Digital Biology: Rewriting Life with Technology

Digital Biology: Rewriting Life with Technology

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We live in a science fiction world where we can grow human organs in pigs and very soon trust AI to diagnose cancer 12 years early. How will your business… and your body… adjust to the future?

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In this episode, we talk with Dr. Tiffany Vora, Head of Faculty at Singularity University, about Digital Biology and treating DNA like computer code.

  • 5:00 the global SU faculty
  • 11:00 Digital Biology
  • 17:00 Building DNA like legos
  • 24:00 Radical transparency and programming the future of life
  • 30:00 Bio Brokers… who owns your body’s data?
  • 35:00 Moving from sick-care to healthcare
  • 54:00 Developing your spidey sense

Tiffany’s mission is to boil down the education from the past 1000 years and only keep the good stuff. “And, to burn down the rest! That’s the moon shot, the meta-vision.”

Tiffany’s Journey

Tiffany started out studying chemistry but then quickly moved into genetics research under Dr. Jane Hubbard. She decided to go to grad school instead of med school after her undergrad at NYU. She worked for a pharmaceutical company for a bit and began learning about cutting edge medicine before starting her PhD at Princeton.

She then invented a genetics tech in her grad program that had 19 million datapoints.

She completed her PhD in molecular biology and then went to teach in Cairo, Egypt. After Egypt, she transitioned out of economics and started her science communications writing and editing business. She worked with Stanford during that time and connected with Singularity University through Stanford.

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SU Faculty

Tiffany talks about the community feel of the faculty who are mostly come-and-go mentors and teachers. “There’s just a handful of full-time faculty,” she says. The group is always working to generate more and more community and conversation in all the faculty. “I feel like I’m doing my job if I ask the one question that nobody has the answer to.”

Tiffany says the faculty experience is really fun, and each person has the expertise to challenge startups and ask the tough questions that spur companies forward.

SU has parters in 6 different regions who all have similar core values and understanding of technology. Tiffany mentions how much they all learn from each other by sharing expertise from region to region.

Where is Tiffany learning about tech innovation?

“My biggest bias is that I believe technology can be used for good. I don’t believe that the robot apocalypse is coming. …I have very strong positions about that!”

Tiffany is a biologist by training, but she watches space tech, blockchain and AI to look for convergence points. How will these fields come together to create new solutions?

Digital Biology

11:15 This field helps us conceptualize biology in the same way we think about tech. All life on earth stores life as “A, C, T, G.” So anything you can do with computer code you can do with genetic code.

  • If you want to move large chunks of code? That’s genetic engineering.
  • Want to write your code from scratch? That’s synthetic biology.
  • Want to debug the code one letter at a time? That’s genome editing.

So, we really can think as if the biology is the technology. This is the science that is most closely infiltrating our daily lives, Tiffany says.

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What do the next 5-10 years look like for business owners and the rest of us?

As information becomes digitized, a whole new landscape opens for people and businesses. Once it’s digitized, we can:

  • Turn it into AI
  • Track it and create patterns and trends to predict people’s needs
  • Fix problems in biology with tech
  • Locate where problems are coming from

The first time the human genome was mapped was hugely expensive – thousands and thousands. Now, you can get the same information at about $200. That’s a huge business opportunity!

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Writing Life

17:00 Now, you can build DNA molecules from scratch, like 3D printing. It’s becoming faster and cheaper, and you can create longer pieces. The longer the pieces you can create, the closer you get to writing full life programs.

I could then have the power now to program a bacterial species to eat the oil up after an oil spill. It’s like thinking about biological and life science problems with an engineering mindset. You can even make CBD and THC with yeast molecules!

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So, Tiffany says, “We think about, what am I trying to do that life has already figured out how to do? How can we learn from what the natural world is trying to tell us?”

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Crisper

“Anything I can do to a bacterium, I can do to a human. What we can do right now is use gene editing and a couple of other tricks to make sure that no mosquito on earth could give a disease like malaria or yellow fever. 

What that means is if you were to release these mosquitos into the wild you could probably affect every mosquito on the planet in about 18months. Now, we’re actually talking about what species we want to edit or wipeout.”

