Posts Tagged ‘Learning’
UWS on itunes U Presented by Mark Hodson, Digital Media Coordinator, Blended Learning Team.
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Coursera is already one of the leading providers of MOOCs (or massive open online courses) in the US, and its now getting a helping hand from none other than the US government in broadening its worldwide ambitions. The company announced a new initiative today that will see it partner with the State …
It was the final night of classes at Singularity University‘s March 2013 Executive Program, and we, the students, had been given a valedictory assignment: Predict the future.
For the past six days, the 63 of us had been immersed in lectures on the nearly limitless potential of artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, and bioinformatics, and now the moment had arrived for us to figure out what we really believed and ponder the big questions. Was a transhuman future — the Singularity — really only three decades away, as SU's chancellor and co-founder Ray Kurzweil had prophesied? Were we really on the brink of a cure for all viruses and an era of radical energy abundance? Would we soon be able to choose to live forever? How many glasses of wine would it take until our group of entrepreneurs, executives, and hippie mystics got impatient and just resolved to build a time machine?
Inside Singularity University's airy classroom on the campus of NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, the SU staff distributed about 50 sheets of paper, many bearing newspaper headlines from this radical but not-too-distant future. (A future that, shockingly, still included a print newspaper industry.) We were instructed to break up into small groups to decide when in the next 20 years these world-changing milestones would come to pass.
“LIFE EXPECTANCY REACHES 150 IN AMERICA” blared the first headline. I stared at it incredulously. Life expectancy in the United States was currently 79. For the life expectancy to hit 150, that would mean… I started to do some back-of-the-napkin calculations. One of my fellow classmates, the 66-year-old chairman of an international law firm, was quicker to formulate his answer. “According to a gerontologist in England, the first person to live to 1,000 has already been born,” he told us. “I'm not sure I believe that, but everyone thinks that the first person to live to 150 has already been born. I'd even say the first person to live to 200 has been born.” The other five of us nodded our heads. We collectively decided that U.S. life expectancy would reach 150 within the next 10 to 15 years.
The next headline declared: “ROBOT LEAVES EARTH, MINES OTHER PLANET AND BRINGS MATERIAL BACK TO EARTH.” A number of us exchanged sidelong glances. Progress in space had slowed dramatically in the post-Apollo era. A group of planetary exploration enthusiasts — among them the film director James Cameron and SU co-founder Peter Diamandis — had recently backed a company seeking to mine asteroids, but it was hard to imagine those missions were imminent. Then Diane Murphy, Singularity's PR executive, sidled up to our table. “Elon Musk already announced a plan to create an 80,000-person colony on Mars starting in 15 years,” she said. Gently admonished, we decided that planet-mining robots would be operational in the next decade.
After half an hour, the entire class reconvened in SU's main lecture hall to compile our predictions into a master chronology. This is the future we foresaw: Five years from now, a majority of medical doctors will consult with artificial intelligence before making a diagnosis; a genetic-engineering service for fetuses will be an increasingly popular resource for expectant parents; and a synthetically manufactured virus will be found spreading in the wild. Five years after that, 100 million people will have watched the World Cup via virtual reality glasses, and laptops, tablets, and mobile devices will have been abandoned in favor of more immersive computer systems. Jump another half-decade ahead, an AI will be given lead authorship of a scientific paper and a zoo will open that houses 10 species that went extinct more than 15,000 years ago. By 2033, our collective vision became murky: One small group predicted that synthetic grass would have cleaned up 100% of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, arresting the progress of global warming and beginning to reverse its pernicious effects. Another group decided to write their own headline: “WORLD ENDS.”
“So how many people here had arguments about something they barely knew existed six days ago?” asked Kathryn Myronuk, SU's director of research. Hearty laughter broke out across the room.
The evening was now a haze, with most of us buzzed on merlot. It was 10 p.m. The lights dimmed in the conference room. Music came crashing over the speakers, and a few students launched into a sweaty dance. In an adjoining room where a late-night bull session on the nature of consciousness had transpired earlier in the week, more bottles of wine were emptied, with a pride of leonine European venture capitalists leading the bacchanal. The party carried on into the wee hours. The future looked bright.
