In the SU series, we heard from some of the top minds at SU on how to leverage exponential technology and incorporate it into your own business. We saw some of the implications that exponential technology will have on our futures, and we saw the impact this technology will have in solving the Global Goals. Listen in to hear more about Chandler’s 5 biggest takeaways from the SU series.
In this podcast, our goal is to uncover some of the most innovative companies leveraging leading-edge technology, like Singularity University. Companies like SU are taking on the global goals with social-impact driven business models.
We want this podcast to be a resource for you to learn about the innovative tech of our time and integrate it into your business model.
Top 5 SU Series Lessons
Take Away 1: Start by Building a Regular Company… Then Go Exponential
When you’re building out an exponential technology business, one of the best ways to start is just to focus on building a regular company and focusing on solving a problem that you think that you’re uniquely good at that you will be able to specialize in in the marketplace and watch how that company develops organically.
Take Away 2: Bring in an Outside Specialist to Integrate Exponential Tech
One of the best ways to bring technology into your business is to hire someone that specializes in the technology that you want to leverage. Then, they can help you gauge the timing and success rate when you’re building an ‘exponential’ solution… since solutions like these often seem slow to start, and then make great leaps in traction. Only a specialist would be able to gauge whether your pace is a problem or if you’re just days away from the next quantum leap.
Take Away 3: Learn About Exponential Tech Across Industries
Once you get into the technology game, it’s advantageous to actually study all the different kinds of exponential technologies so you can stay on top of the marketplace. The nature of exponential technology is that industries across the world will be disrupted more and more quickly, and you’ll need to keep your eyes on the horizon to keep up and innovate.
Take Away 4: The Data Will Tell You Where to Start Innovating
You don’t have to be a technologist to get into the business of exponential technology. The best way to start is just to become more data-centric. When you start to see patterns in buying habits, online habits, and gaps in the market, you can begin to innovate solutions.
Take Away 5: Seeing The Innovations in Tech and Business Through Singularity
Chandler says, “Maybe I’m a little bit biased on this, but I really enjoyed getting the inside scoop of the latest and greatest of what singularity is up to in the world and their game plan over the next 10 years.” Singularity has been collecting the most innovate companies and technologists all over the world, so following their work will keep you up to date on upcoming opportunities and trends.
We will be taking a short break and when we come back we will start a series Impact Venture Capital, Private Equity Firms and how to measure impact with your portfolio companies at scale. Stay tuned!
Listen in to hear more about my 5 biggest takeaways from the SU series.
In the next 10 years, you will be able to fly above 700mph between cities in a levitating pod. In this episode, hear how the Hyperloop works and what this technological innovation means for city life in the 2020s.
With fast-moving pods magnetically propelled through tubes, people will be able to get to work in places hundreds of miles from where they live… and save time and costs in transportation.
1:30 How the Hyperloop works
7:15 How the project started
14:30 The business model – a tech IP provider
22:00 Is it safe?
37:00 Less stress more opportunity
40:00 Global Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities
45:00 The vision: making cities a wonderful place to live
Listen in to hear how transportation innovation will transform cities as soon as 2028.
The Mission & Mechanics
1:30 The mission of Hyperloop is to create “effortless journeys that expand possibilities.” Leslie says,
“So what that means is that we’re taking a look at mass transportation where we haven’t seen a whole lot of innovation since rail or the interstate. Things that are decades old. We’re thinking, how can we disrupt those systems and innovate? How about mass transportation that is three times as fast as a train? All electric, on demand, direct to destination, and the idea is that we’re really trying to build this system that can give people back time and connect to cities like their metro stops.”
“So we’re looking at speeds that are up to 600 miles per hour where you can get from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes.”
It works in a few basic steps:
A tube is built between two cities, and all the air is sucked out.
Electric copper wires line the bottom of the tube to create a magnetic field that will propel the pod
A fusilage just like an airplane – but without wings – goes into the tube
Since the air pressure in the tube is the same as thousands of feet above sea level, and the tube levitates in the tube with little friction.
How did it get started?
Elon Musk was stuck in traffic in 2013, and an idea that was first introduced in 1913 became a new challenge for him to tackle. Virgin Hyperloop One was founded in 2014 and has been testing and gaining investment ever since.
