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Future Perfect? Singularity University Tour Explores Tech Solutions

dscf1430“It’s like a whole other world, straight up!” said LLA senior Larrel Windom after his first experience using a virtual reality headset on a tour of Singularity University.

By Justin Warren

“It’s like a whole other world, straight up!” said LLA senior Larrel Windom after his first experience using a virtual reality headset on a recent tour of Singularity University.

Windom and a dozen LLA students and teachers visited the Singularity campus at Moffett Field to learn about their work using technology to solve the world’s biggest problems.

“You get caught up in your own world,” Windom said, which, in his case, positioned him as a person using a wheelchair. Using VR, he said, “you could see stuff differently. It’s like a dream.”

During the visit hosted by Brett Schilke, Director of Impact at Singularity, the students learned about the tech trends that Singularity believes will shape the future of society and address some of the world’s most universal problems.

Students met a talking robot designed in Japan to offer assistance to patients in hospitals, explored tech facilities that support futuristic creations like 3D printed food, and participated in a workshop that asked them to envision what they would do to impact the lives of humans on a grand scale.

For senior Ari Liccardo, this idea was both inspiring and daunting. In considering how he steer a billion people to improve the human experience, he says, he wrote:

 

“My billion will be revolutionaries reconstructing the American government.”

 

Liccardo saw both the potential for good in using technology to improve our future, and also the potential pitfalls. He noted that while an artificially intelligent autonomous robot could help care for patients, it could also become a liability in the wrong hands — it’s own!

“Robots, they learn a feeling, and that’s the feeling, that’s what they do,” he said, pointing out that the technology has a long way to go before it’s clear that it will be helpful and safe.

 

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Above: Ari Liccardo (left) and Leina Lefiti complete their #mybillion statements. Top: Larrel Windom and the LLA visitors explore virtual reality. Photos courtesy of Singularity University. 

 

Liccardo and Windom both noted that what seemed like futuristic ideas before the visit are all but inevitable based on the rapidly advancing pace of technology.

“It kind of blew my mind,” said Liccardo. “It hit me all at once. They were talking about things that most people in the country have never heard of.”

“The future of the entire nation is sitting right here,” he said.

For Windom, the potential benefits seem worth the potential risk.

“Singularity is all about finding ways to help humans, without actually using humans,” he said, expressing optimism that future inventions could make it possible for people who are born with less access to gain information and opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

“People are given certain lifestyles due to the circumstances of what happened before them,” Windom explained. “It’s their history, but they can’t change their past.”

The challenge he envisions using new technology to solve, he says, is to “give somebody a fresh start, give them choices” about who they will be, as actual humans, in the future.

 

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The LLA team assembles outside Singularity University. 

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