Mary Altaffer / AP Photo
Techno-utopianism is hardwired into Singularity University. Kurzweil and Diamandis founded the organization in 2009, at a time when both men were coming off career triumphs. Kurzweil — an inventor most famous for pioneering the flatbed scanner, creating reading machines for the blind, and developing a line of synthesizers popular in the '80s and '90s (he is, unsurprisingly, friends with Stevie Wonder) — had gained a new level of fame in 2005 with the publication of The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, a best-selling manifesto making a scientific case for a merger of man and machine that would collapse distinctions between physical and virtual reality and even life and death. (Kurzweil sets the date for this event horizon at 2045.)
Meanwhile, Diamandis had seen the X Prize Foundation, a passion project he founded in 1995, spur the successful development of the first private spaceship to make multiple passenger-carrying flights. On a hiking trip in Chile in 2006, Diamandis was toting The Singularity Is Near in his backpack when he decided to found a school based on its ideas.
Kurzweil and Diamandis had little trouble amassing powerful friends. Genentech, Google, Cisco, Nokia, and Autodesk lined up to be founding partners of Singularity University, and Google CEO Larry Page played a key role in shaping the organization's mission. At SU's founding conference in September 2008, Page leapt up and told the assembled group that Google would back the organization if it dedicated itself to “addressing humanity's grand challenges.” Kurzweil and Diamandis were happy to oblige, and “improving the lives of a billion people within a decade” became a key plank of SU's founding platform. (This January, Page hired Kurzweil at Google to help develop software that better understands natural language, how humans actually communicate.)
SU continues to expand the scope of its grand ambitions. It remains an educational institution, offering weeklong executive education courses like ours and a 10-week summer immersion primarily for young entrepreneurs. It has also become an elite Silicon Valley conclave, staging a three-day invitation-only schmoozefest on the Fox Studios lot in Los Angeles that brings together big-time CEOs like LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman, science heroes like Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and tech-curious celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Will.I.Am, Jodie Foster, and Seth Green. And as of last year, Singularity University is a startup incubator, surrendering its nonprofit status to take an equity stake in companies developing emergent technologies like lab-generated beef and laser-printed DNA. Upon SU's launch in 2009, Peter Diamandis told the Associated Press, “We expect the next generation of multibillion-dollar companies to come out [of] this university.” It's perhaps telling of this healthy self-regard that the organization's logo, a serifed “S” inlaid in a shield, recalls nothing so much as the emblem Superman wears on his chest.
Larry Busacca / Getty Images
It was a beaming Saturday afternoon in mid-March when the Executive Program attendees arrived at Singularity University's principal classroom, a low-slung building on the 2,000-acre campus of NASA's Ames Research Center. The skeleton of Hangar One — a 1930s airship garage that was once the world's largest freestanding structure — loomed nearby. Many of us were jet-lagged after flights from São Paulo, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, and Mumbai, but nearly everyone seemed giddy. We were an almost comically eclectic group: a square-jawed brigadier general in the U.S. Marine Corps; a fried-chicken magnate from Cali, Colombia; a Brazilian fashion researcher; the tan and buff mayor of a small California city; a former Goldman Sachs partner who described himself as “an explorer on a journey”; a Canadian geophysicist who had spotted “four or five” UFOs as a young man; a puckish 40-year-old named Malek who had toured the world as the indie-rock act Jupiter Sunrise; and two business magnates who were among the first to purchase flights on Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space airlines. The seven-day Singularity University Executive Program, it seems useful to mention at this point, costs $ 12,000.
