Monday, November 24, 2008

A Singularity University?

The next Board Member that I want to introduce you to is Dr. Ray Kurzweil. I was inspired to write about him this morning because of an article I found on a potential "Singularity University."

Dr. Ray Kurzweil is a prolific writer, inventor and futurist. As one of the leading inventors of our time, Ray was the principal developer of the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition.

Among Ray's many honors, he is the recipient of the $500,000 MIT-Lemelson Prize, the world's largest for innovation. In 1999, he received the National Medal of Technology, the nation's highest honor in technology, from President Clinton in a White House ceremony. And in 2002, he was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame, established by the US Patent Office.

He has received thirteen honorary Doctorates and honors from three U.S. presidents.

Among the many reasons that you might know Ray are some of his books. I've read two of them: The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity is Near. These futuristic predictions are based around the idea that as the processing speed of computers increases exponentially, eventually computers will become more intelligent than humans, and possibly even become fully conscious. The books go on to explore the potential implications of such an event. I don't know enough about what he was talking about to offer any sort of opinion on whether this is feasible or not, but Dr. Kurzweil certainly presented a convincing argument.

The article that inspired me to write about Dr. Kurzweil was in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and talks about what a University would look like in a post-Singularity world, where computers are actually intelligent enough to be the teachers, rather than just a tool. I won't ruin the article for you, so I'd suggest reading it.

Once you've read the article, I want to know what you think of the Singularity! Either let me know here, or contact me on twitter: xprize.

Have fun!

1 comment:

Tom Abeles said...

While framed in terms of a "university", listening to a descripton, SU is more of an entrepreneur's workshop designed to bring toghether tech assistance, vc and bright persons looking to turn ideas into practice. It's like silicon valley coming together in neutral turf to share and create. It is a university in name only which does not diminish the vision of the founders.

What is missing are the humanities and humility to match entrepreneurial hubris. As Isaac Asimov said, "the saddest aspect of life, right now is that science gather knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom." To that end, I would suggest PW Singer's recent book, Wired for War.