24:00 Tiffany talks about radical transparency and talking to the recipients, customers, and patients of any shift a government or corporation can make. “We need to be open, transparent, and honest and have as many eyes as possible on as much data as possible. That’s a new way to run a business.”

“Climate change is an existential threat to the human species and every other species on the planet. I don’t see another way that we’re going to get out of this… we can’t throw these tools away. Genetically Modifying Organisms is what humans have been doing for centuries, and it’s been hurting the planet.”

Who owns your Bio-Data?

30:00 Tiffany says she’s watching the field of Bio Brokers. This field is out to give your FitBit data and 23&Me data back to you to own and sell.

This way, individuals would:

  1. Know who has access to the information
  2. Know the value of that information and how to sell it
  3. Know who to sell it to and how they will use it.

Nebula Genomics, for example, has built a cryptocurrency-protected marketplace where you can have your genome mapped and then sell it to companies who need it to test their medical products.

Tiffany talks about tracking inequalities in different demographics- gender-based inequality in access to food and health opportunities. They figured out a way to design a city so that being fit and healthy had more to do with where you live and less to do with your gender.

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Moving from Sick-Care to Healthcare

35:00 Picture a future in which your toilet is looking for cancer DNA in your stool… moving to preventative care that is very accessible.

Also, giving you all the data and information to optimize your own health. There’s “all these misaligned incentives in healthcare… it’s not right that a hospital can order more tests that the patient doesn’t need in order to meet their profit margin.” Now, too, Tiffany says, doctors and nurses are treated as trusted consultants instead of authorities. Think too that instead of taking 8-10 years of training to make a doctor, it will take a few days to program an AI to diagnose more accurately than a doctor.

That’s an education problem… but it’s exciting to think about the health that could be possible for us.  And, it’s more about giving doctors a superpower.

Recommendations… are there living things in your supplies?

If we don’t have any more cows in the future because we’re growing beef in a lab, is your gelatin product going to be outmoded?

For real estate… is the house in a food desert? Is obesity more probable in your area? How is the water there? We’ll be thinking about these things in the quality of our daily life.

Future Implications Wheel…

In the example of growing human organs in pigs: what are the other implications?

Should I be able to smoke if I can just get a new pair of lungs?

Will we have less kids if we know we can replace organs in pigs and not through sibling organ transfers?

Where will we put all these pigs?

Will people try to replace their whole body and live forever?

“I do believe we are capable of building technologies and processes that point us toward a more positive future.”

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Developing your Spidey-Sense

54:00 Tiffany talks about the microbiome industry and the amazing new partnership available now.

“This is how you would write science fiction! It’s almost a wrong term… this is how I think the future is going to learn! Write science fiction for you business so you can let yourself play without rules!”

Dr. Tiffany talks on editing species in this awesome video:

 

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The Revolutionary Keyboard for People with Motor Disabilities

The Revolutionary Keyboard for People with Motor Disabilities

In many parts of the world, students who cannot operate technology or participate in a classroom often drop out by high school.

With Key2Enable software, students can use technology with the motor function available to them, and easily participate in school and life.

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Episode Summary

In this episode, we’re speaking with William de Oliveira, the Cofounder and President at Key2Enable Assistive Technology. The mission of Key2Enable is to help kids with movement disabilities to stay in school and get great jobs with access to technology that they can use easily.

  • 1:30 The mission and founding story
  • 4:00 How it works and who can use it
  • 9:00 Global Goal 10: Reduce Inequalities
  • 16:00 Tech Specs
  • 20:00 Going to market and the Indiegogo launch
  • 32:00 How to support

We’ll cover the founders’ story, how the technology works, as well as the impact of the technology on emerging markets and underserved populations. Listen in and enjoy!

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The Mission

The company was founded in Brazil and now operates out of Florida. The Key X on their keyboard enables any motor-disabled person to operate a keyboard. William says,

The key X enables any person with a severe motor exhibit to have full access computers, tablets and smartphones. We give it to kids who cannot hold a pen or pencil and cannot vocalize words or speech in a regular classroom. The, they can stay in school and participate, and we can create an opportunity for them to work after they finish school.”

