Academic Tracks

Academic tracks are in the process of being developed, and include:

  1. Future Studies & Forecasting
  2. Networks & Computing Systems
  3. Biotechnology & Bioinformatics
  4. Nanotechnology
  5. Medicine, Neuroscience & Human Enhancement
  6. AI, Robotics, & Cognitive Computing
  7. Energy & Ecological Systems
  8. Space & Physical Sciences
  9. Policy, Law & Ethics
  10. Finance & Entrepreneurship

1. Future Studies & Forecasting:

This track is a methods resource for the other tracks, created with the goal of cultivating the student’s “exponential intuition” — the ability to fully grasp the magnitude of possible outcomes likely to arise in specific domains.  We will provide students with a methodological basis for their forecasting activities, and also serve as a think-tank for the development of new forecasting methods useful for anticipating the changes ahead. The track introduces the core concepts of the Singularity, including accelerating change, linear versus exponential growth, Moore’s law, and the promise and peril of revolutionary technologies. And it presents the grand challenges that will be addressed during the nine-week course and a overview of current and future cutting-edge technologies and science breakthroughs and their impacts. Ray Kurzweil, Paul Saffo, and other leading futurists will present interactive lectures, with student participation and dialogue.

2. Networks & Computing Systems:

Calling on the rich resources of leading-edge companies and academics in Silicon Valley, this track covers the explosive growth of computer power and networks, focusing on three key revolutionary areas: (1) Emerging and future computational and storage technologies, including 3D molecular computing, nanocomputing, DNA/RNA computing, plasmonics, spin storage, memristors, optical storage, photonics, quantum computing, pico- and femtotechnology, and autonomic computing, addressing important issues such as reversible computing, the limits of information representation, scalable computing systems, and future petascale and exascale supercomputers; (2) Future user interfaces, such as augmented reality, virtual reality. virtual worlds, blended reality, virtual agents, bots, lifelogging, breakthroughs in computer graphics, holographic and 3D displays, teleimmersion, telepresence, haptic interfaces, personalized learning, and extracting knowledge from massive volumes of data via data analysis, data mining, and information visualization; and (3) Intelligent networks, including nth-generation Internet, smart search engines, the semantic Web, smart grid,  shared vs. dedicated Lightpath Internet, cyber-physical systems and sensor networks, security and privacy vs. transparency, mobile and location-based computing, cloud computing, Interplanetary Internet, ubiquitous wireless networks and ubiquitous computing, mesh networks, adaptive networks, embedded networks, and the global physics grid.

3. Biotechnology & Bioinformatics:

This track covers the exponential growth in biotechnology and bioinformatics, focusing on four areas: (1) genome technologies (genomics and proteomics, ultra-rapid, low-cost gene sequencing, and statistical and computational extrapolations of large biological databases); 2) Personalized medicine (4P medicine: personalized, predictive, preventative, participatory; high-speed, full-genome, consumer-based sequencing; personal SNP analysis and ethics); (3) Intelligent design (ultra-rapid, low-cost DNA writing, selective gene manipulation/substitution, ethics of germline modification, RNA interference); and (4) Microfludics and single-molecule technologies.

4. Nanotechnology:

This track will cover the future of nanotechnology, including (1) Future molecular manufacturing methods using nanoscale fabrication, DNA nanotechnology and self-assembly, scanning probe microscopy, atomic probe microscopy, positional assembly, atomically precise manufacturing (APM), molecular nanotechnology (MNT), nanoscale machine systems, nanofactories, and self-replicating systems; (2) Molecular simulations and computational experiments to create molecular computers and carbon nanotube electronics; (3) Medical nanorobotics, including nanomedicine, life extension and cryonics; (4) Energy production and storage; and (5) Green manufacturing and environmental mitigation.

