© Alexandre Gellert Paris – Associate Programme Officer at the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC)

What is the Singularity University?

Alexandre Gellert Paris: The Singularity University is a Benefit (B-corp) educational corporation hosted by the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Federal Airfield in California’s Silicon Valley. The University was founded by Peter Diamandis (also the founder of XPRIZE and many other companies) and Ray Kurzweil (the author of “The Singularity is Near” and a director of engineering at Google).

Their subjects include artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, autonomous vehicles (drones, self-driving cars), virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), digital biology, renewable energy, digital manufacturing (3D printing), nanotechnology, cryptocurrencies and blockchain, health care, and space sciences. Singularity University’s goal is to educate and inspire leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.

Could you share with us your experience at Singularity University

AGP: Last year I took a 5-months break from my job (a study leave) to participate in the 2016 global solutions program (GSP16), the flagship program of Singularity University. I was very impressed with the faculty, guest lectures, and my fellow participants.

My summer was intense. Some of the highlights include: hearing from Aubrey de Grey about rejuvenation and the possibility of living indefinitely; the Iranian-American astronaut Anousheh Ansari talking about her experience in the International Space Station (ISS); the AI class and workshop with Jeremy Howard, and Lucy Flores, a teenage girl that builds brain–computer interface (BCI) robots; having the opportunity to alter the DNA of a microorganism using the genome editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 in a hands-on workshop; the very controversial talk on “the future of money” by Brett Reginald Scott; I stayed up until 5:00 am with colleagues listening to Salim Ismail talking about everything (including the meaning of life) during the longest lecture I have ever attended; moreover, a panel discussion with the core faculty on the topic “are we living in a simulation?”.

It was amazing to visit the assembly line of rockets in SpaceX and to see the Google driverless cars just casually cruising the streets of Mountain View. I even made friends with Googlers and got to play drums in their band (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaopMUCI3Xs). Finally, my team project ReBeam was selected among the top 5 best startup concepts from GSP16.

Explain to the reader what ReBeam means and how it will affect the transmission of energy.

AGP: ReBeam Space is a power relay satellite concept that aims to move large amounts of energy across the planet without wires. The idea is to build the first wireless electricity network for grids using satellites. ReBeam proposes placing a microwave reflector in a displaced geostationary orbit and beam electricity between solar farms under illumination to those in darkness (www.rebeam.space).

The microwave wireless power transmission (WPT) technology has been further developed in Bangalore, India in the labs of NoPo Nanotechnologies (www.nopo.in). The next step is to build a prototype WPT system (transmitter and receiver) that can deliver power to drones and quadcopters.

In September 2017, ReBeam was presented at the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia. The IAC is the most important annual gathering of the space community.

What motivates you in the morning and how do you think about it in the evening?

AGP: I’m very motivated to contribute to environmental restoration, the acceleration of the transition to renewable sources of energy, and to make humanity a multi-planetary civilization. As said by the computer scientist Alan Kay “the best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.”

Which question would you like to answer that you have never been asked before?

AGP: What is your all-time favorite song? Imagine by John Lennon.

 

If you want to learn more about Alexandre’s background and work at the UNFCCC secretariat: https://bonnsustainabilityportal.de/en/2014/10/bonn-voices-alexander-gellert-paris-about-unfccc-and-their-regional-collaboration-centres/

The interview was conducted by Nteboheng Phakisi