The increasing usage of technology has in recent years raised new technical and human concerns. Using the so-called Moore’s Law, named after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, we see that the complexity of semiconductors has doubled every year at a constant cost since 1959, and it is predicted that this trend will continue over the next ten years. But this prediction, described as a somewhat abusive law, is finally true well beyond ten years. Reassessed in the meantime, it is still confirmed today by the fact that the number of transistors for microprocessors doubles every two years. So we are certainly witnessing the next industrial revolution that is called “B.A.N.G” for:
- Bits: like a “64-bit” computer,
- Atoms: matter,
- Neurones: bioelectrical interface,
- Genomes: DNA, the source code of “life.”
As technology seems to be progressing infinitely, more and more people think that one day the human will be overtaken by the machine. By exceeding is the fact of being able to be “accompanied” partially or totally by the technologies but above all that eventually they will exceed us. We would no longer be able to understand and control them. They would then have their own autonomous system, independent of the human species, its creator. This phenomenon called “singularity” is studied in the United States in a specialized center named Singularity University; literally, the university of singularity. This privately funded university is a great success with technophiles as well as generates lively debates. Is it not important to be concerned about the impact and purpose of the projects emanating from this university? Can such projects really change the world and our lives? Could we apply this model in France and around the world? In order to provide some answers to these questions, we will present a description of the different fields and programs of Singularity University to analyze analogies or differences with classical universities.
The prediction known as Moore’s Law now applies to all sectors and refers to a phenomenon that doubles every two years. To celebrate this anniversary, microprocessor manufacturer Intel has produced infographics [INT01] of which here are some excerpts:- in 1971, the 4004, the first microprocessor, had 2,300 transistors,- in 1989, the 486 microprocessor crossed the one million mark, at 1.2 million,- in 2012, the Core i5 microprocessor had 1 billion- the computing power of supercomputers is doubled every ten months,- the memory size available on a hard drive is doubled every eighteen months,- the amount of information on the internet doubles every ten or twelve months,- internet traffic doubles every fifteen months. Based on this notion, which seems to apply to multiple areas with very significant consequences, Singularity University was created.
Universities in France and the United States
Universities in France
Historically and as Yves Desrichard describes in the article University History [YDE01]:
It was in Paris, Bologna, Oxford, but also Montpellier that the first universities were created. The traditionally given date of creation of the University of Paris is 1200. In the 13th century, the disciplines taught were grouped around the “four faculties” that any university must possess: arts, medicine, law, theology. Teaching is based on a number of reference texts (“authorities”). The scarcity of available documents explains, almost from the outset, that many universities have acquired libraries.
Today, the definition of a university is described as follows:
A university is an institution that unites within it the production (research), conservation (publications and libraries) and transmission (higher education) of different fields of knowledge. University admission is generally restricted to those who have a high school diploma. A good functioning of universities and more generally of higher education is considered an economic asset. In France, institutions are public, democratically administered, and enjoy a degree of autonomy.
Since 2003, the general training has been organized around the following diplomas: The Bachelor’s degree is a generalist diploma obtaining after three years of study, The Master’s degree concludes two years of study after the bachelor’s degree, The Doctorate is awarded after a research work (a “thesis”) usually lasting three years. Universities participate in the public service of higher education, the six missions of which are thus defined by law:1. initial and continuing lifelong training,2. scientific and technological research, the dissemination and enhancement of its results at the service of society,3. orientation, social promotion and job integration,4. the dissemination of humanist culture in particular through the development of the humanities and social sciences, and scientific, technical and industrial culture,5. participation in the construction of the European Higher Education and Research Area,6. international cooperation.To finish this description, studying at the university requires a multi-disciplinary nature with a low framework and therefore a great autonomy. This is one of the qualities required of students as yet a certain maturity, a sense of organization, curiosity and a taste for theory.
Universities in the United States
In the United States, where the first state university was founded in 1789, a specific model developed. This called “American” model, generally perceived as “mass higher education” is asserted and reinforced by the rapid development of the country, marked by the heterogeneous influences of the millions of immigrants who ensure its dynamism. Kiven Poirier Fontaine mentions in his article [INT02] the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, who ended the university in 1891 as
an association of men […] endowed and favoured by the state, so that the people can receive intellectual training and that the theoretical problems that arise during the development of civilization can be solved.
