Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010: Odyssey 2.0

The year 2010 takes me back as much as forward. For me this coming year is irrevocably connected to the book and movie 2010: Odyssey Two, sequels to the venerated originals that blew the mind of a generation.  The writing of 2010, together with the subsequent screenplay and the production of the movie, spanned the years 1982-1984. It was a time when my mentors Arthur Clarke and Carl Sagan were at the height of their articulate influence on the public and on me personally. My life had already been consigned to the art of the possible by my good fortune to connect with a young Peter Diamandis and Todd Hawley; together becoming dream weavers while immersed in a dynamic of incredibly inspirational visionaries who had once been teachers, authors and celebrities and were now our collaborators, advisors and mentors. SEDS had already been born and the Space Generation was emerging in our consciousness; an ecosystem of optimism and benign conspiracy that would be highly influential in our founding of the International Space University a few years later.

In that period it was probably Carl's potent intellect and standards that kept me reaching; but it was Arthur's personable wit, charm and sense of fun that kept me grounded. Both utterly brilliant and wonderful people, Carl gave me the cosmic perspective while Arthur gave me the sense of adventure to do something about it.

While "2001" had inspired me as a boy, the creation of "2010" became a personal odyssey. I had the fun of pointing out an astronomical error to Arthur in the book's first edition that Carl had already proof-read and blessed ("stop the presses!" Arthur yelped...); reading copies of Arthur's electronic dialog with director Peter Hyams (the screenplay was written collaboratively over a new thing called "email"; Arthur and Peter never actual met until the Hollywood premiere); shooing uncooperative pigeons into the shot for Arthur's cameo in the movie (an early scene in front of the White House; Arthur plays a homeless person sitting on a bench screen left from Roy Scheider and James McEachin); and watching Roy drop his pants to "moon" fellow actor-turned president Ronald Reagan passing overhead in Marine One (a light hearted event the film's PR company later denied).

During the 1980's, in the aftermath of the false dawn of Apollo, it became clear that the complicated embrace of politics and space exploration had ultimately failed to produce anything close to the future portrayed by the space visionaries. It became a philosophical and generational divide for many of us. The Age of Apollo was amplified by 2001: A Space Odyssey so intimately that it is not clear which phenomenon was cause or effect. While a world worn by war and uncertainty watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin step onto the lunar surface in 1969, the imaginations of Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrick promised a future of discovery, bounty, civility and higher purpose that seemed within our grasp - a vision of a future where anything was possible. Then in a manic reversal of thrust, the Moon program was cancelled, transforming those incredible accomplishments into the unrequited aspirations of the first space generation - Orphans of Apollo.

The 2001 New Year was historic for we Orphans; however it wasn't very poignant. The imaginations of Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrick had so radically outpaced our known reality in space that any probability of the possible was lost. No lunar probes were flying. No commercial space liners could take us up to an orbiting hotel. At the turn of the millennium the Moon remained a world ignored; an ambition of a decayed political regime lost in the public mindset. If there were any magnetic anomalies waiting to be discovered, beacons of alien alarm clocks or not, they would have to await the resurgence of human curiosity about its sister world.

But 2010 is different. We are now immersed in a new dawn of lunar exploration; "Moon 2.0" as branded by the Google Lunar X PRIZE. In the past few years numerous government probes have delivered a stunning amount of new information about the Moon. We now know that water exists on the Moon in sufficient quantities to be a game changer for lunar exploration. Private capital is flowing into commercial space initiatives. The Moon is a whole new world embraced by collaborative public and private interests; open to government and commercial missions intent on exploring and developing Earth's closest island of opportunity in our planetary archipelago.

Arthur and Carl would have been thrilled about the renewed exploration initiatives and science being generated as we continue to discover the richness and diversity of a world so conveniently written off as dead and boring. The Moon has the land area of the combined Americas and we have barely begun to unravel and unveil its mysteries and resources. 2010 is the decade when the Moon will truly become Earth's sister world as part of our economic sphere; a destination of exploration and settlement and a stepping stone to Mars and beyond.

It should come as no surprise that my company's name, "Odyssey Moon", is a reverent nod to Arthur Clarke and all that he did to inspire we Orphans of Apollo. In my last email exchange with Arthur we shared our mutual enthusiasm for the renewed interests in the Moon and the Google Lunar X PRIZE-inspired efforts to create a sustainable commercial presence. With tongue in cheek he suggested that he'd like to offer his own personal bonus prize for the detection of any lunar magnetic anomalies...

Retrospection inspires resolution. Here's to 2010, the year we make contact with a renewed hope for our future in space and on Earth.

Happy New Year everyone.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Singularity University Executive Program

Last year, I joined Peter Diamandis, Ray Kurzweil and other leading thinkers in the founding of a really amazing institution called Singularity University (SU). Built on the International Space University model of interdisciplinary/intercultural education, SU is dedicated to preparing Humanity for accelerating technological change and educating today's leaders about tomorrow's world. Headquartered at the NASA Research Park iSilicon Valley, SU was established with the support of Google, ePlanet Ventures, Autodesk and a dozen individual Associate Founders. SU runs a 10-week graduate/post-graduate program (GSP) every summer and 9-day/3-day “Executive Programs” (EPs) several times a year; intellectual and networking marathons of the highest order that have been called life-changing experiences.

Our SU Executive Programs are designed for decision makers, entrepreneurs, CEOs, venture capitalists, strategists and government leaders from around the world. The program concentrates on six exponentially growing technologies taught by leading thinkers and doers in each field: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Medicine and Human-Machine Interfaces, Networks & Computing Systems, and Energy & Environmental Systems. Attending the program gives you an understanding of how these accelerating technologies will transform your business, your industry and your world by showing you what is in the lab today and where the technologies will be in 5 and 10 years. A detailed description of the program including video testimonials from past participants and a personal introduction by Peter Diamandis is available here.

Our next 9-day Executive Program will run from February 26th -March 7th, 2010. Participation is limited but there are still some spots left. The fee is $15,000 including all food, accommodations, field trips and special events. If you’re interested in participating, you can complete the application here.

We held our inaugural 9-day Executive Program in November 2009 with outstanding results. I was there and was thrilled at the level of discussion and collegial networking between our incredible participants, faculty and staff.

Here are some quotes from our inaugural Executive Program Participants:
"Every presentation and conversation blew my mind."
"EP09 has been one of the most exciting, intense and challenging experiences of my life."
"I took away a lot of new ideas and amazing, amazing contacts. I think I will be able to formulate some very high impact messages for my company that could really shape its near term actions and strategies."
"I am grateful for the chance to be part of this experience. It is an exceptional opportunity. It is so rare in life to have a chance (particularly later in life) to spend nine days with equally qualified, equally inspired, and equally capable people."
Here are some recent articles about the SU/EP program:

SU has been covered extensively by the media since we announced its founding at TED on February 3rd, 2009. The January 2010 issue of POPULAR SCIENCE has a 6-page spread on our inaugural Graduate Studies Program (GSP'09): "Greetings from Future Camp". 

Treat yourself to some brain candy with a selection of SU lectures on our website. If (beyond yourself) someone you know might be interested in the SU programs, please spread the word. SU is a very special place where anything is possible. It's a place where amazing, passionate people meet each other and collaborate to grow themselves and their ventures, and take on grand challenges to create a better world.

Applications for GSP'10 and our next EP are open on our website: