NASA, Google and ISU Founders Create Singularity University at Ames


With the support of NASA, Google and a broad range of technology thought leaders and entrepreneurs, a new university will launch in Silicon Valley this summer with the goal of preparing the next generation of leaders to address “humanity’s grand challenges.”

Singularity University (SU) ( will open its doors in June 2009 on the NASA Research Park campus with a nine-week graduate-level interdisciplinary curriculum designed to facilitate understanding, collaboration, and innovation across a broad range of carefully chosen scientific and technological disciplines whose developments are exponentially accelerating.

SU co-founders Dr. Ray Kurzweil and Dr. Peter Diamandis unveiled plans for the new university today at the annual TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Conference in Long Beach, Ca.

“We are now in the steep part of the exponential trajectory of information technologies in a broad variety of fields, including health, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence,” said Kurzweil.

“It is only these accelerating technologies that have the scale to address the major challenges of humanity ranging from energy and the environment, to disease and poverty. With its strong focus on interdisciplinary learning, Singularity University is poised to foster the leaders who will create a uniquely creative and productive future world.”

The People Behind SU

SU has been founded by a group of leaders including:

  • renowned author and futurist, Dr. Ray Kurzweil;
  • space entrepreneur and chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation, Dr. Peter Diamandis;
  • Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, Pete Worden;
  • co-founder of the International Space University, Dr. Robert Richards;
  • International Space University President, Dr. Michael Simpson, and,
  • a group of Associate Founders who have contributed philanthropic capital, time and key relationships.

Singularity University is also engaging a small number of corporate founding companies that will play a special role in the university’s growth and direction. The first Corporate Founder is Google and several more will soon be named.

Speaking on behalf of Google, Chris DiBona, Open Source Program Manager, said, “Google is proud to be a founding Corporate Sponsor for the Singularity University. By focusing on exponentially growing technologies and their ability to address the world’s grand challenges, this interdisciplinary institution will fill a critical need.”

“We are reaching out across the globe to gather the smartest and most passionate future leaders and arm them with the tools and network they need to wrestle with the grand challenges of our day,” said Diamandis. “There is no existing program that will offer the breadth and intensity that SU will offer.

During the year, between the Graduate Summer Programs, SU will offer a unique 3-day and 10-day program for CEOs and executives that will give them the forward-looking radar they need to determine how these key technologies might transform their companies and industries in the 5-10 years ahead.”

“Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis have pulled together an extraordinary group of leaders across a broad spectrum of disciplines. The challenges facing our planet are profound,” said Dr. Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google. “Creating a network of future world leaders across the range of exponentially growing technologies addressed by Singularity University will have profound implications. We need the best hearts and minds working together toward a common cause.”

A First-of-Its-Kind Curriculum

Developed in consultation with some of the world’s leading thinkers and academicians in science, technology and ethics, the curriculum provides a broad, interdisciplinary exposure to ten key fields of study: future studies and forecasting; networks and computing systems; biotechnology and bioinformatics; nanotechnology; medicine, neuroscience and human enhancement; AI, robotics, and cognitive computing; energy and ecological systems; space and physical sciences; policy, law and ethics; and finance and entrepreneurship.

“The exponentially increasing power of computers and optical networks, when combined with developments in AI, nanotechnology, and other technologies, will create extraordinary opportunities,” said Dr. Larry Smarr, Harry E. Gruber Professor, Computer Science and Engineering at UCSD, and Director at California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology. “Singularity University is uniquely positioned to prepare students for these coming innovations.”

“It’s a first-of-its-kind curriculum, designed to provide students with a solid understanding of what is possible today, as well as an understanding of where the real opportunities exist for innovation that might spring from where the technologies converge,” said Salim Ismail, Executive Director of SU. “And our relationship with ISU gives us a living model to build and develop the university.”

A Home at NASA Ames

SU was founded on September 20, 2008 at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California. It is modeled after the successful International Space University, founded at MIT in 1987, which has become one of the leading interdisciplinary, international and intercultural institutions for the study of space.

Singularity University has leased space on the NASA Research Park campus, with plans for a permanent facility in the near future, and will be offering a 9-week graduate-studies program as well as 3-day “C-level” and 10-day “mid-level” management programs.

Among the University’s founders is Pete Worden, Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, in Silicon Valley. “The NASA Ames campus has a proud history of supporting ground-breaking innovation, and Singularity University fits into that tradition,” said Worden. “We’re proud to help launch this unique graduate university program and are looking forward to the new ideas, technologies and social applications that result.”