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The Founding Story

The founder, [01:58] Glacial Fernandez, was born with cerebral palsy. He was using a pointer to do his job, and created a concept to solve his own problem. He met Adriano and Julio and partnered with the two of them to create a prototype. Then they met William and Alexandros to help with distribution.

After starting in Brazil 5 years ago, the technology gained momentum and is now expanding into the US. “We’ve reached about 1000 students now,” William says.

How it Works

04:08 “With the first concept we created the key X. After that we created a few accessories:

  • Blink Accessory With the blink of an eye you can work with the keyboard. The sensor picks up eye movement and translates it to actions on the keyboard.
  • Squeezer Tool With the squeezer tool, students can squeeze with any part of their body.
  • Keyboard Button The keyboard button simplifies the use of the keyboard.

So in other words, if a person has any movement capability in their body, they can work with the Key X and access computers, tablets and smartphones.

Who Can Use Key2Enable Tools

[05:47] People with cerebral palsy and people with Parkinson’s find the tools useful since they have spasms in their hands and they moved all the time. Optical devices don’t work for them. They cannot access small keys on a keyboard or point straight to them.

“Our target is the people with severe motor disability. They are the ones who are always left out.

Our keyboard has nine very spaced out, large keys and motor-sensitive accessories that allow them to do anything we do on a regular keyboard.”

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Staying in School

After these kids finish middle school or high school, they don’t have many opportunities in life because they don’t have the assistant who was taking notes. In places like Brazil, the assistant isn’t a given. Even in the States, the assistant may not be assigned in high school or college.

With the key X, they can now:

  • Work from home
  • Work from an office
  • Use Whatsapp and communication tools
  • Schedule appointments
  • Stay in school and participate in the conversation
  • Play games

That’s 200 million people in the world who can now participate.

10 million in the states.

“It’s No Child Left Behind – that’s kids with cerebral palsy and adults with Parkinson’s. It gives opportunity back to them.”

Global Goal #10: Reduced Inequalities for All

Specifically, Global Goal 10.2: Promote universal social economic and political inclusion.

Key2Enable innovates in multiple other Global Goals as well:

  • Goal 4: Quality education. People can now get online and gain access to Google or other learning tools.
  • Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth. Now, this whole population has access to work.
  • Goal 10: Reduced inequalities. Key2Enable gives more equal opportunities in school and work to those who were previously marginalized.

“We saw so many teachers, so many parents crying because they never knew their kids could do these things. It’s a new world for them.”

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Technology Specs

[16:00] It’s around 14 inches, or the size of a microwave. It’s two pounds and there’s nine buttons with two different modes. One is for writing and one is for using different colors. That allows people to write all the letters of the alphabet, all numbers, and even other languages and letters with accents. They can do anything a regular computer can do.

“We have one teenager, Daniel, who is learning to code Java by blinking his eyes.”

“One girl in Brazil, one of our first users, is now the top performer in the school in mathematics. She used to use an assistant, and now she’s at the top of her class.”

Going to Market Dec 11th, 2019

The technology went to market 2 years ago and hit US markets on December 11th. You can find them on Indiegogo and buy keyboards for school districts, individual kids and nonprofits.

Key2Enable intends to put their assistive products in the hands of every person in need all over the globe.

“Money is the first challenge, and trying to understand the way the market works,” William says.

Key2Enable will be developing partnerships with foundations and school districts to support distribution and subsidize the cost.

Chandler and William talk about validating a hardware product:

“The first four letters are the hardest! But at the same time you have to integrate everything: the plastic strength, the visual, the colors, the layout… the challenge goes from the hardware to everything in the system!”

Purchasing the Tech

The keyboard is $750 and will be available on Amazon and through Indiegogo. Partners will distribute it in local counties in the US, and online store sales will grow after 2019.

