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. Read more