“We’re looking at the end of the 2020s to get this tech to market,” Leslie says. By 2023 they’re looking to get safety regulations approved, and then by 2028-29 they plan to open the travel to the public.
This means a New York to DC trip will take about 30 minutes on the Hyperloop, and one-hour total accounting for door to door. That trip is usually 4.5 hours if you take a flight door to door, and 4.5-8 by car.
The team is looking at cities that have local desire and momentum for transportation innovation – so, Colorado, Texas, California, etc.
The Business Model
14:30 Hyperloop One doesn’t plan to own all the construction and distribution and setup in cities. They plan to own the IP of the levitation technology and let regional companies manage setting it up with their support.
“When you’re looking at local governments who come to us, who want to see a hyperloop within their region, part of the reason they want to do this is because they see hyperloop as something that’s going to bring in an enormous amount of investment. They see it as a kind of fourth industrial revolution, with new jobs and innovation and things like that. So what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to leverage local expertise, local firms as much as possible to build these routes, which is really a win-win situation.”
Governments that request the project or make it possible as a civic engineering innovation
The passengers creating demand
Shipping initiatives during downtimes or off-hours
“The system is built to support 16000 passengers per hour per direction.”
Is it Safe?
22:00 “The truth is, is that about a third of all train accidents have to do with track failure. And about a third have to do with human failure. So together that’s two thirds. Our system is fully autonomous, meaning we don’t have human error and we also don’t have mechanical switches so nothing has to be pulled, nothing moves for our pod to be able to switch at high speeds. And that’s due to our proprietary limitations system.
So already we’ve kind of designed out a lot of the safety concerns with rail and obviously a lot of the questions that we get when it comes to safety. People say, “I saw this crazy YouTube video and if there’s one hole in the tube then the whole thing is going to collapse like a coke can or something!” Um, and the truth is that that’s not the case.”
What’s the difference between The Boring Company and the Hyperloop?
27:00 “We’re really focused on inter-city travel. So if they’re multiple stops within a city or going to an airport, and also connecting with other cities, that’s where we really see our value proposition.”
The Boring Company is more like highways in-between cities for ultra high-speed travel. Also, the method is more individual or small group travel instead of 16,000 at once.
Less Stress and More Opportunity
More than 2/3rds of the population will live in cities in the near future. This means there’s an urgent need to create transportation for people. One of the benefits of the Hyperloop is that a once dense city can spread out over hundreds of miles, lowering the cost of living and the cost of transportation.
Also, the idea is to have less stress and more convenience. You don’t have to spend a ton of money and plan ahead to live somewhere other than where you work.
37:00 “With Uber, you know that when you click the button, when you click pick me up and you see the price, it’s within a predictable range. It’s somewhat reasonable. I don’t even look at the price anymore. I know that the car was going to come to me. I know that the person is going to care about actually trying to find me, so I don’t want to have to fight to find them for example.”
Global Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
40:00 Here are some of the ways Hyperloop One helps us envision a more sustainable future…
Allowing people to live outside of the city easily, lowering cost of living
Reducing transportation stress
Lowering transportation costs
Using electricity and sustainable materials
Opening up jobs for people who don’t live in cities and have not been able to commute
45:00 “We want to see thousands of kilometers around the world with national hyperloop networks. We’re seeing thriving megaregions that allow people to make the choice for themselves: Where do I want to live? Where do I want to work? If I’m starting a small business? Is there a market opportunity in a city that’s 300 kilometers away? What we really want to support is this future… one where we’ve transitioned off of fossil fuels, where we’re employing highly efficient transportation, and where cities are really just a wonderful place to live.”
1. The business model – Hyperloop One wants to be the best in the world at their tech IP. They’ll build on that IP with partnerships, and let others own the implementation while they own the levitation & tube propulsion technology.
2. The partner economy- That’s how businesses will work in the future – we’ll specialize in what we’re good at and partner with others to implement.
3. The future of cities – What will it be like to live our lives? The job market will open up, real-estate will change… we’ll have more options for our lifestyle as transportation becomes easier and faster.