About SU

Singularity University (SU) is an interdisciplinary university whose mission is to assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies (bio, nano, info, AI, etc.), and apply, focus and guide these tools to address humanity’s grand challenges.

With the support of a broad range of leaders in academia, business and government, SU hopes to stimulate groundbreaking, disruptive thinking and solutions aimed at solving some of the planet’s most pressing challenges. SU is based at the NASA Ames campus in Silicon Valley. For more information, go to

  • Nickolai_the_Russian_Guy

    I remember you covered this same project a while back. They certainly sound less crazy than last time, when they were talking about the “impending singularity”

    I think the idea of a singularity is a little silly. AI is a technology that is “beyond-the-horizon,” that is to say, there’s no credible science or technology around today that can achieve that goal. And IMHO, it’ll stay that way for a while. Automation is great, but only when it’s the dull mundane tasks like cleaning dishes and vacuuming. I don’t want a program that can THINK for me.

  • amalie

    Will the “impending singularity” happen at Hangar One perhaps, as in Doug’s topical illustration. It about time, we need an AI that can help us all to come to terms with the tremendous problems.

    I wouldn’t mind washing dishes and vacuuming floors if I knew that a significant and internationally empowered computational capacity was busy figuring out how all the billions of global inhabitants could have enough to eat next year.

    It is time to make AI work for us in the best possible ways, AI will make our transition into a future world a far kinder and less painful one.

    AI doesn’t and could not possibly “think” for anyone, it can only help to solve problems when properly requested and informed, but AI will support for more skillful and confident solutions against the huge problems that might come up.

    The credible science for such a technology already exists, it is just a matter of determining what the new horizon looks like.

  • Lucus

    NASA is a US government agency and shouldn’t be involved in running universities. How much of my money did you take? The ONE OBAMA University is next?

  • amalie

    NASA Ames is already leasing to several universities, including Carniegie Mellon and an upcoming land lease for the construction of a UCSC affiliated campus. I do not think any of these educational partnerships involve NASA fundings.

  • Nickolai_the_Russian_Guy

    I have an issue with your post. You say “I wouldn’t mind washing dishes and vacuuming floors if I knew that a significant and … was busy figuring out how …everyone could have enough to eat.”
    But then you say “AI doesn’t and couldn’t possibly ‘think’ for anyone”

    Aren’t you suggesting in the first statement that AI is thinking for you, and so contradicting yourself in the second?

    As far as I understand it, the concept of AI means that it actually does think for you. The real point of application is building a program that can make programs better (i.e. remove bugs). You can put in certain bugs you know can occur, but a regular program from today won’t be able to do anything past that. An AI would be able to see issues with the program that you hadn’t thought of, and so would do your work for you. I don’t see any technology that can accomplish that today.

    I think you’re interpreting AI differently from me. I don’t doubt that life will become more automated and that we’ll develop powerful algorithms to help us solve complex problems, but I don’t see these algorithms finding new ways to solve the problem on their own.

  • amalie


    Oh dear it looks as if this conversation just wants to keep going … if we are going to continue talking about washing dishes and vacuuming floors I will try and keep up with you …

    I am probably interpreting AI in a different way.

    I agree with you that algorithim’s will not find new ways to solve problems on their own … not even if they are to a certain extent self structured systems.

    The ability to self program would be a remarkable one, but would this ability suffice as providing the definition for what “thought” is ? What is the definition of AI, Self reflective, self sufficient or self modified does not necessarily determine for intrinsically human properties, unless you are thinking of the philosophical arguments.

    AI is perhaps only as useful or a viable as the problem that it can solve, and the problem has to be supplied from an outside source .. the world or human beings.

    AI cannot exist for itself because for AI to exist it must have an external dimension to focus on in order to manifest, in the same way that there must be an suitable object in front if you are determine a perspective.

    Just because AI can solve many problems doesn’t mean it can “think” … AI can solve problems if given references but only because it is programmed by human beings to do that job, not because of any alternative type of mystical or superhuman ability that might be posited in the machine itself.

    No matter how advanced and independent an AI ability might become it is still only a product of the human mind, and that ability can only be seen in human terms if it is to have any value.

    There are other alternatives perhaps, not such benign ones for a virtual world of automated complexity, but they still come down to a human manipulation of the world through the AI affects.

    Some levels of friendly AI can be introduced even now, they might not be as sophisticated as the further models perhaps but still very worthwhile.

    I would love to see what Singularity has in mind for a very practical level of educational outreach, for understanding what the early AI potentials represent in the world of today and how those can be implemented .

    I do not think the Singularity is a theory, it is actually a very practical discovery that has been wrapped in a hypothetical theory, and yes I think we got there ..