Singularity University

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Singularity Education Group
IndustryEducation
FounderPeter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil
HeadquartersSanta Clara, CA
Key people
Steve Leonard, CEO
BrandsSingularity University, SingularityU, SU Ventures, Futurism News, Uncommon Partners Labs
Number of employees
<250

Singularity Education Group (using the public names Singularity University or SingularityU) is an American company that offers executive educational programs, a business incubator, and innovation consultancy service.[1][2]

Although it deploys the word "university" in its branding, the company is not an accredited university and does not provide traditional university qualifications. The company has also been mired in controversy since its founding, facing allegations of sexual assault, embezzlement, and discrimination.[3]

Over the years, the company has also been accused of scorning basic health practices advised by policy experts. For example, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Peter Diamandis, the executive founder of Singularity University, held a "mostly maskless" event in Santa Monica in violation of the local stay-at-home orders. The event became a super-spreading event at a time when hospitals were overwhelmed and ambulances were bottlenecked, which killed thousands.[4][5] The event was under the umbrella of Abundance 360, which owns Singularity University. At the time, a regional stay-at-home order made the gathering illegal. The outbreak wasn't reported to authorities, as required, and rules on health data privacy may have been broken.[6][7]

It was founded in 2008 by Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil at the NASA Research Park in California, United States.[8]

History[edit]

2008–2011 (non-profit)[edit]

Singularity was founded as a non-profit and initially offered an annual 10-week summer program called the Graduate Studies Program (GSP), it was aimed at individuals wanting to understand how they could use technology to tackle global challenges. Its original Corporate founding partners and sponsors included Google,[9] Nokia,[10] Autodesk,[11] IDEO,[citation needed] LinkedIn,[citation needed] ePlanet Capital,[12] the X Prize Foundation, the Kauffman Foundation and Genentech.[13] Google subsequently ended its grant of $1.5 million annually.[14] The company announced a number of Associate Founders[15] including Moses Znaimer, Barney Pell, Sonia Arrison Senkut, David S. Rose, Keith and Mariela Kleiner, Klee Irwin, Dan Stoicescu, Reese Jones, Peter L. Bloom, Geoffrey Shmigelsky, Georges Harik and Rob Nail. Rob Nail was appointed CEO in 2011.

2012–present (private company)[edit]

2012[edit]

Singularity University began the process for conversion to a for-profit benefit corporation.[16] In 2013, the new for-profit corporation incorporated as "Singularity Education Group" and acquired the descriptive "Singularity University" as its trade name.[17]

2018[edit]

Faculty leaders noted that the company was focused only on profit; "it's lost its soul...It’s become a moneymaking corporation."[18] Singularity Education Group announced a Series B funding round led by WestRiver Group and Boeing worth $32 million [19]

2019[edit]

Singularity acquired Futurism News [20] and the Uncommon Partners innovation consultancy.[21]

Singularity moved its headquarters from the NASA Research Park at NASA Ames to Santa Clara.[22]

Singularity added new Country Partner franchises in Brazil [23] and Australia.[24]

Global Solutions Program[edit]

Students at Singularity University's "Global Solutions Program" (GSP, formerly the "Graduate Studies Program") learn about new technologies, and work together over the summer to start companies.[25] In 2012, the Global Solutions Program class had 80 students, with an average age of 30.[26] In 2015, Google agreed to provide $1.5 million annually for two years to make the program free to participants.[27] The 80 students are selected from over 3,000 applicants each year.[25] A substantial portion of the GSP class comes from the winners of SU's sponsored "Global Impact Competitions".[27] The company withdrew the GSP program in 2018 after Google ended its grant, which covered about half the costs of the program.

Executive Program[edit]

The Executive Program is targeted to corporate leaders, and focuses on how rapid changes in technology will impact businesses.[25]

Exponential Regional Partnership[edit]

Singularity University has an "Exponential Regional Partnership" with SingularityU The Netherlands. This partnership program serves to help prepare European society and European companies for exponential technologies and give them the tools to use these technologies to meet Global Grand Challenges. The Netherlands was chosen as a starting point for international expansion because of the social, creative and innovative environment with rapid adoption rates for new technologies.[28] Water, food, healthcare and mobility, traditional strengths of the Dutch economy, are the main focal points.

