Already, computers are more intelligent than most people you watch on television. But what will happen when they are smarter than everyone? Google is starting a new institution, the Singularity University, to ponder that question.
The singularity is a concept taken from the physics of black holes. Once you cross the gravitational singularity, there's no going back; likewise, a technological singularity is a threshold past which there's no return to the staid pace of progress we experienced before. You think Apple upgrades its MP3 players too quickly as it is? Imagine an iPod Shuffle the size of a grain of sand implanted directly into your brain which writes its own music which is already mocked by your friends as out of date. That's the singularity.
Google is one of the school's sponsors, and classes will take place on NASA's Ames Research Campus — a facility right next to the Googleplex, where Google is already developing a new complex of offices and Larry and Sergey park their fleet of private jets. Ray Kurzweil, the futurist and author of The Singularity Is Near, is the university's founder. Peter Diamandis, the CEO of the X-Prize Foundation, which awarded a $10 million prize for the first privately built spacecraft in 2004, is also involved. Fees will run $25,000 per student. The curriculum will cover bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and a whole lot of other fields of knowledge which will prove absolutely useless after the computers take over.
The university seems right in line with Google's School of Spiritual Growth — a high-minded timewaster meant to indulge the odd side pursuits of Silicon Valley's extremely wealthy. We'd suggest you visit the website to learn more, but don't bother — it's down.