Dr. Radhika Dirks’ mission is embodied in the organization she’s been building called XLabs. Simply put, the mission is to unleash Moonshots and change the perception of what people think is possible. “Moonshots” are the kind of goals and projects that invent a new era… the kind of projects that will usher in the intelligence age.
3:00 What is a “Moonshot Factory?”
9:00 Inventing the AI mothership, Seldn
15:00 Radhika’s story
21:00 How does AI work?
28:00 Tech that can amplify humans
36:00 How can we understand the exponential?
50:00 The 2 steps to begin designing your moonshot.
The Main Players in the Intelligence Age
XLabs is “a place that can harness the genius of people like Tesla in the 20th century.” His moonshot was a quesiton… how do you capture lightning? This question spurred the invention of electricity as we know it, and prepared the way for Edison after him. The difference between Tesla and Edison though was that no one took Tesla seriously. XLabs intends to prevent that disbelief.
Radhika saw the kind of business and funding going on in Silicon Valley didn’t particularly favor moonshot ideas. Only a specific type of proven-concept startups are favored in the tech hubs of the world, she observed, and so the idea for XLabs was born to give room for unconventional innovation in tech hubs like Silicon Valley.
XLabs spins out 3 companies a year out of the exploration that happens in their research and team-building facilities.
The AI Mothership
9:00 Radhika talks about the gap her team has been addressing in AI… why hasn’t AI totally disrupted business and technology yet? How can we create a company that works like an AI works?
The team started asking questions about the nature of AI to mimic its function in building a company. The company they’re building now learns and grows naturally as their research grows, and therefore informs how AI works. This company became Seldn, which could predict anything from labor strikes to currency changes. Because it was learning from financial models and social occurrences, the company surpassed its 3-year goals in 6 months.
Then… they started looking at what would happen if they opened Seldn’s learning across genetics, culture, media, and geological changes.
15:00 Radhika decided to come to the US at 17 years old, and “I was obsessed with learning about the Universe. How does society work? How does this instrument work?” She wanted to become a physicist and engineer, but she wanted the exposure to research and physics that was available in the States.
She attended Purdue University for physics but wanted to learn engineering to build things people can use. She studied nanotechnology for her masters, and then realized she wanted to learn to build revolutionary ideas, not incremental steps. So, she studied quantum computing for her Ph.D.
Midway through graduate school, Radhika realized that the kinds of people who can build these revolutionary technologies are not the ones who know how to build a business. So, she built a basic business to get the experience to build her first “real” company with a co-founder after grad school.
Then, Shell Oil brought her on, she founded a VC group inside of Shell and eventually moved to San Fransisco to begin building Seldn.
How Does AI Work?
21:00 Radhika distinguishes that AI is a specific kind of software that can mimic the intelligence of a human being. That means it can learn according to an objective, and alter it’s functioning based on what it learns.
Check out this video to see how Dr. Dirks describes AI.
She talks about areas of AI to mimic human functions. For example, “computer vision” to recognize and identify images, and language technology to mimic human intelligence in language. This kind is called “natural language processing.”
The moonshot for AI is to supersede mere automation of things humans can do… Radhika is interested in inventing technology that can do things that humans can’t even do very well. Like financial predictions, causation of societal problems, and creating systemic solutions.
Can we create intelligences to find the origin of diseases?
Can we find drug market sources and address them?
Can we increase safety in volatile cities or countries?
How can we use AI to amplify humans?
28:00 Here’s the matrix Radhika describes to rank different types of AI:
Things that come naturally to humans
Things that are difficult for humans
Things come easily for humans but are difficult for computers
Traditional AI is in this quadrant
Image recognition, language,
Things that are easy for computers today
Things that are difficult for humans but easy for computers
Marketplaces, mapping, problem solving, computation
Things that are too complex for computers
Humans and computers cannot do these tasks well
Predictions, socioeconomic problem solving
Starts with the question, “What is possible?”
What’s the blueprint for the future that we want to see?
36:00 Radhika introduces a though problem to demonstrate how counter-intuitive exponential growth is.
“Imagine you are filling a glass with the bacteria penicillin, which doubles every second. You start at 8:00 am. It will be full by 12:00 noon.
How full is the glass one second before noon? It’s half full.
5 seconds before 12:00 noon, the glass is only 3% full.”