Singularity University, we were told immediately and often, wanted to teach us to “recognize the power of exponential technology” by “rewiring our brains” to “think exponentially.” Exponential technologies, as we learned on that first afternoon, are simply technologies whose principal measures of capability increase by multiples — instead of growing linearly (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), they grow exponentially (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32). In computing, exponential growth has long been observed in a phenomenon called Moore's Law that states that the number of transistors on a silicon chip doubles every 18 months or so. Such rapid enhancement is the reason that your smartphone is a million times less expensive and a thousand times more powerful than the supercomputers of 40 years ago. Kurzweil's contribution to the theory of exponential growth has been to take the principles behind Moore's Law and apply them to everything from cellular biology to interstellar space travel. Kurzweil calls this “The Law of Accelerating Returns,” and it gets very radical, very fast. “In the 21st century,” he writes in The Singularity Is Near, “we will witness on the order of 20,000 years of progress (again, when measured by today's rate of progress), or about 1,000 times greater than what was achieved in the 20th century.”
Later that day, as we celebrated our initiation into this brave new world with a feast of paella under the stars, I sought out the Canadian geophysicist and UFO spotter, figuring he might have an interesting take on what it means to experience “20,000 years of progress” in 100 years. It turned out this was his second turn at Singularity this year. He'd made the trip from Toronto to Silicon Valley only two months earlier for a weekend-long workshop with Kurzweil and Diamandis. “The whole thing is fucking addictive,” he said. “Ray and Peter are the high priests. I wanted to come back to get more of the practical side.”
I asked him about his UFO sightings.
“I was out prepping a 40-pound drill one night doing geochemical sampling in Saskatchewan,” he said. “Then I saw two brilliant, luminous, soundless discs. They combined into one. And then they were gone.”
“Do you believe in the Singularity?” I asked.
“Oh, I have a theory about what the Singularity might look like.”
“Well, I can't tell you,” he chortled. “I might write a book about it!”
Eric Benson / BuzzFeed
The next morning, the 63 of us arrived back at the main classroom, plowed through a gourmet breakfast buffet, and plopped into our pastel-colored swivel chairs for 14 hours to listen to a marathon of lectures. We learned that artificial intelligence was all around us — Pandora, Siri, IBM's Watson, Amazon.com recommendations, credit card fraud detection, shoot-'em-up video games like Call of Duty — but that soon we'd be able to create a single, massive artificial intelligence that would, as one instructor put it, “master the accelerating wave front of human knowledge.”
We learned that mapping the human genome took the U.S. government 13 years and $ 2.7 billion, now takes a lab as little as three days and $ 2,000, and in 10 years will be done instantly for less than it costs to flush a toilet (under a penny). We learned that in 18 years some people will be able to live for “an arbitrarily long period of time,” and that we ought to consider cryogenic freezing if we fail to make that cut. We learned that the nation-state is an outdated model at risk of being disrupted and that the future will belong to city-states — the Bay Area, to pick a random example — and global corporations. We watched videos of robots serving as pack mules over broken terrain and heard that wars in the future would be fought entirely by AI-enhanced machines.
But all of that was just the beginning. A day after our lectures on AI, bioinformatics, and robotics, Ralph Merkle, a legend of Silicon Valley — a cryptography innovator, cryonics enthusiast, nanotechnology evangelist, and potbellied reminder that computer geeks didn't always aspire to tech-brohood — arrived at SU to imagine the 21st century for us.
Nanotechnology, he said, would soon enable you to hold your breath at the bottom of a pool for an hour (via red-blood-cell-replacing respirocytes), allow for reverse aging (via nanobots called chromallocytes that would insert fresh chromosomal material into your cells), and end global warming (via solar-powered diamond trees that transform carbon dioxide into oxygen). “We'll have materials that are over 50 times stronger than steel for the same weight,” Merkle said. “A single-stage-to-orbit space vehicle would weigh about 3,000 kilograms including fuel. That's about a VW bus. You hop in — you and four passengers and a bit of luggage — and you take off into low-Earth orbit. You'll be able to go anywhere in the solar system in a month for a few thousand dollars. I don't think we'll have these kinds of technologies in 20, 25 years; I think it'll be more 30, 35, maybe 40.”
“What could block it?” someone shouted from the back.
“Oh, I don't know, nuclear war would block it pretty effectively,” Merkle drolled.
“So basically it's going to happen,” the student shot back.