Visit the Key2Enable website and their Indiegogo Campaign to stay up to date on their

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Takeaways

  1. Building a product based on a real need: the cofounders solved their own problem and then made it available to the world.
  2. Digital Inclusion: A tool or product can unlock a whole world for someone.
  3. Check out Key2Enable website and their Indiegogo Campaign to learn more and contribute!
Let’s Talk About the Future: The Global Grand Challenges App

Let’s Talk About the Future: The Global Grand Challenges App

Podcast Summary

SU works with organizations of all shapes and sizes: corporations, startups, NGOs, governments, academia, you name it! They help people understand how technology is transforming the future and how they can prepare for that transformation. In this episode, hear about…

  • 2:00 How SU addresses the Global Goals
  • 4:00 Solving Problems with Vision Instead of Tactics
  • 7:00 SU’s Global Grand Challenges
  • 12:00 The brain-computer and casting a vision
  • 22:00 The Global Grand Challenges App
  • 33:00 Challenge: Go have a conversation with someone about… the future.

 

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[0:27] Singularity University was founded about a decade ago with a recognition that technology is advancing at an extremely rapid pace in the world, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that these powerful developments of technology are leveraged in a way that makes the world a better place.

“So the mission really is to build this community of leaders that are empowered and equipped to leverage the advancement in technology to tackle some of the greatest challenges that we face in the world,” Brett says.

What is Singularity up to with the Global Goals?

[02:00] SU thinks about addressing the Global Goals in two main ways:

  1. Resource Needs These are the things we need to survive and then societal needs– the things that we need to thrive. So on the one side of resource needs, we’re thinking about everything from food, water to energy, space, and resources.

2. Preparing for the Future These areas of development include education, healthcare, and mitigation of future risks.

 

 

To tackle these two categories, SU has developed a very large global community that they have been building for this last decade. Today they are at about 200,000 people in 131 countries in scope.

There are chapters set up in 142 cities around the world, and now they are beginning to launch different types of country partnerships to spread the global footprint. Brett says,

“We tried to bring together around this one common mindset and this one common vision of what we can do together and what we can accomplish.

We believe we have with these tools in our world, like technology to bring about a future of abundance to bring about a future where people, no matter where you are on this planet, you’re no longer experiencing these different types of global grand challenges or they’re at least being reduced in some meaningful way.”

Solving Problems with Vision Instead of Tactics

[04:13] The SU community frames the global grand challenges with a slightly more broad view on the future state that we can imagine within each of these challenge spaces. Brett mentions that there’s something really fascinating in the psychology of problem-solving that has come up as their community has taken on the goals: humans tend to react to problems with fixes and solutions, rather than creating a vision for a new possible future.

“The vision tends to get a much more compelling response from people,” Brett says.

The Stimson Center Study

[04:57] The Stimson center is a nuclear threat reduction think tank. They were curious about why people globally were not actively getting involved in the question of nuclear threat. It’s a very real, very tangible issue for people today… but no one was getting involved.

What they discovered was that the more seriously a threat or a problem was framed, the less likely people were to actually get involved in solving it. It’s sort of an unexpected psychological reaction where people think “oh, if it’s such a serious problem, then someone smarter and more specialized must be taking care of it and I don’t necessarily need to take action.”

This research pointed the Stimson center to look toward the future vision that people can create together. a future vision is more motivating and it doesn’t elicit that same “someone else is taking care of it” reaction.

[05:44] “So that idea is really baked into our approach to the global grand challenges. We’re creating future visions of what we can achieve, and we are inviting people to come together and take action as a community.”

SU’s Global Grand Challenges

The Global Grand Challenges road map will be created together with SU’s global community, faculty, startups and partners to become a core part of their thought leadership. They will:

  • Help people find the opportunities that truly make sense for them to take on.
  • Show the small steps each group can take.
  • Show some of the large steps we can take as a community.
  • Help orient people toward the types of R&D breakthroughs that we might need in order to push an industry or push a challenge space forward.
  • They’ll include policy changes that we believe would be very helpful in shaping the correct ecosystem to let this change come about.
  • The GGC’s will also incorporate technological developments to guide people through leveraging technology.
The Brain Computer

[12:27] Ray Kurzwell had one specific prediction that influences SU greatly: that within 10 or 15 years people will be able to hold in our hands a computer that has the processing power of a human brain for $1,000.