So, we’re often tempted to cut off resources or measure our growth and very discouraged by what we find. But this is how moonshot-exponential growth is happening.
Non-linear frameworks for allowing exponential growth
Most companies and projects build in a linear way, with deadlines and goals. But exponential breakthroughs don’t occur that way. They often arise by accident, in solving a different problem or exploring a solution with a particular constraint.
Leaning into interesting-ness or pursuing novelty
Allowing total freedom to explore, and build solutions on top of one another
So, in order to discover something new, your team will need a lot of freedom, a few purposefully chosen constraints, and a mindset of unattached curiosity… what’s possible?
How do we prepare for change and contribute to the growth as entrepreneurs?
50:00 Radhika gives her top 2 tips for how to make a difference in bringing about the intelligence age:
“More social entrepreneurs need to start adopting this mindset. The mindset that our lives are completely going to change… and starting with creating meaning instead of creating money.
Think about – if you had all the data you could possibly need, what would you build? Start designing it. What would you create in the world with that mindset? Give yourself whatever time frame. Now, come back and ask what is possible for that vision today.”
Then, she says, you will start designing the product that will automatically collect the data you’ll need. Then, you’ll design the incentive for people to share the data that you need to fulfill that vision.
“Here’s what NOT to do… don’t try to become an expert in AI! Don’t compensate for your weaknesses. Build your strengths, and build a team.”
The exponential growth model… how long will it take for our product to be ready? Well, how do I get a specialist on my team so they can tell me how fast things are doubling? Am I 5 seconds from my 12:00 goal of a filled penicillin cup, or 4 hours away?
Do you have someone on your team to understand your timeframe, and stay on the leading edge?
“Since March of 2011, the Syrian Civil War has claimed the lives of over 500,000 innocent civilians, including 20,000 children and 13,000 women.*” Now, AI company Hala Systems has developed technology to sound air raid sirens and alert civil defense ahead of a bombing or conflict to protect the innocent in a warzone.
This means that civilians living in warzones could evacuate and survive where they would have been impacted by surprise air raids before. In this episode, hear how Hala Systems founder John Jaeger became an “accidental diplomat” to grow funding and interest in this technology, and learn more about using AI to address Global Goal 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.
10:00 The conflict and civilian protection industry
15:00 The politics of protecting innocent people
20:00 Saving lives success metrics
24:00 How it works
32:00 Adding magic to AI to protect a lot of people
43:00 Global Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Dave Levin, John Jaeger and a Syrian computer coder founded Hala Systems, which warns Syrians of impending airstrikes. (Rena Effendi)
00:30 Hala Systems is developing advanced solutions for civilian and asset protection accountability and the prevention of violence before, during, and after conflict. They aim to keep people in things safe in places where that’s very, very difficult.
“I spent about 20 years in the private sector, both in the technology and business leadership. Then I accidentally became a diplomat back in 2012, working for the US Department of State primarily on Syria. I recognized about halfway through my tour, but there was a fairly large problem that I didn’t feel as being adequately addressed by the international community.
Idiscriminate civilian bombings.
So I thought, we must be able to do more as an international community to help mitigate the effects of that horrible violence.”
Photo by Rena Effendi for Wired
When John realized his governmental department couldn’t support funding his research and tech development to solve the problem, John left and founded Hala systems with a co-founder and a developer. After little luck with venture capitalists and impact investors, he and his cofounders backed the project themselves to prove the model.
The conflict and civilian protection industry
10:00 A lot of money and a lot of resources and a lot of news coverage is spent on kind of the downstream effects of conflict, John explains. So much funding goes to things like national security spending and things like border security, refugees and asylum and all these other socioeconomic outcomes that start with people feeling unsafe or traumatized in their country of origin.
And while the world spends a tremendous amount of effort to deal with that situation, it comes across the border and affects our society. But we don’t seem to spend as much time trying to actually solve it closer to the source. This is what I saw in Syria. There are 11 million people estimated to have been displaced by the Syrian civil war. $5, million of those people have left Syria completely.
The politics of protecting innocent people
When alerting people of coming attacks, it can look like protection initiatives are “taking a side” in a warzone. So John and his COO are thinking about, “How do we bring solutions, how do we bring protection for civilians regardless of where they happen to live within a conflict space – regardless of what religion they are or what political party they believe in.
