In physics, a singularity is the place where the rules as we know them break down. Nothing of the other side can be known.
More recently, with the manifestly exponential growth in computing power and intelligence modelling, the term has morphed to capture the moment at which artificial intelligence exceeds that of humans. Scientists write seriously about the outcomes.
Today humanity is so brave (or foolhardy) it relies from time to time on the expectation that things on the other side will prove favourable, perhaps even save us.
Peter Diamondis and Ray Kurzwell are two of the most prominent and recognised optimists who seek to harness the power of exponential improvement for human benefit.
The Singularity University, based in San Francisco, is the flagship vehicle for their project.
Three South African brothers, Mic, Shayne and Kevin Mann, founders of Mann Made Media, bring the university to South Africa. With one of their principal goals being to “future-proof Africa”, they host the Singularity University South Africa Summit at Kyalami on August 23 and 24.
Little is ever certain in South Africa’s future. No one could claim, though, that this is a country that is unable to negotiate discontinuous change.
Perhaps this is just the time and place for genius, optimism and maybe a little madness. Nothing can be known for sure about the singularity. But risk comes with reward.
* The event is sponsored by Standard Bank, Deloitte, SAP and MTN.
* See https://singularityusouthafricasummit.org/
Founded by Peter Diamondis and Ray Kurzwell, the Singularity University’s mission is to educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.
With a focus on subjects like artificial intelligence, robotics and digital biology, the university’s learning and innovation platform aims to empower individuals and organisations with the minset, skillset and network to build breakthrough solutions that leverage technologies for these purposes.
Diamondis maintains that “creating abundance is not about creating a life of luxury for everyone on the planet; it’s about creating a life of possibility.”
The Summit speakers
* Dr Adriana Marais (South Africa), Space Mining – is a theoretical physicist and Head of Innovation at SAP Africa and aspiring extra-terrestrial with the Mars One project. One of the 100 astronaut candidates to move to the red planet in the next decade, she hopes to find evidence of whether life exists on Mars.
* Sarah Bergbreiter (US Robotics) – runs the Maryland microbiotics lab at the University of Maryland, where she develops innovative technologies to advance medicine, consumer electronics and other sciences. Her topic is The Robots are Coming Here.
* Ashley Anthony (South Africa) – is a geophysicist who has spent a lot of time trying to understand how artificial intelligence can be used to make businesses operate better.
* Carlo Van De Weijer (Holland) – is Director of the Strategic Area Smart Mobility at Eindhoven University of Technology and works for TomTom. He advises governments and industries around the world on the future of technology and mobility.
* Jason Silver (US – Summit host) – is a media artist, futurist, philosopher, keynote speaker and television personality. The creator of Shots of All, a short film series of “trailers for the mind” that serve as philosophical espresso shots exploring innovation, technology, creativity, futurism and the metaphysics of the imagination, he is also the host of the National Geographic television series, Brain Games.