Universities are identified as a key element of state growth. On the spur of the American model, most countries in the world are investing in the development and enhancement of their universities.
U.S. universities can be public or private. It is difficult to tell the difference between the two because the border is sometimes thin. Private organizations may well receive public financial aid while public organizations can obtain private donations. The public and private sectors complement each other while remaining in the competition. While public universities cost students around $10,000 a year, as stated by the Information Portal Studying Abroad [INT03], private universities will instead go towards $30,000 a year. Since the student loan system is highly developed in the United States, and most of them do not hesitate to go into debt to study, student funding is not necessarily a decisive criterion in choosing the university for an American student.
Transhumanism and Singularity
According to the description of the free encyclopedia Wikipedia [INT04]:
Transhumanism is an international cultural and intellectual movement advocating the use of science and technology to improve the physical and mental characteristics of human beings. With this in mind, transhumanist thinkers rely on biotechnology and other emerging technologies. The dangers and benefits of such developments are also of concern to the transhumanist movement.
The term transhumanism is represented by the symbol “H” and is often used as a synonym of human improvement (Human Plus). Transhumanists support the emergence and convergence of methods such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, information and communication and cognitive science also known as NBIC as well as hypothetical future sciences such as simulated reality, artificial intelligence or cryonics. They believe that humans can and should use these techniques to become more than humans. In recent years, Google has become one of the main sponsors of the transhumanist movement, notably through the massive financial support of NBIC and the commitment, in December 2012, within its management team of Raymond Kurzweil. Google’s ambition is openly to successfully apply its model of success in the field of information technology to that of health technologies, in order to improve quality and extend the life of human life. In line with this ambition, Google founded the company Calico as mentioned by Laurent Alexandre [INT05] with the challenge of reading against age, associated diseases and the project of “Killing death”.
According to the description of the free encyclopedia Wikipedia [INT06]:
Technological singularity (or simply singularity) is a concept, according to which, from a hypothetical point of its technological evolution, human civilization could experience technological growth of a higher order than the present one. Beyond this point, progress would no longer be the work of artificial intelligences, which are themselves constantly evolving. It would induce such changes in human society that the human individual before the singularity could neither apprehend nor predict them reliably. The risk would be the loss of human power, political over its destiny.
The term singularity does not mean infinite growth but represents the fact that existing predictive models will no longer be appropriate in the near future of the order of 20 to 25 years as Raymond Kurzweil points out in these various interventions. He describes, as shown in illustration 2 below, that the growing trend of technology from electromechanical bonds or computers to vacuum tubes and transistors to integrated circuits is exponential and verifies Moore’s Law.
This pattern is to be compared with a study by Jonathan Huebner that the New York Times quotes [INT07] and which is often presented as Kurzweil’s main adversary. A physicist by training, he compiled a veritable encyclopedia of some of the most important graphs and lists of inventions. He published an article in a scientific journal in 2005 entitled [TFS01]
A possible downward trend in global innovation.
By dividing the number of innovations by the size of the world’s population, Huebner asserts that, proportionally, humanity’s innovative activity reached its peak in 1873. Another calculation, based on the number of patents filed in the United States relative to the U.S. population, establishes that a peak occurred around 1916. “The progress made in this century will pale in comparison to those of the previous century” Huebner points out, before attacking the very principles of singularity. “I don’t think that artificial intelligence like the followers of singularity ever write it is ever born.”Nevertheless, the concept of technological singularity was popularized in part thanks to the mathematician and author Vernor Vinge [INT08]. He writes that
superhuman intelligences, created by humans with cybernetic enhanced abilities or other less developed artificial intelligences, would be able to improve their own abilities more effectively than the human spirits who conceived them. Thus, a spiral of ever-faster progress would bring very significant technological advances in a short period of time. The singularity can thus be seen as the end of current human civilizations and the beginning of a new one.
