Tuesday, July 7, 2009

This week marks the launch of a new University.  It’s rare to launch a new University these days, so I’m very honored and pleased to have given birth to Singularity University (www.singularityU.org) along with fellow X PRIZE Trustee Ray Kurzweil.  Singularity University (or “SU”) is located on the campus of NASA Ames/Moffett Field.  It has been founded with the support of Corporate Founders of Google and ePlanet Ventures, as well as a dozen Associate Founders (Moses Znaimer, Keith Kleiner, Barney Pell, Klee Irwin, Sonia Arrison, Dan Stoicescu, Georges Harik, Reese Jones, David S. Rose, Sabiha Malik Foster, Peter L. Bloom, Geoffrey Shmigelsky).

SU has just completed the first of 9 weeks of the Graduate Student Program (GSP’09) and I’m extremely pleased and proud of what we have created.  It is real, off and running, and here to stay.

From the Student perspective, we have pulled together an incredible group of brilliant and dedicated graduate students who are all entrepreneurs, driven and passionate about taking on the world’s grand challenges (this year’s class is 40 in size from 13 nations, the program will expand to 120 graduate students next year).  When we selected our students based upon the criteria of academic excellence, demonstrated entrepreneurship and big-picture thinking, we did not know we’d be attracting fun, high-spirited and good natured individuals as well.  I’m pleased the traits matched-up!

Equally rewarding is the Faculty from 10 different disciplines including a half-dozen exponentially growing fields.  Going from a lecture by Vint Cerf on the internet’s origin, to Ralph Merkle on the basics of nanotech, to a lecture by Astronaut Dan Barry on high-risk scenarios in space exploration all in the span of 4 hours is an intellectual feast.  Having Trustees Bob Richards, and Michael Simpson present for the opening week, as well as my co-Founder Ray Kurzweil was fantastic.  We all greatly enjoyed the screening of Transcendent Man -- a truly beautiful film.

Our home at NASA Ames, courtesy of Dr. Pete Worden and NASA HQ is tremendous.  The facilities are excellent and the setting could not be better.  As Pete said in the opening ceremony… Welcome to Starfleet Academy!

SU runs 24x7, and the nickname “sleepless university” has its merits… hopefully things will settle down shortly.  As the first week of ‘getting to know each other’ and ‘introductory lectures’ is behind us, the real work of focusing on the curriculum and figuring out how to bring life to the “10 to the 9th plus” design project (10^9+) is our next challenge.  How can all of the students, staff and faculty work together to design technologies, systems or programs that can positively affect 1 billion people within a decade?

As I mentioned in my opening remarks, SU is special in what and how it teaches.  Homo Sapiens have evolved as a species to think “locally” and “linearly” and SU is focused on teaching how to think “globally” and “exponentially.”  This is not an institution which seeks to compete with the MITs, Stanfords, or Oxfords of the world, but rather has been founded to complement those existing programs in a meaningful and unique fashion.  Most importantly to build a cadre of future leaders who are connected and empowered to take on humanity’s grand challenges in a significant fashion.

It is my fervent hope that the Graduates of SU will be the leadership that pursues X PRIZEs in the decades ahead.

For those of you not able to participate in SU this summer, there will be two options for you going forward (http://singularityu.org/interested/).   Consider applying for the GSP-2010 program which will take place in late June through August 2010.  Next year we will be accepting ~120 students into the program.  ALSO, for the Executives interested in SU, we will be launching our 3-Day and 10-Day Executive Programs starting this November 2009.  They are limited in size so please let us know of your interest ASAP.

I’d like to close by saying thank you to our super-star staff and teaching fellows who are working 48x7 to make this program happen.  Special thanks to Susan Fonseca-Klein, Bruce Klein, Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom and our Executive Director, Salim Ismail for all that you are doing.

Best personal regards,

Peter H. Diamandis

Chairman & CEO, X PRIZE Foundation

Vice-Chancellor & co-Founder, Singularity University

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