So that’s a computer that can process 16 trillion calculations per second and we’ll have that kind of computing power in their hands.

[14:54] The prediction is that this power of computing and access to technology will be spread all around the world. It will begin opening up completely new markets… completely new communication channels. It will begin to level the playing field a little bit more from country to country and from continent to continent.

The Exponentially Growing SU Community

[20:29] “So we have this massive community of 200,000 people in 131 countries and right now that community convenes primarily around geographies and country partnerships that we have. But we’ve been asking, “how can we start to create smaller action groups within that large Global SU community? Can they come together around existing interests and existing industries?

These are called the Singularity University micro-communities.

Measuring, Reporting and Validating Micro-community Actions

[21:12] Brian asks, “How do we truly take ownership for something that’s happening out in the world, especially when it’s happening in such a distributed manner? We’ve had about 5,000 initiatives reported from around the world… but we know there’s so much more we’re not capturing.”

[24:28] Just this week we launched a brand new feature through our app, which you can download from the App Store or from Google Play and it. It’s a feature called Impact Goals, and we’re kind of asking our community to set some goals with us as we come into 2019.

So it’s a really simple framework for setting the goals that you would like to achieve in whatever timeframe you’re looking for.”

The app has 6 different pathways:

  1.  Creation of a new organization
  2. Innovation within your existing organization
  3. Education and awareness campaigns
  4. Mobilization of resources
  5. Pursuing policy
  6. Pursuing research and development

Challenge: go have a conversation with someone about… the future.

[33:14] We actually have some really amazing pop culture that we can turn to, Brian says. Whether it’s Scifi that you’re reading or it’s TV shows or movies, we already are seeing questions of the ethical dilemmas and the interpersonal dilemmas. And, some of the social challenges we’re going to see.

“We’re beginning to see these really pervade a popular media. And that makes me really, really excited because that provides framing for people to actually engage in the future together. You can look at possible probable futures and have a meaningful conversation about them without really overextending yourself to try to grasp at new information, or find something that’s not in your world.”

Black Mirror and Star Trek

Brett recommends watching Black Mirror, a TV show about some of the ethical dilemmas that may come up as technology develops more and more. But don’t just watch it, he says, … go have a conversation about it with your family or friends afterward.

[35:35] “I was watching Star Trek Discovery when it first came out, and I specifically remember a scene where the main character is arguing with an AI. She’s reasoning with an AI to try to release her from imprisonment and they’re going back and forth about what moral standard is the most important.

It was this fascinating scene to think about… this is actually something we might have to deal with at some point in time. How do we encode moral and ethical frameworks into our technology? And then how do we actually reason with it and help it evolve?”

That will be the game… constantly evolving. Faster than the technology, hopefully…

 


Takeaways

  • Get ready for the Global Grand Challenges! They’ll be released soon… with roadmaps we can actually use to make a difference, and make better business decisions.
  • Challenge: Keep an eye out for the Road Maps!
  • Challenge: Join one of Brett’s workshops if you’re near San Fransisco.
  • Challenge: Log one of YOUR goals in the App! You can download it here:
22 Preparing Startups for the Abundant Future

22 Preparing Startups for the Abundant Future

Photo credit: Campaign Creators

Singularity University is on a mission to make the world a more abundant place. In this episode, we’ll hear from Molly Pyle, the Senior Program Manager of Singularity University Programs and the Co-Chair of the Women’s Impact Network.

Summary

In this episode we’ll explore the SU ecosystem, learn about the resources they have available, and get a glimpse into the next-level community it will take to prepare for an exponential-tech-driven future.

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[00:51] Ultimately we are working on preparing leaders of the future, whether it’s startup founders, leaders of governments, NGOs, you name it. We really want people to understand the opportunities and the implications of exponential technologies and help them become more connected. Connected to our global ecosystem as well as connected to the future business and tech landscape. We’re asking, how do we ultimately understand how to solve the world’s most urgent and pressing problems?

SU provides program services, information, education, and resources to help folks have the mindset, the tools, and the resources to ultimately transform the future and create a world of abundance.