We’d like to say that we’re not on any side of a conflict. We are the side of the people who don’t get to pick a side, and those who are the innocent civilians that are caught up in this war and don’t really have another option.
17:00 John talks about the life of a civilian in a warzone is scary, for sure… and he also shares how moving it’s been to see human resilience in the face of danger and uncertainty.
“They can still tell jokes. They can still laugh. They could still sit down and have a cup of coffee with you and talk about the weather. Human beings are astonishing, astonishingly resilient.”
Saving Lives Success Metrics
20:00 So when the team imagines the impact they are creating, they have unique success metrics.
“So when we talk about what, why did we do this, what was the, what were our performance metrics are a success metrics. It was obviously how many lives can we save? How many injuries can we prevent, but maybe bigger than that is how much trauma we could help reduce.
Though it’s been very difficult to get specific numbers of lives lost in the Syrian war, Hala Systems is determined to gether the data of quantifying their impact. They’ve been collecting lots of survivors’ stories, and they were able to measure 20-30% reduction in the lethality of air strikes in areas the tech was set up. “And we think that’s a floor, not a ceiling if we make certain improvements. That was a profound moment for us.”
DIAA AL DIN/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES
How it works
24:00 The main product Hala offers is called Sentry. Here’s how it works:
“Hala’s warning system relies on both human observers and remote sensors to collect data on potential air strikes. The startup is working toward making its network more autonomous, the better to save lives. — Andrea Powell
When observers near government air bases spot warplanes taking off, they enter the type of aircraft, heading, and coordinates into an Android app, which sends the info to Hala’s servers.
Sensor modules placed in trees or atop buildings collect acoustic data, which helps Sentry confirm the type of plane, its location, and flight path.
Software crunches all the data and compares it to past attacks, predicting the likelihood of an air raid, as well as when and where it might occur.
If the potential for an air strike is high enough, the system generates an alert that’s broadcast via social media. Hala has also set up air raid sirens that Sentry can activate remotely. The warning system now gives people an average of eight minutes to seek shelter.
Watch this video to see a walkthrough of the tech dashboard.
Adding magic to AI to protect a lot of people
32:00 “The real magic is actually in the post-processing and so the trick is defined a high enough fidelity signal or a high enough fidelity set of information that you can then clean it up and do something with it using the software. And so we’re using machine learning on that front.”
The team developed a machine learning to survey across languages and gather only data that is relevant to danger of specific types in specific areas. It’s been a constant process to make it more accurate, automated and understandable. At the beginning they started with decision trees. The basics. Then, they would add more and more automated decision making processes in order to scale… and grow without resources.
“It’s great to hear for the listeners that you started with what you had… you didn’t jump into AI right away. You let it grow organically,” Chandler says.
Photo by Rena Effendi for Wired
The business model: a mission-driven for-profit
“It’s a for-profit social enterprise and that, that, that phrase sometimes makes people’s eyes crossed. But essentially what it means is that, oh, we have a double bottom line, right? Uh, so we have a mission, a mission-driven business. We’re registered as a c corporation and we are, we are a for profit.”
John talks about how great it is to get funding from governments – and, that beurocracy can change cashflow unexpectedly. “It takes time to work with governments to solve these problems,” he says, and that’s why they have their for-profit arm. They plan to explore more commercial opportunities as the tech scales and evolves.
“Part of our maturity as an organization is going to be focusing on a SMALL set of the opportunities we have commercially… we have a rich tech stack, here.”
Global Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
43:00 Hala Systems is taking on Global Goal 16 as well as the Global Grand Challenges with Singularity University.
“Security is the obvious one, right?” John says. “But you’ve also got disaster resilience. That’s aided by sensing and response coordination or even health, right? So using predictive analytics to help, uh, see outbreaks or help coordinate a responder, uh, action in the event of an outbreak.”
John says a geographic expansion is next, and also innovating other kinds of predictions and maturing their tech stack. A main goal will also be in assisting in cease-fire monitoring and peacekeeping practices.
“We would love to take a role and be supportive of efforts to actually end wars.”
