Creativity is another aspect that has stuck in my mind. The endless brainstorming exercises do not stop surprising you. Participants –pretty much everyone!– come up with remarkable ideas each and every time under significant time pressure, most often out of left field. On top of homegrown capabilities I believe the program structure, designed to have minds exploring and digging into convergence points of global grand challenges and future exponential technologies, contributes a good deal in fueling the creative juices too.
There is respect also. One might expect that when you put together A-types with very different backgrounds from forty plus countries you might see a good number of clashes over, for instance, how we decide things or what can be asked of other people. This has not been my experience. Leaving aside one or two isolated minor episodes, a deeply ingrained respect for colleagues, faculty and staff alike has presided over these wonderful weeks spent and NASA Ames.
Empathy has been an interesting one too. At the beginning of the program we got into a heated debate about empathy and its importance. Or more than its importance, the degree to which it can be demanded from others and whether experiencing it –or at least attempting or claiming to do so– is a sufficient argument when it comes to justifying one’s actions. Was it just about semantics? I do not think so. It seemed like a very real debate to me.
I find Singularity University’s purpose has a lot at stake around the concept of empathy. Attempting to transform the world for the better demands a responsible, comprehensive approach to the theory of change behind this vision. Few things could be more prejudicial to the precious mission statement of this institution than turning its back on the very people whose lives we aim to improve, as well as society as a whole. Losing sight of this could turn into a very dangerous slippery slope.
I see this demand for empathy as one of those necessary but not sufficient conditions that you learn about studying math or logic. The actual sufficient condition I see it pegged to a world-class impact monitoring effort –a very difficult area indeed–. All SU-linked initiatives should be passed through this filter to ensure their alignment with the institution’s most ambitious vision. This is the context in which I perceived the 2015 Impact Report released this summer to be a very important step in the right direction.
I pride myself in having been surrounded by pretty incredible people throughout the different stages of my career —spanning investment banking, party politics, civil society activism and digital entrepreneurship—, but I truly believe that I have never been part of a comparably large group of talented and well-rounded individuals, comprising program participants as well as SU faculty and staff.
I sincerely hope that each and everyone –all these wonderful ‘SUmans’– will remain dear friends and future associate for the long haul. It is an absolutely critical prerequisite in order to achieve success in this wonderful journey plagued with difficulties we collectively have embarked ourselves upon! That is how I genuinely feel, at least.