Raymond Kurzweil proposed theories [INT06] extending Moore’s Law to forms of computation other than computer science, taking into account its biological complexity. When it depicts on a logarithmic graph different lists of events in human history. Transhumanist themes areas we see many and touch on a wide variety of fields, the aim is to combine new technologies with basic elements. This convergence has been grouped into four families called NBIC to:* computers, tools that process bits,* biotechnology, which is working to control genetics,* nanotechnology, which works at the level of atoms,* computer networks, which manage the dissemination of information.
This convergence aims to improve human beings, to transcend them, and perhaps one day to give him a successor. This NBIC convergence in the short to medium term suggests the advent of a technological singularity. It, therefore, seems necessary to study and understand these technologies, as can the Santa Fe Institute, which brings together research on the subject of complex systems. In France, IRCAD, run by Jacques Marescaux, can be found as a training center for future surgery [INT09] in the form of seasonal activity.
In the United States, a “Summer University of Singularity” Singularity University was created in 2008 with the help of private companies such as Google, Cisco or NASA.
Singularity University was co-founded by Dr. Peter H. Diamandis and Dr. Raymond Kurzweil, originally a non-profit organization. Funded by private funds, including Google, Genentech, Autodesk, Cisco and Nokia, it has moved to Nasa’s campus in the heart of Silicon Valley. Larry Page, one of Google’s co-founders, was part of its creation in 2008 and has provided the university with a financials of more than $250,000 in donations. Some of Google’s first employees are now part of the university’s “founding circle” as explained by France Inter’s “Like a Rumor” program, thanks to personal donations of $100,000 each.
The campus of Singularity University is located in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. This place is not insignificant. Americans speak of a “cluster” that could be defined by a group of like-minded companies and institutions, geographically close, interconnected and complementary.
In France, we speak of “competitiveness cluster” allowing the exchange of formalized knowledge, information, and tacit knowledge for its use. This geographical location allows a close link between the students of this university and the technology companies in tune with the teachings that are carried out there. Classical universities are becoming more and more adept at this concept even if, historically, their geographical location does not allow them to be as close as possible to the companies they would like to reach. Since 2012, Singularity University has become a benefit corporation that offers educational programs, partnerships and an incubator to help individuals, businesses, institutions, investors, NGOs and governments understand these cutting-edge technologies and how they can affect the lives of billions of people. This status, comparable to society, is in total contradiction with that of universities. Similarly, while this notable differs from universities, it does not issue a diploma at the end of the course. At the time of a GSP or Executive Program, participants simply receive a statement of their results and a certificate of completion. In an excerpt from the movie A World Without Human Jason Lanier, the inventor of the concept of “virtual reality”, gives us another vision of Silicon Valley and Singularity University [VID01]:
Part of what happens in Silicon Valley comes from the fact that some people may have a little too much confidence in themselves, have a tendency to want to recreate life for everyone; I was one of those people. Silicon Valley has changed. It was a place where technology was created for people, and it became a kind of new centre of power, and it bothers me. It seems extremely odd to me that there is this institution, the University of Singularity University just across the street from Google. How would people react if a traditionalist fundamentalist religion moved to the same campus as one of the largest spy agencies in the world? I think people would be horrified, they’d be right. Facebook and Google hold much more information about citizens in France, for example, than the French government would have the right to hold.
This vision goes hand in hand with that of Joel Garreau, who has long led the science section of the American daily The Washington Post [VID01]: “One of my biggest problems is convincing people of what already exists, not what is coming.”In order to expand its influence and spread its ideas, Singularity University has several websites. The general site is located at the address http://singularityu.org/, they have a Facebook page(https://www.facebook.com/singularityu) as well as a Linkedin page (https://www.youtube.com/user/singularityu) like universities.