How Singularity Started: Niching in Exponential Technology

[02:16] “Singularity University was founded by Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis. These guys are very famous thinkers, inventors, futurists and entrepreneurs in their own right respectively. Ray and Peter came together one day and realized that the future’s going to look a lot different than what we currently understand it to be.

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Exponential technologies are those which are rapidly accelerating and shaping major industries. And ultimately every aspect of our life and that if we can understand these exponential technologies like:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Augmented and virtual reality
  • Digital biology
  • Biotech
  • Nanotech
  • 3D printing
  • Blockchain robotics

We want to know how they’re changing and the law of accelerating returns, as Ray Kurzweil called it. We can actually leverage that information to help make the future abundant and help make it a place where everyone has access to what they need to thrive.

With exponential tech, we believe it’s possible to live in a world where nobody wants for anything. It sounds like a crazy sort of idealistic future, but we really view that the future can be anything that you can create it to be.”

An Exponential Mindset

[04:09] “An exponential mindset or an abundance mindset refers to that point of view that we have here at SU: that ultimately there’s no problem that we cannot solve when we apply exponential technologies and innovative ways of thinking. We really have that hopeful outlook on the world and our future. So we want to focus our energies on bringing that information to others and empowering them to create that abundant future we envision.”

The SU Ecosystem

[04:55] SU has hubs or chapters that are led by alumni. People who have gone through a program with us before will go out then into the world and galvanize others around the mission. They can start a chapter anywhere in the world.

“Right now SU has 126 chapters across 63 countries. We have 191,000 community members who either have been to an SU program or are part of an SU chapter and are really keen on the exponential mindset.”

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SU and the UN Global Goals

[08:47] The goals that SU focuses on are the following 12: Energy environment, food, shelter, space exploration, water, disaster, resilience, governance, health, learning and security. SU buckets various sustainable development goals under these 12 global grand challenges.

[09:18] “We are not telling you how to solve these problems. We are not standing on the stage dictating the future and exactly step by step what every country or government or city or organization needs to do. That would be really prescriptive, right? And it’s not our role to do that.

Our role is that of a convener. So we want to bring the right people together with the right skills and the right technology so that they can solve these big pressing problems that honestly should have been solved decades and centuries ago, but we’re still working on them because they’re that hard.”

The SU Community

SU resident entrepreneurs have 7 weeks of in-person mentorship and then 3 weeks of virtual mentorship. The point is to create a global network that resources mission-driven people.

SU is asking, how do you integrate a 190K+ people who already have a shared vision and value set? How do you make sure that they are authentically meeting and connecting with each other and helping each other?

The Startup Ecosystem for Global Problem Solving

[14:03] We’re on a mission within the next 10 years to back 10,000 impact startups. So 10,000 startups using technology, hopefully using exponential technology to solve a global grand challenge to make it a thing of the past.

About Molly

[15:16] “I am the designer, right? I mean, I speak on behalf of them because they are what I believe the lifeblood relate to creating this transformation in the world is through the design of experiences.

[15:34] Molly puts together the right curriculum, the right content, the right speakers, mentors, faculty, and what the program is going to look like so that it transcends everybody’s expectations.

How are businesses going to anticipate technological shifts in your own business model and your roadmap for the next five years?

[21:31] “That’s what we want people to really be challenged with. We understand that is not an easy thing to figure out, so that’s why this program is a hybrid model of in-person and digital support. For a whole year.”

Content Style: Curriculum Designed for Startups

[23:20] “We’ve asked the experts to redesign their usual talks and lectures completely from the ground up with startup founders in mind.”

It’s important that the information is actionable or meaningful to the student. So, even if you think you’re an energy company using blockchain, you listen to the talk on quantum computing and then you listen to the talk on the blockchain, and you realize there is a convergence of those two technologies. You realize that quantum computing is the key for you to massively scale or for you to 10 x your impact.

The Global Startup Program

[25:06] SU is packaging up the content curriculum, the speakers and sending it all over the globe to be – the global startup program. Part of this will take place in another country, another continent, and then faculty and students will come back to Silicon Valley for the accelerate phase. They network like crazy, look for opportunities for funding, meet local mentors, and ultimately then launch out a big demo fair in the valley.