I think it’s important that we have these conversations and not just not just here, not just between you and me, but, but it’s important that we get the word out, right? We need to all be engaging in a dialogue about how as technology leaders we can use transformative technologies to solve the world’s hardest problems.
Check out the video below from The Unreasonable Institute’s page on Hala Systems, and see more of the impact they’re able to create in the world.
By 2030, AI and robots will most likely take care of all of our day jobs. In this episode, CEO of Singularity University Rob Nail shares some of the most innovative technologies coming to market, as well as the mindset shift we will all need to approach those changes positively.
4:45 How Rob became CEO
6:45 The 10-year Tech forecast
18:45 We don’t have to fear the future
31: How to visualize the future
38:00 The new occupations for humans: Creating empathy, entertainment, and new exploration.
47:00 Choosing our careers and adapting our businesses
Rob’s main priority is to shift how people think about the future – to move away from the dystopian vision that’s so prevalent today and shift the story to be more positive. What if people could begin seeing the future in a utopian light?
Photo Credit Ramin Rahimian
“Making a Scene” with Tony Robbins to meet Peter Diamandis
Rob’s story is interesting – he moved from feeling like an expert as a successful tech entrepreneur to realize how little he know about his technology. Rob attended a week-long executive program at Singularity University and came away with two epiphanies:
4:45 “I like to describe that first week I walked in the door thinking I was the expert in robotics and biotech. In that week I discovered lots of stuff happening in both robotics and biotech I didn’t realize were happening. I was like, how do I think of myself as a geeky silicon valley tech guy!?
Then the second epiphany for me was that I discovered breakthroughs happening in neuroscience and narrative neurology that we’re converging to ultimately disrupt that robotics business that I built. So, it was a good thing I sold it when I did!”
Rob fell in love with the SU team after that, he had found his tribe. He pitched a bunch of ideas to Peter Diamandis and soon found himself on the SU team.
A 10-Year Tech Forecast
6:45 Cofounder Ray Kurtzwell wrote a book called The Singularity is Near, which goes over the “6 Epochs” of humans and technology evolving:
Physics and ChemistryInformation in atomic structure
Biology Information in DNA
BrainsInformation in neural patterns
TechnologyInformation in hardware and software designs
The merger of Technology and Human Intelligence The methods of biology (including human intelligence) are integrated into the (exponentially expanding) human technology base
The Universe Wakes Up Patterns of matter and energy in the universe become saturated with intelligent processes and knowledge
*From The Singularity is Near Page 15
Now, that’s a lot to take in at once. Here’s how Rob summarizes:
“As technology becomes empowered with information layers, it can move at an exponential pace. So you can now take a digital photo, copy it, share it, and it never gets consumed.
So basically just builds exponentially. And that’s not just about computers and photos, but it’s also robotics and neuroscience in biology because we’re effectively digitizing these technologies. Right? So as we moved from analog to digital and we have language around the technology space, it can accelerate exponentially.
Rob mentions that this exponential creation and growth has an interesting way of devaluing the technology and products before it. Technology is outmoding itself at a faster and faster rate.
Did anyone imagine 10 years ago that we would have hundreds of free apps at our fingertips? We thought it might be a better camera and microphone… but not a teacher, a doctor, or a business hub.
10:30 Twenty-five years ago the World Cup Robo Soccer League used these clunky big robots. It was like a lego project that can barely follow a team. You could find a goal with sensors and shoot balls. Today we have high school kids who can program bipedal robots to operate as strategic teams, kicking soccer balls against competitive players.
Robot Dogs… BigDog Robot to MiniSpot
Boston Dynamics came out with the first functioning 4-legged robot to leave the lab.
Check out this video… this robot duplicates a dog’s movement patterns.
It is now possible to turn any female stem cell egg into a sex cell- an egg that could become a child. This means that women can have eggs when they need them… and increasingly we can edit and choose the traits given by the sex cells.
Changing the Narrative About the Future
18:45 When we think about it and where it takes us has to shift radically, or we’re going to just fight the change and be terrified and operate and vote out of fear. That is going to manifest these dystopian hunger games and Zombie apocalypse type movies that we’re watching Hollywood.
