Singularity University and the Learning Global Grand Challenge

At Singularity University, we define solving the Learning global grand challenge as creating a world where all people have access to information and experiences that build knowledge and skills at all stages of their lives for personal fulfillment and benefit to society.

Over the last century, the world has made great strides in improving access to education for children. The most significant challenges today for children include improving the quality of the education that currently exists and reaching the last groups of children who are still not in school. According to the United Nations SDGs, more than 91 percent of the world’s children now attend primary school, leaving 57 million children out of school. Most of the children who don’t attend school live in Sub-Saharan Africa, conflict or war zones, or rural areas lacking transportation, or they face additional challenges such as disabilities. Girls in particular locations are kept out of school due to personal safety issues, hygiene and health challenges, and cultural challenges.

In addition, given the accelerating rate of change in our world, we must now also help all adults transition into an era of lifelong learning—part of Singularity University’s mission around the world.

As our Vice Chair of Global Grand Challenges, I see our Faculty, innovators, and community tackling the Learning global grand challenge across all of these areas.

Our Faculty and Experts are solving the learning challenge

Singularity University has a number of Faculty working to ensure that people everywhere have access to a high-quality education. Gary Bolles, Nathaniel Calhoun, Brett Schilke, and Dr. Nicole Wilson provide high-level general overviews of how exponential technologies are transforming both the future of learning and the future of work. SingularityU South Africa Faculty Jos Dirkx, the founder of Beenova and several social impact organizations and projects, speaks about how her company helps children learn by utilizing both artificial intelligence and emotional intelligence. Dr. Taddy Blecher, also based in South Africa, is a pioneer of the free tertiary education movement in South Africa and has founded more than six free institutions of higher learning including the Branson Center for Entrepreneurship, co-founded with Richard Branson. Dr. Sahra-Josephine Hjorth, SingularityU Nordic Faculty, and founder of CanopyLab, speaks about the future of learning, artificial intelligence, and inclusivity. Dr. Vivienne Ming, the founder of Socos, speaks about learning based on her background in machine learning and cognitive neuroscience. Dr. Esther Wojcicki, journalism teacher and founder of the Palo Alto High School Media Arts program, speaks about how to empower students and how to raise successful children. She has also published the book, Moonshots in Education: Launching Blended Learning in the Classroom. Carin Watson and Kyle Nel focus on corporate learning and its connection to transformation and innovation within companies. In addition, both Aaron Frank and Jody Medich touch on the future of learning in their talks on applications of augmented and virtual reality. In fact, the future of learning comes up in many of our talks across the SU ecosystem, given the role multiple exponential technologies are expected to play in the future of learning, and how learning also cuts across many different industries and the global grand challenges.

Children learning on a computer

Our startups, corporate partners and company are solving the learning challenge

A number of our startups and Portfolio Companies are working to solve the Learning global grand challenge. Key2Enable, founded in Brazil, builds technologies to help people with disabilities better access computers and educational and other opportunities. IrisAI, based in Europe, uses artificial intelligence and decentralized applications to further open, transparent, and unbiased scientific research and work.

In addition to our Portfolio Companies, a number of our Global Startup Program teams and alumni are succeeding in the field. The company 360ed is working in Myanmar to provide children and youth with skills in literacy, languages, the sciences, and sex education through augmented reality. The Art of Unlearning explores the future of digital natives and learning and unlearning in Africa. The company Kukua has created a female superhero, Sema, who helps children throughout Africa learn literacy, numeracy, and the skills to change the world. Ahura AI uses artificial intelligence to help retrain workforces three to five times the rate of traditional retraining programs.

Moreover, Singularity University has also worked with several companies to investigate the future of learning and the future of corporate learning. We worked with Cisco to produce Human Learning is About to Change Forever a white paper on the future of learning, and with Airbus to create a first-of-its-kind AR and AI education platform for Airbus employees and customers.

In early 2019, SU also hosted more than fifty members of our ecosystem to attend a Science Fiction Design Intelligence Workshop on the Future of Learning. Out of that workshop we produced a graphic novel SciFi D.I.: Design Intelligence for the Future of Learning sharing a vision for what learning can look like in fifteen years from now, as well as the Exponential Guide to the Future of Learning exploring current challenges and solutions in the field.

I personally enjoyed this workshop, as the graphic novel provided a concrete vision for people to react to and hopefully design their own vision of what learning can look like in their communities. In particular, the graphic novel triggered questions for me such as, “How will we decide what skills children should learn in the future?” Digital education is by nature global, and raises questions such as: Who should decide what is important to learn? Should it be national governments, parents, community leaders, social innovators, companies, or children themselves? Are there new technology platforms which could assist in that process?

I also have many questions about the rapidly developing field of brain-to-brain and brain-to-computer interfaces. They will likely be used both with children in the classroom as well as with adults in the workplace in the future. Yet few people are thinking about the ethical consequences of such technologies, the security and privacy systems that must be in place, or how they will change how we value knowledge. We have the chance now to start asking questions about how these and other exponential technologies will be leveraged and to start designing the companies and policies of the future.

Are you working on solving the Learning global grand challenge? Join our community and start logging your impact goals in our app. While there, connect and start conversations with others who share your interests. Learn more about steps you can take to help solve the Learning global grand challenge and get an update on our progress in solving the other GGCs by downloading our free report, “2019 State of the Global Grand Challenges Report.”