Collider Talks #6 | Singularity University Summit 2016

Ask anyone what they thought of the New Zealand Singularity University Summit that took place in Christchurch last week, and they will mention the words ‘mind' and 'blowing’. It truly was.

The Singularity University Summit hosted 21 of the world's most forward-thinking minds, who spoke to an incredibly diverse audience of 1,400 humans collectively seeking to know more about our future.

Singularity University is a think-tank focussing on future technology nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley.

The Summit’s purpose was to bring experts from the University to New Zealand so Kiwis can not only hear about the cutting edge of humankind's technological skills but to understand that we need to prepare for a future dominated by artificial intelligence, virtual reality and gene editing, to name a few.

Collider was lucky enough to be a channel partner of the Summit which allowed a few of us to attend this momentous event and have our minds expanded by today’s technology breakthroughs that it will transform life as we know it.

This blog could easily transform into a novel if I attempted to capture all the content produced over the Summit’s three days, so instead here’s a quick and dirty breakdown of what we attempted to absorb from some of the speakers.

Introduction to Exponentials

Kalia Colbin, Curator at SingularityU New Zealand and Summit organiser.

  • An exponential technology is a piece of technology that is doubling each year in power and or speed. It is also something that the cost is dropping in half each year. 
  • All the technology we know and understand today has the power to be exponential and take off at an astounding rate. 
  • Where we are in history right now is on the very edge of a new and exciting world. This is a world we need to understand and adapt to in order to thrive. 


Dave Roberts, Faculty Innovation and Disruption, Singularity University

  • What industry are you really in?  
  • What industry is going to disrupt yours?
  • What jobs will humans always be better at than technology?


 Ramez Naan, professional technologist and science fiction writer.

  • The planet has a fever and the problems of climate change are here today.
  • We can address climate change through policy, business, technology and innovations
We are expecting breakthrough technologies in wind and solar power to help with this fight, but wether they come in time is unknown.
— Ramez Naan

Digital Biology

Raymond McCauley, Chair of Digital Biology at Singularity University
  • Genetic engineering is starting to look a lot more like software engineering. Digital organisms can be created, like this worm living in it's own matrix!
  • Biohacking is a thing and it's not just about people taking nutrient supplements, we could control the genetics going into the next generation, which would have massive ethical implications and create new laws and policies. 
We don’t need another person making us an app, we need people working on things that will help us all be better off!
— Raymond McCauley

The future of work and jobs

Kathryn MyronukChair Emeritus of Finance and Economics; Synthesis & Convergence, Singularity University
  • New technologies that once seemed impossible are now taking off. These new technologies will take over many jobs that humans are currently employed to do. This will effect low income nations the most. 
  • 47 per cent and 81 per cent of current jobs are open to disruption. Most will disappear or change beyond recognition, including many white collar careers such as accounting, law and medicine.
This is a problem that hasn’t been widely researched as to how we will face it, but we have the tools to do so and we need to start now.
— Kathryn Myronuk


Neil JacobsteinChair of Artificial Intelligence & Robotics, Singularity University
  • The race for AI is heating up and funding for AI startups is at an all time high. 
  • AI will not be used to just to things faster, better and cheaper but will affect all areas of business including healthcare and finance. 
  • AI is coming and it will transform business models and alter the world of work as we know it. 


Future of Education

Sue SucklingChairperson of Board, NZ Qualifications Authority
  • We need to create boarderless education. Online and virtual institutions will be a thing of the future so there's greater access to education. 
  • Our biggest barrier is our current highly regulated education system which is a product of  generations of fear and control over getting qualifications. 
The role of qualifications as we know it is over. As New Zealanders we need to be a smart nation participating in this world fully.
— Sue Suckling

This is just a micro snapshot of what we attempted to absorb over the three days of the Summit, and as you can imagine our brains were a bit fried by the end of the week! But if you're keen to know more you can follow this link to see everyone who spoke. 

On a final note, I mentioned before that the audience was incredibly diverse with the ages ranging from primary schoolers to retirees.

Summit organiser, Kalia Colbin saw the event as being vital for the younger demographic who will be living, leading and thriving in this exponentially fueled future. We were curious to know how the information from the Summit was landing for the young adults, so Collider investigated.

For me, the Singularity University Summit created more questions than answers about our future. However one thing is very clear, we need to work together more than ever before in order to thrive and adapt with these rocketing advancements in technology.

As the second year of Collider progresses we will be keeping everything we heard and witnessed from this Summit in mind, as we continue to connect, curate and collaborate in order to transform Wellington into an internationally recognised smart place to do business. 

Caitlin is BizDojo Wellington's Comms lady who spends half her time with her mind blown by the limitless optimism and breakthroughs of humankind, and the other half mind blown by the fact her cat prefers to drink out of the shower than his water bowl.