Raymond Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis are the co-founders of Singularity University, also abbreviated by the acronym “SU.” The former acts as the university’s external representative, while Diamandis heads the institution. It presents the program as a way to train exponential technologies for inspired young people to solve the world’s major problems and develop projects that can “change the lives of a billion men.”According to the description of the free encyclopedia Wikipedia [INT11], Raymond (often named as Ray) Kurzweil, born on February 12, 1948, is an American computer scientist, creator of several pioneering companies in the field of optical character recognition (OCR), speech synthesis and recognition, and electronic synthesizers. He is also the author of several books on health, artificial intelligence, foresight, and futurology. He is one of the theorists of transhumanism and technological singularity. He is widely criticized for his positions as well as his works. Peter H. Diamandis (born May 20, 1961) is a Greek-American engineer, physician and entrepreneur. He is known as the founder of the X Prize Foundation, co-author of books and articles. He is also director or co-founder of many companies specializing in space conquest. As said, the most senior co-founder and executive chairman of Singularity University. Entrepreneurship is in their own right. They are above all entrepreneurs rather than engineers with a definite appetite for advanced technologies. They are regularly criticized for their futuristic positions and may notice that they never present themselves as professors or PhD students. Several authors are very critical of the notion of singularity, especially as developed by Ray Kurzweil. Theodore Modis [TFS01] writes: “… that Kurzweil and the singularists are involved in a kind of para-science, which differs from the true sciences in terms of methodology and rigor. They tend to neglect rigorous scientific practices such as focusing on natural laws, giving precise definitions, meticulously verifying data, and estimating uncertainties. […] Kurzweil and the singularists are more creative than scientists. »Other authors, without directly criticizing the notion of Singularity, question the idea of technological acceleration because this concept of singularity does not take into account the needs and resources available for energy. The philosopher Philippe Borrel [INT13] for example, questions these “technoscience that govern more and more our lives in a society that seeks to eliminate the irrational in us, erase irregularities, eradicate “out of the ordinary” behaviors. This process of standardization goes far beyond the field of psychiatry since it affects both the field of justice, education, health, the media and in a global way the world of business. »Beyond the controversial aspect of some of their theses, it is simply necessary to recognize that their ideas disrupt our usual way of thinking.
The University of Singularity has several programs and conferences to expand its network of influence and also recruit new students. In this part of the document, we will focus on describing them and draw a parallel with the programs that conventional universities can also do. TheSingularity University has a logo representing an “S” for Singularity attached to a colorful shield.
Keep in mind that Singularity University is meant to be a long-term course of training. En France we go to university and once the diploma has been validated, it is not planned immediately or in continuing education. After Singularity University, we stay in touch, we “network” and the students of the previous year are often the speakers of the next summer program. One quickly becomes an “expert” of Singularity. If students are conditioned to work as a team as they do in a classical university, Singularity University establishes an important group dynamic. To immerse students, they visit companies like Google, Facebook or the medical robot design and production company IntuitiveSurgical (http://www.intuitivesurgical.com/) that are only a few kilometers away. The end of the program is devoted to the development of a business creation project to test a student's ability to innovate. On-campus, they have 24-hour access to the center as well as assistants, 3D printers of all types and programming experts. They also have close ties to DARPA, the U.S. Department of Defense agency and Internet inventors, which have the same type of programs. On the same model, we can also cite the MIT campus for new technologies or Harvard University for biophysics. In the particular field of information technology, there are online courses or events such as the American site TED but nothing comparable to Singularity University. Singularity University offers ten weeks of intensive courses each summer to the promotion of up to 80 students of all ages and nationalities, as well as a shorter personalized program for business leaders and influential decision-makers. I will, therefore, describe in the following paragraphs the various programs and events that Singularity University offers in 2015 because their programs are shifting and change frequently. They do not hesitate to take from it or add what a university in France would find it difficult to do because it has to comply with the higher education program.
The Exponential Conference Series focuses on exponential technologies that have an individual impact on areas such as finance, medicine and health care. These are concrete events in the United States but also around the world involving singularity University interlocutors in front of a parterre usually executives and engineers often acquired for their cause. Universities also conduct such conferences with some of their professors but geographically within their institutions and not outside. Because of the cost of renting a room too large, they do not have the same financial means as Singularity University by their status. This conference series has a dedicated website for the http://exponential.singularityu.org/ address and includes the 4 types of conference (Exponential Finance, Exponential Medicine, Exponential Manufacturing, Singularity University Summit) that I detail below.
The Exponential Medicine is a four-day intensive program at Singularity University. These programs bring together world-class professors, innovators or biomedical and technology spectrum organizations to explore and leverage the convergence of technologies in the future of health and medicine. Like the conferences at Singularity University, universities also carry out interventions on medicine but within their institutions and with internal stakeholders who are the teaching professions. As another event on exponential medicine, we can mention the Hacking Health Camp [INT14] which is a four-day international event that aims to break down barriers to health innovation. It is an event for all those interested in innovation concerning health professionals and those of digital about their common opportunities in the future of health. As Tamara Bonaci [INT15], a researcher at the University of Washington, explains, slippages and problems may arise with these technologies for medicine:
Communication networks are by nature open and uncontrollable, which is why it is easy for malicious entities to scramble, interrupt or take control of communications between a robot and a surgeon.
Exponential Finance is based on the same model as Medicine but applied to Finance. Experts at Singularity University examine and discuss how artificial intelligence, quantum computing, crowdfunding (micro-credit by individuals) or robotics can quickly disrupt businesses across the financial sector.
Exponential Manufacturing will be based on the same model as the previous ones but applied to the industry. They are not available at this time.
Singularity University Summit
These are two-day events organized by and for Singularity University in key international cities to increase understanding of how to use exponential technologies. This allows above all to create a positive effect in the acceptance of their theses and programs car the stakeholders are part of Singularity University.
Teaching through the “Programs”
Executive Programs, also known as EPs, are week-long workshops or a personalized program that provides business leaders and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to predict, understand and evaluate how emerging technologies disrupt, transform their industries, businesses and careers. It is a question for example of understanding why artificial intelligence and machine learning will complement or eliminate human employment, see how automation will have an incident in our labor markets, to see the design of cities where cars will be autonomous. We will be able to study the behavior of our policies that cannot keep pace with the acceleration of change, …The goal of this program is to educate, and educate senior officials about exponential technologies. This is a strong difference with universities that provide courses to students and not to people who are already qualified, especially at this level of responsibility.
Graduate Studies Program
Every summer, a 10-week Graduate Studies Program (GSP) welcomes 80 students from around the world to work as a team on technological solutions to meet global challenges. On the same model as the ESP, the Graduate Studies Program GSP or graduate program allows a 10-week collaborative experience with students of all backgrounds and degrees who have managed to pay for the training of 25,000 dollars. This education rate, widely accepted in the United States, represents a large sum for a French student and therefore can be a source of issue. During the GSP, students are challenged to design a comprehensive and sustainable solution that positively influences one billion people by leveraging exponential trends, innovation and the power of entrepreneurship. Universities also offer so-called summer courses on a specific area but at a much lower cost. In France, IRCAD, a training center on the contribution of technologies for the evolution of surgery, is closest to the model of Singularity University. This center was created by Jacques Marescaux [INT09], who in September 2001 performed the first telesurgery operation, operating from New York a patient who was in France. It can accommodate more than 4,300 surgeons/students per year from all surgical specialties while developing its research center in the field of computer science and new technologies with more than 800 expert teachers. Classes range from 2 days to a week at a cost of about 3000 euros.
Innovation Partnership Program
The Innovation Partnership Program called IPP is a joint venture of the XPrize Foundation, Singularity University and Deloitte. The PPI allows Fortune 500 companies to participate in a day by positioning them to lead breakthroughs in their industries. The company provides an event-based program that includes training sessions on technology and exponential tools, workshops and themed excursions to emerging technology companies. The topics discussed at the PPI sessions provide a vision of the technologies to come on the market in the next 2 to 5 years. There are several possible options for being a member of the PPI [IPP01], which cost between $250,000 and $375,000 depending on the number of sessions done in the year, respectively from one to five. The PPI has its website dedicated to the address www.ipp.biz.
The Singularity University Sponsorships allow students who cannot afford the financial means to pay for a GSP or ESP by passing a free contest and if obtained, access to Singularity University’s programs. According to Singularity University, studies have confirmed that diversity is an essential component in achieving effective teams. It goes without saying that this competition is very “competitive” between students and requires a high level of qualification.
Global Impact Competitions
In the same vein as Sponsorships, Global Impact Competitions or GIC are annual competitions organized in partnership with Singularity University and local companies around the world and organized by theme. These competitions act as a platform to identify entrepreneurs, leaders, scientists and engineers with the most innovative ideas. The winner of the contest is invited to a GSP for free. This competition has a dedicated website at the address http://global.singularityu.org/gic
Singularity University operates in ten different fields and encompasses everything that can be done with technology. Courses include computer science with networks or computers, biology, medicine, finance, robotics and ethics. This grouping of different fields is not unique to Singularity University and is even one of its essential components, as libraries could be for universities. In illustration 6 below, we find the different areas of Singularity University and their applications in the big challenges or challenges. To become a speaker or professor at Singularity University, you have to meet many conditions like at university and have an almost perfect technical profile. We are more in the recruitment style as can achieve companies such as Google or Facebook with interviews, references, biography, cover letter, and CV. You also have to fill out a questionnaire, have significant work experience or have done filmed interventions. Three types of roles are offered at Singularity University that are:
Professorial Corps: they are recognized experts who run university departments, Faculty Auxiliary: they are recognized as experts, contribute to curricula and participate in events, Speakers: those are people who can intervene at community events.
We will in the following chapters describe the ten areas of Singularity University knowing that all of these sciences are also practiced in universities even if these are advanced or futuristic technologies. The very advanced questions that students or speakers at Singularity University may ask themselves:* How can neuroscience increase our horizon?* How can technologies increase human life?* How can small devices solve bigs problems?* How can machine intelligence change our world? In comparison, Singularity University really has nothing to do with another institute like the Singularity Institute or MIRI today, which includes a specialized unit on transhumanist issues and artificial intelligence... Raymond Kurzweil was its Director from 2007 to 2010.
Future Studies & Forecasting
The study of the future and predictions aims to cultivate the “exponential intuition” of the student, his ability to fully grasp the magnitude of possible outcomes that may arise in specific areas. The university provides students with a methodological basis for their forecasting activities and also serves as a laboratory of ideas for the development of new forecasting methods to anticipate future changes. It presents the fundamental concepts of accelerating change, Moore’s Law, the promise and perils of technology. Based on the resources of leading companies and academics in Silicon Valley, this field covers the growth of the power of computers and networks, focusing on three areas:1. emerging computing and storage technologies, including 3D molecular computing, optical storage, quantum or standalone computing, …2. future user interfaces, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, virtual worlds. Holographic or 3D displays, extracting knowledge from huge volumes of data via data analysis, …3. smart grids, including smart search engines, semantic web, sensor systems and networks, security and privacy,…Biotechnology and bioinformatics focus on four areas:1. Genome technologies,2. Personalized medicine (known as 4P for Personalized, Predictive, Preventive and Participatory),3. Design (e.g. low-cost writing of DNA),4. Molecular technologies.The future of nanotechnologies, including molecular manufacturing methods, molecular nanotechnology, simulations and computational experiments to create computers, medical nanorobotics, including nanomedicine, life extension and cryogenics. Finally, we also see green manufacturing for the environment. For robotics and artificial intelligence, the main themes covered are for example perception, actions, representation, reasoning and learning in the face of uncertainty. Robotic technology, home applications, transportation, medicine, security, the internet, entertainment, space, and other areas are part of this program. Not to mention future directions and ethics on artificial intelligence. This is perhaps one of the most controversial areas as James Miller explains in Part 1 Chapter 3 “Unfortunately AI terrifies me” [SIN01] with his fear of artificial intelligence and the need to instill human values in it. They cover the production of renewable energy, including solar, wind, ocean, geothermal, biological and nuclear energy. We learn energy storage technologies such as fuel cells or the Powerwall home battery [INT17] taken over by the news site Digital. This will be proposed in the course of 2015 by the company Tesla. In a more futuristic way, students analyze the Earth as an environmental system. They develop models and climate strategies. They imagine scenarios of global catastrophe or extinction events (asteroids, biological warfare, gamma-ray bursts, nuclear war, etc.) and survival. Space and the physical sciences are covered using NASA’s educational resources, the future of space, including future launchers and propulsion systems (lasers, space elevators, solar sails,…), nanosatellites, energy sources. Astrobiology and the origin of life on Earth are not forgotten as communication with extraterrestrial life and the spread of intelligence in the universe. This part of the curriculum examines the role of government, law and ethics in dealing with the implications of technologies, including patent law, the patentability of concepts developed by artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, etc. On Finance and Entrepreneurship, we see how to monetize this new knowledge of technology such as prototyping, public relations, legal issues and patents or the type of companies.
