Today’s edition of the Financial Times features an experiment with an emerging technology which is already winning over geeks and marketeers alike: augmented reality.
When Singularity University was announced in February, its organisers said that during the 10 week summer course, which concluded today, students would work together to solve humanity’s “grand challenges.” By combining their supposedly above-average wits with Silicon Valley’s latest technologies, the 40 or so SU students would find innovative solutions for perennial problems including energy scarcity, climate change and hunger.
The effort, backed by Google and NASA, came across as innovative, if a bit hubristic. With its emphasis on smarter-than-human computers, it also raised plenty of concerns. As we wrote at the time, “many critics call the singularity dangerous. Some worry that a malicious artificial intelligence might annihilate the human race.”
At its closing ceremony today, four teams of SU students presented their projects. What emerged were not futuristic plans to embed computer chips in the brain and build super-smart machines, but noble (if half-baked) plans that leverage existing technologies to address important (if not entirely grand) challenges.
Venture capitalists are professional optimists – they have to be. How else could they keep investing in new businesses where the obstacles to success would seem insurmountable to most people?
But sometimes reality just has to be faced, and the reality in front of the VC industry right now is not pretty.
Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital sums it up here: half the industry could be swept away by the current downturn (though as an optimist, he clearly thinks he will end up in the fortunate half).