My goal is: we can change that narrative. We can see these technologies are actually going to help us solve the Sustainable Development Goals, right? This is the moment: we can achieve all of those goals by leveraging exponential technologies, but they’re not technology problems. They are social, political and individual courage problems.
We have to, we have to paint a vision of the future we want to create. And then having the courage to actually transform all of the systems to create it. Because the future that we’re talking about does not operate like the past.
How can we start to visualize this new, different future?
31:00 Rob says that the SU staff often read – and write – a lot of science fiction to envision what the future will be like. He suggests avoiding the depressive, “fear-mongering” or dystopian content and instead checking out the following resources:
MIT Tech Review
World Bank content
Big Management Consulting Firms… surprisingly these companies have insightful content on the future, since they have a bird’s eye view.
So… What is going to happen between now and 2030?
“Every physical task we do will eventually be performed by automation robotics. Pretty much every cognitive task is going to be better performed by AI. …I do think that jobs go away.”
36:00 A lot of people find that possibility to be scary and challenging. But it doesn’t have to be. “Our identities are wrapped up in these things that we call jobs that we need to do to survive today,” Rob says.
“I do think that jobs go away. Those things that we need to do to survive, they go away because energy will be virtually free, which means then food, water, shelter, those will be virtually free. Everyone will be on the cloud and will be connected to the Internet’s information base, which means they will have access to the greatest education, healthcare, diagnostics in AI that has ever existed. It will be far superior to anything that the richest and the Western world has access to today.”
“I think that’s a brilliant, exciting, amazing future that we should embrace and raced with fast as possible because it solves a lot of equity problems and it allows humans to do more. I do not think humanity was created to toil over jobs and labor in mines… and other things that are, you know, stressful and painful and debilitating.”
“I think humanity has a bright star trek future to explore bigger questions.”
38:45 We’re going to shift from jobs to endeavors in the following 3 categories. Humans will work with technology on these types of task:
Empathy tasks: Interacting with other humans in new ways
Entertainment tasks: Finding new ways to have fun
Exploration tasks: discovering how our brains work, how the universe works, and exploring questions like ‘Why are we here?’
How will education change?
42:00 Rob’s framework for teaching his two small kids focuses on the curiosity, critical thinking, and compassion as the top three. “It’s how they think and how they relate to the world. It’s how they’re going to be adaptable and able to continuously look at the world through new eyes. It is not going to be focused on becoming an engineer and all the engineer’s skills. It’s going to be about relating to technology and finding their passion. It is not going to be around becoming some specific career or job, because that is not going to last very long.”
How can business adapt now?
“Start thinking in a more data-analytical way,”
Rob says. He recommends reading the book Principles by Ray Dalio to learn thinking in a data-analytical mindset. He recommends small, incremental steps to integrate data is the first place to start. “Amazon web analytics gives you a good first pass.”
Say you’re 25 and you’re choosing a career. What do you do?
47:00 Well, Rob says, “The world has a lot of MBAs in it and not a lot of philosophers and not a lot of artists. So I think that those people who are following their creative pursuits and weaving in this data mindset are key. So I would spend a lot of time taking coding classes, statistics courses and some early sort of data analytics and data science courses.”
Rob emphasizes that with the mountains of data available now, the world will need creative people to interpret the data in new ways. He mentions the new fields of Design Thinking that will help us solve the world’s biggest problems.
“Setting your sights at moon shots and the worlds biggest problems is always the best way to navigate.” He also emphasizes that everyone will have a role in shaping the future… so look at your career and life as your unique contribution, and not how to make money. That will happen.
To summarize in 3 steps…
How to design your future-optimized career:
Lean into creative and philosophical pursuits.
Study data analytics to creatively interpret data in your field of interest.
Set your sights on moon shots.
How is that for a challenge?
Data is Key Every single business can start getting into the tech game by becoming more data-centric.
Resources There are plenty of accessible resources you can use to start visualizing the future and planning your next steps.
It’s not scary!! There’s a community of over 200k people leveraging technology and making these changes for good.
Challenge: As the market and world changes, how will you change? What actions can you take in the next 30 days to start those shifts?
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?
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 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.
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?
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.
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!
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!
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?”
“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:
Know who has access to the information
Know the value of that information and how to sell it
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.
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.”
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: