Welcome to the Man-Machine University
(Translated by Amazon Mechanical Turk)
He taught himself to write computer programs when he was 9 years old. At 10, he devoured books in English on the subject, using a dictionary to translate it word by word. At age 15, he founded his first company, an online bulletin board system which was precursor service of the Internet. At 22, then a director of a large technology company, he left everything behind to live abroad and “conquer the world.”
The curriculum of Rod Furlan, 30, impressed the directors of one of the boldest educational institutions in the world, Singularity University (SU) in California.
Starting with the name, inspired by the book The Singularity is Near by futurist and founder of SU, Dr. Ray Kurzweil, nothing is conventional in the institution, which is also known as the “Google University” because the Internet giant is one of the founders and supporters of the institution, located within the NASA Ames Research Center in the Silicon Valley.
“We seek enterprising people, willing to face great challenges,” says the executive director of SU, Salim Ismail, who was in Sao Paulo this month to establish a partnership with the Faculty of Information Technology (Fiap). After the program, students must submit a proposal that to positively impact on the lives of at least 1 billion people in the following decade.
Participating in this dream team university is not easy. The applicant must be an expert in matters such as networks and computer systems, biotechnology and nanotechnology, medicine and neuroscience, robotics and artificial intelligence, public policy, law or finance. Last year 1,200 candidates competed for 40 seats, this year 1600 to compete with 80 available.
“It was the best time of my life,” said Furlan. According to the Brazilian student, he alternated days of talks with senior officials from companies like Google itself with yoga classes and site visits. And at night, the participants met at the NASA lodge to discuss for hours all that they had learnt about the future. “SU is also known as Sleepless University, because students do not sleep,” jokes Ismail.