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What Traditional Academics Can Learn From a Futurist's ­niversity

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Singularity University Chancellor Ray Kurzweil

Singularity's unique approach to education is influenced by the work of Ray Kurzweil, the university's chancellor and a trustee.

Credit: The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Singularity University program combines technology, futurism, and corporate support to question well-entrenched perspectives on learning and technology. The program has a specific focus on how technology is changing society with futurist ideas that include the advance of artificial intelligence to the point where it outdistances the human intellect — a notion espoused by program co-founder Ray Kurzweil.

Singularity University takes a unique approach to education that is more in line with a fast-paced startup than an institution. In keeping with Singularity University's precept that people should be proactive in shaping the future, the students wielded sizable influence over the program's progress and the configuration of the agenda. Most of the sessions focused on technology's potential positive effects on the world.

A small number of universities have departments or centers dedicated to "futures studies." James A. Dator with the University of Hawaii-Manoa's Hawai'i Research Center for Futures Studies says that such studies have the benefit of challenging the "pro-growth" assumptions of universities themselves. Stanford University professor Paul Saffo says that technology appears to have had very little transformative effect on higher education, and notes that "it hasn't had the, 'Oh my god, the world is different from now on.' Higher education is still pretty much the way it was in the 1950s."

From The Chronicle of Higher Education
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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