Google, NASA, Kurzweil take tech into future with university

Singularity U. looks to meld human enhancements, AI, nanotech and robotics

Google is teaming up with NASA and world-renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil to create a university designed to help people learn how to handle "humanity's grand challenges."

Singularity University (SU) will bring students together from around the world to study subjects like nanotechnology, biotechnology, human enhancements and artificial intelligence to see how the technologies can work together. SU's goals also include fostering professional networking and business creation.

The university, unveiled Tuesday at the annual TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Conference in the US, will offer nine-week graduate-level classes. SU will be temporarily housed on the NASA Research Park campus.

Google is SU's first corporate founder. Kurzweil will serve as chancellor and trustee of the university.

"We are now in the steep part of the exponential trajectory of information technologies in a broad variety of fields, including health, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence," said Kurzweil in a statement. "It is only these accelerating technologies that have the scale to address the major challenges of humanity, ranging from energy and the environment, to disease and poverty. With its strong focus on interdisciplinary learning, Singularity University is poised to foster the leaders who will create a uniquely creative and productive future world."

Kurzweil co-founded the university with Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, a nonprofit group that sponsors contests encouraging innovation. Just a year and a half ago, Diamandis worked with Google to launch the US$30 million Google Lunar X Prize, which aimed to find someone who could build and land a privately funded spaceship on the moon in just over five years. Diamandis also co-founded the International Space University.

Now Diamandis and Kurzweil are focused on getting Singularity University up and running.

"We are reaching out across the globe to gather the smartest and most passionate future leaders and arm them with the tools and network they need to wrestle with the Grand Challenges of our day," said Diamandis in a written statement. "During the year, between the Graduate Summer Programs, SU will offer a unique 3-day and 10-day program for CEOs and executives that will give them the forward looking radar they need to determine how these key technologies might transform their companies and industries in the next 5 - 10 years ahead."

The university, according to its web site, will be offering a 9-week graduate-studies program, along with 3-day and 10-day programs.

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