Global Impact Competition[edit]

In 2016, SingularityU The Netherlands organized a Global Impact Competition to find the most innovative Dutch entrepreneurs with ideas that leverage exponential technologies to enhance the lives of refugees.[29] Danny Wagemans, a 21-year-old nanophysics student, won the first prize to participate in the 10-week Global Solutions Program. He demonstrated how clean water and energy can be derived from urine by combining a microbial fuel cell and a graphene filter in a water bottle.[30]

Innovation Hub[edit]

An Innovation Hub that allows people to experience exponential technologies has been started in Eindhoven as part of the Exponential Regional Partnership. This Innovation Hub was officially opened in Eindhoven by Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, in the presence of numerous representatives of the corporate community, government and innovators. Eindhoven was chosen for this hub as it is the heart of the Brainport region, one of Europe's most important tech clusters.[31]

Exponential Conference Series[edit]

Singularity University hosts annual conferences focused on "exponentially accelerating technologies", and their impact on fields such as finance, medicine and manufacturing.[32] The conferences are produced with Deloitte,[32] as well as CNBC for the "Exponential Finance" conference.[33]

Singularity Hub[edit]

Singularity Hub is a science and tech media website published by Singularity University.[34] Singularity Hub was founded in 2008 [34] with the mission of "providing news coverage of sci/tech breakthroughs that are rapidly changing human abilities, health, and society".[35] It was acquired by Singularity University in 2012, to make content produced by Singularity University more accessible.[35]

In March 2018, Singularity Hub released 695 articles via Creative Commons license CC BY-ND 4.0.[36]

SU Labs[edit]

SU Labs is a seed accelerator by Singularity University, targeting startups that aim to "change the lives of a billion people."[37]

The company "Made In Space," which has developed a 3D printer adapted to the constraints of space travel, was founded at Singularity University.[38]

In 2011, a Singularity University group launched Matternet, a startup that aims to harness drone technology to ship goods in developing countries that lack highway infrastructure. Other startups from SU are the peer-to-peer car-sharing service Getaround, and BioMine, which uses mining technologies to extract value from electronic waste.[39]

Impact partners[edit]

In 2013, Singularity University and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF announced a partnership to create technologies to improve the lives of vulnerable people in developing countries.[40][41]

Controversies[edit]

An investigative report from Bloomberg Businessweek found many issues with the organization, including an alleged sexual harassment of a student by a teacher, theft and aiding of theft by an executive, and allegations of gender and disability discrimination.[14] Several early members of Singularity University were convicted of crimes, including Bruce Klein, who was convicted in 2012 of running a credit fraud operation in Alabama and Naveen Jain who was convicted of insider trading in 2003.[14]

In February 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, MIT Technology Review reported that a group owned by Singularity, called Abundance 360, had held a "mostly maskless" event in Santa Monica in violation of the local stay-at-home order that became a superspreading event.[42] The event, led by Singularity co-founder Peter Diamandis, charged up to $30,000 for tickets. In a followup article, MIT Technology Review revealed that after COVID-19 started spreading among attendees, Diamandis tried to sell them "fraudulent" treatments including inhaled amniotic fluid and ketamine lozenges, which a professor of law and medicine at Stanford University characterized as "quackery".[43] The superspreading event was covered widely by publications including the New York Times,[44] the Washington Post,[45] and the Los Angeles Times.[46]

References[edit]

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  10. ^ "Nokia Supports Singularity University as Fifth Corporate Founder". Nokia Research Center. November 10, 2010. Archived from the original on 18 November 2012.
  11. ^ "Autodesk Increases Support for Singularity University to Corporate Founder Level". MOFFETT FIELD, Calif.: Autodesk. February 12, 2010. Archived from the original on January 17, 2013. Alt URL Archived 2015-05-10 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Asad Jamal". World Economic Forum. Archived from the original on 18 November 2012.
  13. ^ Leuty, Ron (February 6, 2012). "Genentech, Singularity University ink deal". San Francisco Business Journal. Archived from the original on February 9, 2012. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  14. ^ a b c McBride, Sarah (2018-02-15). "Silicon Valley's Singularity University Has Some Serious Reality Problems". Bloomberg Businessweek. Archived from the original on 2019-01-30. Retrieved 2019-01-29.
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  17. ^ Brian Warmoth (July 20, 2012). "Singularity University planning to go for-profit". Education Dive. Archived from the original on November 29, 2014. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
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  40. ^ "Singularity University and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF Partner to Advance Global Innovations That Benefit Women and Children" (Press Release). MarketWatch. June 27, 2013. Archived from the original on 2015-05-19. Retrieved 2015-05-18.
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  43. ^ "First he held a superspreader event. Then he recommended fake cures". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 2021-08-13.
  44. ^ Fortin, Jacey (2021-02-16). "Technology Executive Apologizes After Dozens of Event Attendees Contract Covid-19". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-08-13.
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  46. ^ "Why a California scientist hosted superspreader event amid a deadly COVID-19 surge". Los Angeles Times. 2021-02-17. Retrieved 2021-08-13.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°24′55″N 122°03′46″W / 37.415229°N 122.062650°W / 37.415229; -122.062650