It can be concluded that the programs taught at Singularity University cover all topics on technological singularity with an ethical and entrepreneurial flair. It must of course be assumed that in order to understand the courses taught, it is better to have a classical university course with a good level of study to understand all these technologies.
SU Labs is an open innovation campus. It acts as an incubator where large organizations, startups and partners share their knowledge, with the aim of creating new business solutions. SU Labs provides space, tools and advice. The benefits offered by Singularity University Labs include:* State-of-the-art technology and innovation programs,* A manufacturing space,* Support for experiments,* Prototyping tools and partner list,* 24/7 access,* An immersion in the ecosystem and culture of Silicon Valley,* A relationship manager to follow and guide you. Here again, the difference between universities is true. There are business incubators within universities but very limited. Partnerships exist, but this is usually limited to providing students to businesses. The Singularity Hub is a science and technology news website published by Singularity University at http://singularityhub.com/. Since 2008, the site has been providing daily news coverage, featuring articles, analysis, and ideas on future trends in exponential technologies. It thus highlights how they are used for social impact and used to combat the world’s great challenges. On this point, no difference with the classical universities which each have a dedicated website dealing among other things with their news. Singularity University also has a Linkedin account https://www.linkedin.com/company/singularity-university where they file new and offer jobs. The American website Linkedin has recently opened the possibility for universities to create a dedicated page as specified by the news site Exclusive HR [INT18] in the form https://www.linkedin.com/edu/. This is about having visibility in the professional environment and we also notice that Singularity University does not present itself as a university but a company with a storytelling address”company” instead of “edu”.
Through the presentation of the various programs and fields of Singularity University, we have seen analogies but above all strong differences with classical universities. Funding and the type of courses are the first examples. The American and French university models are also distant, although in recent years we have tended to be closer to partnerships or geographical proximity. Today no institution offers courses or training on so-called exponential technologies and singularity, which does not allow us to say that the model is not replicable in France. Currently, Singularity University is looking to attract strong French engineers to its program. It, therefore, seems unlikely that such a school will appear in France in the next few years.
It seems important, however, to be concerned about the paradigm of these technologies and how they could change our lives. The technologies are moving fast, very fast, faster than we can integrate and digest it. Ray Kurzweil says, as James Miller [VID01] says, “technology usually starts with unaffordable products that don’t work very well, followed by expensive versions that work a little better, and then by cheap products that work reasonably well. Finally, technology is becoming very efficient, ubiquitous, and almost free of charge. The radio and television followed this pattern, as did the cell phone. Even if, as Raymond Kurzweil again says, quoted by Elena Sender [INT16]
These technologies, such as DNA reprogramming for example, have a dark side. They can be used by bioterrorists to design viruses or super weapons. We’re trying to control that dark side. We need to be supervised, we need safeguards. So technology has to be participatory, that’s part of the equation. That is also why we need to show what we are doing all over the world.
To ignore these matters would thus be a serious error of judgment.
I ask myself a lot of questions: I don’t feel that they are doing a lot of advance in basic research, but they seem expert at exploiting all ideas to their greatest benefit. The comparison was made only with the university in this document but in France there are also large schools that have slightly different means and functions. Beyond the risks of permanent control of privacy or loss of control for the machine, another threat emerges from this document that unites the logic of digitization and commodification. Personalization or the knowledge of our interests are not the results of chance but of close knowledge of our behaviors and desires by the machine. I would conclude this document with a quotation from the philosopher Jean Michel Besnier as mentioned by Elena Sender [INT16] which in my opinion sums up the situation well:
Reducing Man to a machine, as transhumanism would, or to an animal, is to forget what, in him, is the most fundamental: desire.
I also think that to forget desire is to forget one of the essential components of humanity and thus to forget the human.
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