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Where do I start?

[26:52] First, you can access SU’s digital content first and get all of that foundational knowledge before you even enter the first in-person phase. You can get access as a GSP participant to this digital platform with all of the digital courses. That way, you can feel really prepared walking in the first day of the program.

“But even if you’re not in GSP in those digital courses, I’d say they are a great place to start to understand what all this terminology means and beyond terminology. How do I actually integrate this to transform my life and build a future that I want to live in?”

A Fearless Abundance Mindset

[30:12] Molly says, “Once I heard Ray say in a talk, ‘optimism is not idle speculation. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.’

We can create the future that we want. It may seem really daunting and scary sometimes, but an abundance based mindset and ultimately a community of other people who can help you make it happen. With that, anything can happen.”

What do the next decades look like for SU?

[31:33] “We’re really working on our approach to sort of future growth with the platform mindset. So how can we build infrastructure that allows others to create, to convene and to connect ultimately to solve these really huge problems for humanity? So I’d say that’s what we’re thinking about.

Molly talks about the innovators and geniuses in emerging markets who have the creativity to solve global challenges.

[34:52] “If we get voices in the room and people around the table who maybe aren’t often invited- they have answers that are just waiting to be scaled, waiting to be acted upon. To me, that’s also what entrepreneurship is about. It’s a way of, if I may be radical here, decolonizing what current power structures look like by providing people with information, power, resource, and opportunity to create things. They may have never had that opportunity before.”

Molly emphasizes how many of us are all trying to solve the same problems. What kind of velocity could we create once we work together, across genders and cultures, to solve problems?

Takeaways

  • SU is a global organization – because the problems and solutions are global.
  • Challenge: join the SU virtual community and download the app.
  • Let’s increase the speed of our feedback loops, or we won’t be positioned and ready for the ever-changing future.

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20 The Data-Driven Countdown Clock to End Extreme Poverty

20 The Data-Driven Countdown Clock to End Extreme Poverty

Did you know 1.1 people escape poverty every second? The World Poverty Clock uses data to countdown toward Global Goal #1, no poverty. 

Episode Summary

In this episode, we talk with Kris Hamel, Chief Operating Officer at World Data Lab. World Data Lab sources high-quality data and then makes the data come alive in the form of interactive tools, such as the World Poverty Clock. Here’s a podcast summary:

  • 1:45 What is the mission of World Data Lab?
  • 8:15 What is WorldPoverty.io, and why did you join World Data Lab?
  • 13:00 Why did you choose Global Goal #1?
  • 14:50 What is the current state of poverty and how can we remove it?
  • 18:30 How does the tech work?
  • 14:45 How does the business model work for World Data Lab?
  • 27:50 What are some of your biggest 90-day challenges?
  • 32:00 What do you see for the future of impact data in general?
  • 36:30 How can someone get involved?

We’ll focus on how World Data Lab addresses Global Goal #1, no poverty. At worldpoverty.io you can see a real-time estimated number of people living in extreme poverty. Listen in if you’re interested in learning more about interactive data tools and how to help eradicate poverty. 💯

Full Post

The Mission

World Data Lab is a social enterprise operating out of Austria. They are set up to do 2 things:

  1. Income: How much do people earn?
  2. Demography: Where are people likely to live?

“We view these 2 domains as the two biggest questions people will ask themselves, so governments and development organizations will be interested in this data.” 

That’s why the data is important. As World Data Lab sources high-quality data internationally, their job is to get the data peer-reviewed and then make it visual and simple to understand. Their poverty clock shows how many people are living in extreme poverty every single day. You can actually see animated little people escaping poverty, and how close we are to increase the “escape rate” from 1.1 people to 1.6 people per second, which is the rate that would have us reach Global Goal #1 by 2030: to reduce poverty from 8% to 6% of the global population.

“No one can credibly talk about trying to solve SDG #1 (no poverty) or any of the SDG’s if we don’t know the reality of the current situation or the likely future situation… we can design development interventions to try to solve what’s likely to happen. So that’s what our maps give you.”

