Singularity University and the Disaster Resilience Global Grand Challenge

Disaster Resilience is one of Singularity University’s global grand challenges. Specifically, we believe in creating a world with effective and efficient disaster risk reduction, emergency response, and rehabilitation that saves lives and livelihoods, minimizes economic loss, and builds resilience both globally and locally.

According to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), more than 18,000 mass disasters—including earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, cyclones, floods, and droughts as well as industrial and technical accidents—have rocked civilizations since 1900. This figure does not include wars and conflict or the many small-scale disasters, such as house fires, that the Red Cross estimates affect about 60,000 households per year in the US alone. Disasters are also expensive; the UN and CRED estimate natural disasters have caused nearly $3 trillion in damages over the last twenty years. Disasters also often lead to long-term environmental damage, such as toxic spills, nuclear accidents, or leftover landmines, that make it impossible for citizens to live, work, or farm in the area.

The disaster resilience GGC is closely linked to the governance and security GGCs as well as the food, water, health, prosperity, learning, and environment challenges. At Singularity University, we also consider how disaster resilience is linked to the space global grand challenge given that space poses risks to humans ranging from asteroid strikes to solar flares that could damage our digital infrastructure.

Our faculty are spearheading conversations and initiatives around how exponential technologies can solve the disaster resilience global grand challenge

SU co-founder and faculty Dr. Peter Diamandis recently published a good overview of the key ways AI and Robotics are Transforming Disaster Relief. He noted that the technologies are helping in several ways including the use of artificial intelligence, predictive mapping and crowdsourcing to identify, send out alerts and event predict disasters; as well as next generation robotics, swarm solutions, and aerial drones to help respond to disasters. Diamandis, who is also Founder and Executive Chairman of the X Prize Foundation, has been championing a future X Prize to rapidly detect and extinguish wildfires.

SU Faculty Dr. Eric Rasmussen covers disaster resilience and global health and often brings first hand knowledge into our programming. In addition to being a medical doctor and CEO of Infinitum Humanitarian Systems (IHS), Rasmussen leads the Global Disaster Response Team for the Roddenberry Foundation (supported by the Star Trek franchise), and is a Permanent Advisor to the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Expert Panel on Water Disasters. His  disaster deployments include Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria in 2017 (3x), Haiti for Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the Nepal earthquake in 2015, Supertyphoon Haiyan in the Philippines, Superstorm Sandy in New York, Haiti’s earthquake in 2010, Banda Aceh for the tsunami, and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

SU Faculty Dr. Nicholas Haan also works and teaches about the disaster resilience challenge and is co Chair of the UN Working Group on Advanced Technologies for Security and Disaster Analysis. Haan also created an international standard for classifying the severity of food insecurity and disasters called the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).

Our community, impact partners and startups are solving the disaster resilience global grand challenge

SU Impact Partner Field Innovation Team, founded by Desi Matel-Anderson, empowers humans to create cutting edge disaster solutions. In the past, Field Innovation Team provided mentoring and advice to SU innovators, and also connected SU Portfolio Company X2AI, a mental health chatbot, to opportunities to help Syrian people living in refugee camps in Lebanon. In 2018, I was fortunate to participate in a design thinking session with Field Innovation Team and BBVA in developing ShelterSmart – which empowered communities to work more closely with official government coordinated responses to disasters.

Our SU Portfolio companies are also working in the disaster resilience space. SU Portfolio company billionBricks has developed an award-winning, life-saving extreme weather shelter.  They have helped over 5000 people in nine countries. SU Portfolio Company Field Ready uses technology to manufacture supplies in the field when people need them most. You can read about their work in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian, in Vanuatu, and in Jordan.

How are you helping to solve the disaster resilience global grand challenge? What are some of the ways you think exponential technologies can help?