There’s a special place in the hearts of most foundation employees for folks who understand and propel groundbreaking technology. And for those of us still trying to figure out how to use an iPad or create a text message, their work is nothing short of amazing. So it comes as no surprise that Salim Ismail, executive director of Singularity University, kept the audience enthralled at Tuesday’s lunch plenary session with a fast-paced presentation.
“We have today the first self-replicating life form, and its parent DNA is an e-mail file,” he said. “When you think about information technology, you read information, you process it, you write it. Those are the three phases, so we essentially wrote DNA.… I grew up hacking PCs. Kids today are hacking programming on the Internet. Their kids will be hacking the family dog.”
“This little puppet does two amazing things,” he explained, pointing to a video clip of a creature that looked something like a Furby or Gizmo from the 1980s movies Gremlins. “First, it can detect emotion. It can detect whether you’re happy or sad. Second, it’s doubling in emotion.” Sure enough, the puppet’s eyes and body reacted—it even lowered its ears as would a dog that was being scolded.
Dogs, however, are real animals. Ismail’s example is a product of technology, a symbol of the amazing things to come and a signal that community foundations need to hold their collective breath for the next discovery that inevitably will come down the pike.