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商业 - 科技

聘请谷歌掌门人讲课的神秘大学

这是一所没有围墙的大学。它不设终身教职,但谷歌CEO拉里•佩奇这样的大腕却纷纷走上它的讲台,担任授课老师。它没有传统大学的院系,只着眼未来,设定纳米科技、生物科技、人工智能等研究方向。它就是提供终身学习课程的奇点大学。它是一个智库,更是创业孵化器。

    奇点大学联合创始人雷•库兹韦尔

    奇点大学(Singularity University)或许代表了高等教育的未来。它获得了许多高科技公司合伙人的支持,而且,它与人们想象中的学校截然不同。实际上,这家刚诞生于硅谷羽翼尚未丰满的机构已经拥有强大的学习课程,足以吸引所有希望在变幻莫测的世界中保持领先的公司前来取经。

    奇点大学并没有庞大的规模或者悠久的历史。它成立于2009年,创始人是两位成功的企业家——彼得•迪亚芒蒂思和雷•库兹韦尔,他们成立这个机构的目的在于,利用破坏性技术在十年内对十亿人产生积极影响。这个小型机构既是一所大学,也是一个智库,更是创业孵化器。它并没有聘请常驻教师,而是充分利用由科学家、思想家、工程师、投资人、商业领袖和公共政策制定者等组成的庞大的、继续发展的社区。这些人有动力去研究快速发展的科技所拥有的潜力,来应对人类面临的严峻挑战,例如水资源短缺和能源消耗等。

    计算能力、存储与网络等技术的发展日新月异,更新速度史无前例,没有人敢停下学习的脚步。持续的终生学习势在必行,因而促成了奇点大学扩展型的教师模式。

    奇点大学并不是由传统大学的院系(例如物理、经济和电子工程等)组成,因为这种组织方式容易受困于各种历史性的调查,以及长达数十年的学科混战。奇点大学设置了12个专注未来的“学科轨道”。学院设有纳米科技、生物科技与生物信息学、人工智能与机器人等学科,因为这些学科在未来5至10年会对我们的经济和人类社会带来最大的影响。学校80%的课程内容均属于所谓“放眼未来”的学科,因此,学校必须经常审时度势,将临时的趋势与具有重大意义的发展区分开来,同时根据这些信号重新安排教师与课程。

    听上去是不是有点耳熟?本来就应该这样。只可惜,如今的公司只热衷于从媒体铺天盖地的的表面现象中筛选所谓的真知灼见。

    正是由于对未来的偏重,在与奇点大学最相关的领域,专家们往往并未从事学术工作。学校主要依靠临时教员。大学的核心教师团队均为兼职,每个“学科轨道”的核心团队由一名主席和多位顾问组成。这些教师不仅是管理者,也是思想领袖。他们会利用自己的人脉,及时了解最新的科技进展,发现新的专家。核心团队会频繁更新课程表,每几个月就会对所有授课进行一次评估。有些“学科轨道”的课程每年会修改85%以上。

    奇点大学没有终身教职:学校每年聘请160名客座讲师,其中有40%会被新教师替代。文特•瑟夫(互联网创始人之一、谷歌高管——译注)、拉里•佩奇(谷歌联合创始人兼CEO——译注)、狄恩•卡门(发明家——译注)和克雷格•文特尔(塞雷拉基因组公司创始人、前总裁——译注)都曾在奇点大学授课。

    Singularity University may well be the future of higher education. With backing from an array of high tech corporate partners, it isn't what you typically think of when you imagine a school. In fact, this fledgling Silicon Valley institution holds powerful lessons for any business that wants to stay ahead in a rapidly changing world.

    Singularity University doesn't have a big staff or a long history. It was founded in 2009 by two successful entrepreneurs, Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil, with the vision of using disruptive technologies to positively impact a billion people within a decade. Rather than hiring resident faculty members, this small institution -- part university, part think tank, part business-incubator -- taps into a large and growing community of scientists, thinkers, engineers, investors, business leaders, and public policy makers. They are motivated to explore the potential of rapidly advancing technologies to take on humanity's big challenges, such as water scarcity and energy consumption.

    With technologies such as computing power, storage, and networking improving at an unprecedented pace, no one can afford to stop learning. This imperative for continuous, lifelong learning drives Singularity University's extended faculty model.

    Singularity University is not organized into traditional departments (physics, economics, and electrical engineering) that tend to lock into historical lines of inquiry and decades-long turf battles. Instead, it has 12 evolving "tracks" focused on the future. The university identifies topics such as nanotechnology, biotechnology and bioinformatics, and artificial intelligence and robotics that will likely have the greatest impact on our economy and society in the next 5-10 years. With 80% of the course content on so-called "future-looking" disciplines, the school must constantly scan the environment, sorting temporary fads from significant developments and reconfiguring faculty and curriculum based on those signals.

    Sound familiar? If companies today aren't trying to filter insights from the surface events that consume our daily headlines, they should be.

    Because of this bias toward the future, experts on topics most relevant to the university tend to work outside of academia. The school leans heavily on temporary faculty. The core faculty, comprised of a chair and advisors for each track, are all part-time. Chosen to be curators as well as thought leaders, these faculty members use their personal networks to keep abreast of new developments and identify emerging experts. The core faculty updates the curriculum on a near-constant basis and reviews each lecture every few months. The curriculum for some tracks changes up to 85% each year.

    No tenure models here: the school brings in 160 different guest lecturers each year with 40% of that list changing year-to-year. Vint Cerf, Larry Page, Dean Kamen, and Craig Venter have all lectured at Singularity.

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