5. AI, Robotics, & Cognitive Computing:

This track focuses on intelligent machines. The main topics are: (1) Introduction to intelligent machines: perception, actions, representation, reasoning, learning, dealing with uncertainty. (2) AI technology: efficient exploration of state space, planning, logical inference, probabilistic inference, representation languages, machine learning, and language understanding. Alternative approaches for producing artificial general intelligence (AGI) or strong AI.  (3) Robotics technology: hardware systems (sensors, manipulators), mobility, localization and mapping, human-robot interactions, multi-agent systems, autonomous vehicles, scaling to micro- and nano-machines. (4) Applications in home, transportation, medicine, security, internet, entertainment, space, and other areas. (5) Future directions: technology trends, solving the hard problems. AI ethics, potential for runaway AI, friendly vs. unfriendly AI. Uncertainties concerning when computers will match various capabilities of the human brain. Will computers become conscious?

6. Medicine, Neuroscience & Human enhancement:

This track will explore the future of the human body, in seven areas: (1) Medical diagnostics & imaging: biomarkers, state of the art (PCR, array, immuno-based), future and point-of-care), medical devices, imaging; (2) Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine: medical devices & artificial organs, tissue engineering & biomaterials, replacement parts, artificial organs, organ printers, bioreactors, cellular therapies, stem cells, imaging stem cells, cloning, cancer stem cells, aging and stem cells, neural stem cells and regeneration; (3) Wellness: supplements/antioxidants/diet, preventative drugs, proactive regimens; Internet and Medicine; (4) Using neuroscience data from high resolution brain scans and other probes to modify our software and hardware architectures.; (5) neuroprostheses (artificial retina, artificial brain-to-muscle connectors, brain-computer interfaces, deep brain stimulation); (6) Neuroplasticity and transcranial magnetic stimulation; and (7) Cyborg enhancements: exoskeletons, cochlear and other implants, direct imaging of the living brain fMRI and MEG, smart pharmacological agents and dynamic imaging systems.

7. Energy & Ecological Systems:

This track will cover future breakthroughs in renewable energy production, including solar, wind, ocean, geothermal, biological, and nuclear; grid 2.0 & transmission systems; energy storage technology & systems, including fuel cells; efficient transportation systems; energy conservation & efficiency, energy for the developing world; the Earth as an environmental system, including climate models and strategies and geoengineering; and global catastrophe scenarios and existential extinction events (asteroids, biowarfare, gamma ray bursts, nuclear war, etc.) and survival, prevention, and mitigation strategies.

8. Space & Physical Sciences

Calling on the extensive research and instructional resources at NASA Ames, this track will explore  (1) The future of space,  including future launch and propulsion systems (lasers, space elevators, ion engines, solar sails, fusion drives); nanosatellites; orbital satellite systems for communications and Earth and remote sensing; energy sources such as Helium-3 from the lunar regolith, solar-powered satellites; asteroids and comets as sources of metals, minerals and fuel. (2) Cosmology (including dark matter and dark energy and fundamental structure of matter); astrobiology and the origin of life on Earth and elsewhere; SETI and communication with extraterrestrial life; computronium (converting matter to a computational resource); and spreading intelligence to the universe.

9. Policy, Law & Ethics

This track will examine the role of government, law and ethics in dealing with the implications of the technologies covered in other tracks, including reinventing patent law, the patentability of concepts developed by AI, nanotechnology, and biotech/biomedical research; the future legal status of AIs, robots, cyborgs, and non-terrestrial resources and possible off-Earth civilizations; dealing with cybercrime and possible AI manipulation of financial markets; preventing risks from unfriendly AI, nanotech, and genetics; negative scenarios (surveillance, police states, etc.); the precautionary principle vs. the proactionary principle; policy and legal issues of environment crisis, and ethical issues around anticipated human manipulations, brain enhancements, AIs, self-replicating nanotech, brain uploads, cryogenics and re-animation. The track will also consider the promises in addition to the perils: what are the downside risks if we do not develop certain kinds of biotechnology, AI, or nanotech?

10. Finance & Entrepreneurship

This track will answer the question: how can we monetize this new knowledge of future technologies? It will include: learning how to fund your new startup; choosing a seed, angel, VC, or strategic partner; pulling together your founding team; writing a business plan; prototyping; public relations; legal and patent issues; types of corporations — private versus non-profit; dealing with naysayers; building a board of directors and advisors; financial modeling and projections; learning about the Venture Capital market; meeting the leading entrepreneurs and hearing their stories; meeting the leading VCs and learning what they fund; product R&D; service development; market studies and market strategies; government assistance; spectacular successes & failures.