Kris’ Story

Kris has worked in the development space for 15 years, and worked as a project economist at the World Bank Group. He did infrastructure projects like hydroelectric dams and finance projects to fund them. As he spent time around people with the influence and power over governments, Kris got interested in how best to make a difference.

He then moved to work with the UN on more grassroots initiatives to support marginalized people. Kris was able to see the difference between how to make an impact through large intermediary organizations, and how to make a difference from the bottom up.

He concluded that the real currency is through data “it’s most important give people access to data and help them use data to help them make decisions.”

Why Global Goal #1?

Here are the reasons World Data Lab chose to tackle Global Goal #1: No Poverty:

  • It is a quantified, specific goal that can be tracked
  • Tackling this goal will impact multiple other Global Goals dramatically
  • We can use data on this goal, whereas other goals are more aspirational or broad and less quantifiable.

However, we’re not quite on track to reach the goal by 2030:

  • Currently, there are 630 million people on the planet who make less than $1 per day
  • By 2030 it will still be around 415 million. That is progress, but it’s far from eradicating poverty.
  • Asia will eradicate extreme poverty as a region by 2030, which is huge. Extreme poverty is people making less than $1 per day.
  • So, extreme poverty will be isolated to Africa. The good news is, we can target very specific areas of development as organizations with an aid budget.

“The thing we’re trying to do now with the poverty clock is to get to the next level… we want to tell you which countries in which regions need the most targeted aid.” The data becomes a critical decision-making tool to address poverty where it counts.

The Tech

Kris sees the tech as a 2-step process.

  1. Advance the data and tech familiarity and usage as a 20th-century phenomenon – with visual data clocks and easy-to-read dashboards. They intend to use the data available now and design the best use cases to collect and show it.
  2. Gather data more efficiently. Move from surveys as the sole-source of information and use more reliable and granular techniques to gather information, like satellites and sensors.

Kris shares that gathering and showing data has been a political issue in the past. Governments want to allocate aid funding based on political preferences rather than where the aid was most needed. So as data collection and distribution improves, the politics become less of a block to accomplishing Global Goals.

Sustainability

When developing the poverty clock, it has been important to create a sustainable business model to keep the tech up to date and drive traffic to the website. So, the World Data Lab partners with organizations who find this data valuable.

In the next 90 days, the World Data Lab has 2 goals:

  1. To go deeper than just what survey data can provide.

“What we really want to do is go down to the village level. So our challenges are developing new methods to process satellite imagery data – teach machines how to recognize different attributes in a daylight picture.”

2. Develop games where people upload pictures and information that will crowdsource data.

“We’ve got the platform, now we can improve the credibility of the data and the visual maps we’re working with.”

What’s it going to take to get to 1.6 escape rate (people per second)?

Kris says that the biggest gamechanger for poverty actually isn’t economic growth. “Another place to look is human capital – the extent to which education can be focused on, and transitioning graduates with skills into jobs – that will have the most direct impact on poverty and infrastructure.”

To get involved:

  1. Read the methodology and send feedback.
  2. Go to the world poverty clock and drill down on the country, and check the numbers.
  3. Become an affiliate partner to represent World Data Lab locally, and help develop the next data tools. Contact them at hello@worlddata.io.

Takeaways

Chandler shares his top takeaways at the end of the show:

  1. The role of credible data in society. “It’s tough to know the real information and find legitimate numbers from credible sources about the Global Goals. I love the world data labs put the world poverty clock together and they’re going to expand to other SDGs.”
  2. As a social entrepreneur “I gotta say my favorite part about this tool is just seeing the real numbers behind these grand challenges.”
  3. Asking the right questions. As Kris mentioned, with the current solutions we have as a planet, we’re behind pace to eradicate extreme poverty off the planet by 2030. So, that means there’s a gap in the marketplace. Here are some questions to close that gap:
    1. Who are the top players?
    2. What solutions are out there?
    3. What are the top solutions that have the most leverage?
    4. What do they need to scale faster?
    5. What does your mind think about?
    6. How does the data change the way you see your business if you’re working to tackle global goal #1?

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