Singularity University plans massive upgrade

August 27, 2012

Singularity UniversitySingularity University is planning to exponentially advance itself, transforming from a provider of short supplemental classes into a sort of innovation pipeline, with a rich website and conference series on one end, an expanding array of classes in the middle, and at the other end incubation labs for startups and corporate skunkworks teams, as well as a strong global alumni network, Wired Business reports.

The ongoing expansion is meant not only to make the university a bigger player in the world of business, but also to influence elected leaders and other policymakers, to spread ideas and values from the university to dozens of foreign countries, and to change the way humans are educated at a time of rapid technological progress.

Singularity University’s CEO Rob Nail is taking SU beyond its existing graduate-student and executive classes and into the sort of memetic networking you might see at a TED Conference, the sort of online learning you might experience on a website like Udacity, and the sort of business mentoring you might get at a startup hatchery like Y Combinator.

The university would like to become a for-profit benefit corp and is moving toward a hybrid approach that expands the physical component of schooling, adding collaborative startup offices and live events, even as the university works to build a content-rich internet platform and a powerful online community of alumni.

Key to Nail’s plan is Singularity Labs — nearly two dozen offices recently added to Singularity University’s campus at NASA Ames, together with some classroom-style spaces and laboratories — to expand the incubator program and bring in startups focused on security, energy, and even outer space.

SU also plans to build an interactive site that that can take some elements of the Singularity U curriculum to a wider audience, possibly in partnership with Udacity or some other online education venture.

“We really need to have as one of our track chairs an AI [artificial intelligence] faculty member,” Nail says. “Not a faculty member that’s teaching AI — a faculty member that is an AI. And we’re dead serious. … If anyone should be testing that, it should be us.”