Would it surprise you to hear that multiple lecturers used examples from the films Minority Report, Gattaca, and Prometheus to explain their subjects? Standing in the lunch line one day, a Marin County entrepreneur named Kent and I got into a conversation about all the futuristic talk we'd been hearing. He showed me his iPhone's Kindle app, where he'd amassed a collection of titles by cult writers like “techno-thriller” novelist Daniel Suarez and William Hertling, author of A.I. Apocalypse and Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears.
“A lot of what we've been hearing sounds like science fiction to me,” I said. “It's taking the concepts of science and extrapolating them into fantasy.”
“No,” he politely corrected. “This is science catching up with fantasy.”
Courtesy of the Singularity University
Introducing Niek Blankers! From The Netherlands, the Work Experience program offered Niek the ability to work with a company this summer. On July 15th 2013, …
The author explores the wide array of Google tools and shows how to use them in the classroom to engage students and foster digital learning.
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Tags are so 2008. Google doesn’t want you to waste time tagging your photos, except for the people in them. The web giant wants to be able to recognize more abstract concepts like “sunset” or “beach” automatically and attach that metadata without further input. In yet another post-I/O update, Google+ photos now uses computer vision and machine learning to identify objects and settings in your uploaded snapshots. You can simply search for “my photos of trees” or “Tim’s photos of bikes” and get surprisingly accurate results, with nary a manually added tag in sight. You can perform the searches in Google+, obviously, but you can also execute your query from the standard Google search page. It’s pretty neat, but sadly Mountain View seems to have forgotten what cats look like.
Source: Inside Search
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A recent study by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center has revealed new properties of human brain cells understood as astrocytes, utilizing them to improve discovering ability in mice. Experts injected the cells– formerly viewed as relatively worthless helpers to more main neurons– into the brains of a team of mice, then checked the animals against a control team provided extra cells from their own types. After a six-month maturation period, those injected with human cells were able to learn their way around a maze significantly faster, and were likewise able to rapidly link an unique noise with an electric shock.
Released in the diary Cell Stem Cell earlier this month, the research has the possible to change …
Babbel’s been doing a solid job of picking up users as it attempts to help people around the world learn new tongues over their lunch breaks, but evidently, it’s not picking up steam in the US as well as it would like. The remedy? Buy the market share one so desires. Today, the company has announced the acquisition of San Francisco’s own PlaySay — a language learning company that has been tearing up every app store it approaches since launching at TechCrunch Disrupt in September of 2011. With that, however, comes some pretty unfortunate news for users. PlaySay apps are going to be yanked 45 days from now, with website visitors funneled over to Babbel’s site. Moreover, we’ve confirmed that none of PlaySay’s technologies will be integrated into Babbel’s programs, and that only PlaySay’s founder (Ryan Meinzer) will remain on staff as an “adviser.”
We’ve got nothing but love for Babbel’s software, but what this means for consumers is simple: one less player in the space, and a dead-end for the technology that was developed in order to launch PlaySay. Of course, we aren’t going to pretend that this type of thing doesn’t happen all of the time, but alas….
Filed under: Software
Yours genuinely has actually had some pretty favorable experiences with Babbel’s existing product, with the most current being a subscription-based option for iPad that makes it a whole lot even more inexpensive to find out the basics of 11 different tongues. After launching last October on Windows 8, the attire is showing Microsoft’s other major OS a little love today. Babbel is bringing its 11 language learning programs to Windows Phone 8, with the apps scheduled to hit the ‘Education’ segment of the Windows Phone Store any minute now. For those who have actually yet to offer it a whirl, Babbel utilizes a mix of repeating, visual hints, spelling exercises and voice acknowledgment, and it does a pretty stellar task of segmenting things into digestible lessons for those who just have five or ten minutes at a time to spare.
The apps themselves are complimentary to download, with a business representative discussing to us that the WP8 constructs “are mainly vocabulary fitness instructors with 3,000 words broken down into themed lessons.” Preferably, the phone apps would supplement an individual’s learning on their primary platform (iPad or desktop computer). So, at $ 0.00, your last staying reason to not comprehend what the locals are talking about in Moorea has actually been obliterated. Vous & ecirc; tes les bienvenus.