead comedian --- it had better blank my blank, too.