Singularity University Global Summit: 21 Takeaways for the 21st Century (Part 1)

GLOBIS Deputy Dean Jorge Calvo presents some of his inspiration triggered at the Singularity University Global Summit, held in mid-August, "which could be applied to all sectors and areas of society in continuous revolution."

Singularity University does not fit the mold of a classic academic university. Of course, it boasts top professors: two of its founders hail from MIT and have been honored by countless institutions. However, no one talks about the past, they talk about how they want the future to be: “Hope is not a strategy.” Singularity University's mission is to “educate, inspire, and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity's grand challenges,” but it is not technology-driven. It’s not just innovative, either: it aims for large-scale disruptions―what Joseph Schumpeter, one of the most influential economists of the 20th century, called Creative Destruction. They don’t intend to appoint any Chairs; instead, they aspire to inspire.

What is the New Exponential Paradigm?

1. What is Moonshot Thinking? SU co-founder Peter Diamandis summarized it as follows: “A Moonshot is going 10X bigger, while the rest of the world is pursuing 10% bigger. When you try to do something 10% better, you’re putting yourself in a “smartness” competition with everyone else in the world—a competition you’re unlikely to win. When you instead try to go 10X bigger, you’re forced to approach the problem in a radically different fashion. The result is 100X more worth it, but it’s never 100X harder.”

2. Faster, cheaper computer power is boosting the growth of exponential technologies, including networks & sensors, synthetic biology, robotics, 3D printing, virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence, with unexpected convergence and consequences and new business models.

3. A new entrepreneurial mindset is needed to convert big problems into big opportunities for a better world. We should focus on the things we can make an exponential impact on.

4. Over the last 10 years, leadership has been about coping with change and doing the right things. Exponential leadership is about coping with non-change: it stops the things that are wrong, for everyone.

5. The exponential transformation process is not rational—it is fully emotional, and people and policy can either develop it or block it. Diamandis quoted: “Ideas are Easy, Culture is Hard: creating an ecosystem for rapidly evaluating and testing ideas is much harder than finding the idea. Filter weaker ideas early by running a ‘pre-mortem’—predict in advance why an idea is likely to fail—and celebrate and reward ideas that the team kills early.”

6. The various types of Exponential Leadership mindsets include:
-Futurist: Imagines bold ideas.
-Humanitarian Impact-Driver: Makes choices that positively impact people and communities.
-Technologist: Accelerates possibilities with technology.
-Innovator: Brings ideas to life.

7. Speed is the critical currency of our time: the pace of change is accelerating exponentially and we are painfully and detrimentally slow—technology is growing faster than individuals, individuals are growing faster than businesses, and businesses are growing faster than public policy and regulations.

8. As humans, we tend to think linearly. As entrepreneurs, we need to think exponentially to take advantage of the potential of emerging technologies to work together. SU co-founder Ray Kurzweil said: “Our intuition about the future is linear. But the reality of information technology is exponential, and that makes a profound difference. If I take 30 steps linearly, I get to 30. If I take 30 steps exponentially, I get to a billion.” 

9. The future world will be characterized by the 6 Ds: Digitalized, Deceptive, Disruptive, Dematerialized, Demonetized and Democratized.

10. Understanding customers’ needs today doesn’t ensure success tomorrow. The strategic advantage belongs to those organizations that can forecast future customers’ needs and respond in advance.

11. Exponential strategies pursue long-term goals but focus on short-term steps dynamically. It’s a constant zoom-in and zoom-out: think big but start small, managing volume, velocity and complexity:
-Your customers: Look for the future jobs that need to be done.
-Your future: track and map ahead.
-Your organization: build and xEnterprise.
-Your people: Train xLeaders who do the things that make the new things obsolete by making products exponentially accessible to people.

12. There are four convergent forces for exponential health, namely:

These twelve ideas help us understand the new exponential paradigm. In Part 2, we will cover some of the exponential controversies and predictions. Stay tuned!

Click here to access to the Summit livestream recorded (sign-in required).

Photo by Jorge Calvo