What Traditional Academics Can Learn From a Futurist’s University


Singularity University, founded by futurists Ray Kurzweil and Peter H. Diamandis, forward-looking thinkers who share ideas about where technology is headed in the near future and in the long term, is designed to study technologies that are manifesting exponential change. The first ever nine-week session was held last summer and cost $25,000 per student. The course was divided into three parts: In the first three weeks, students attended lectures by experts from business and academe. Over the next three weeks, students each chose one of four areas to research. And the final three weeks, students worked in groups on global challenges that aimed to help at least a billion people around the world.

The article below cites that more than 1,200 students applied to fill the 40 slots, making the program more selective than Harvard University. James A. Dator, director of the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies, at the University of Hawaii-Manoa says Singularity University is an example of the rise in interest in futurology with courses offered at Anne Arundel Community College (Arnold, Maryland), the University of Notre Dame and San Diego City College.

The article also mentions that higher education has experienced relatively small changes: “Compared to most other markets, higher education in particular really hasn’t felt the earthquake,” says Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster who is a consulting professor at Stanford University, and chair of the futures-studies track of Singularity University. More “futures studies” at the university level would require better preparation of high schools students. LifeBound’s new book, Critical and Creative Thinking for Teenagers sparks innovative thinking, is cross-disciplinary by examining critical and creative thinking through various lenses and promotes media and technology skills. Such a curriculum would equip today’s high school students with the skills necessary to brainstorm and tackle the world’s greatest problems. For more information about this resource visit www.lifebound.com.

What steps can higher education take to embrace the technological strides over the last 50 years?

How can we promote critical and creative thinking in the classroom via technologies?

How can “futures studies” enhance 21st century skills among today’s students?


The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 14, 2009
What Traditional Academics Can Learn From a Futurist’s University
By Jeffrey R. Young
Moffett Field, Calif.

“We’re going to be unapologetically interdisciplinary,” said Neil Jacobstein, chairman of the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, during one of the first lectures at Singularity University. “That’s not because it’s fashionable, or because the faculty took a vote, but because nature has no departments.”

The students burst into applause.

That dig against traditional institutions was par for the course at the unusual new high-tech university, which wrapped up its first nine-week session at NASA’s Ames Research Center here last month. Students were asked to come up with technological projects that would help at least a billion people around the world, reflecting the techno-utopian vision of the institution’s founders.

To view this entire article visit www.chronicle.com

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