WEEK # 2 – Ethics, Prototypes & Sabor!


The first two weeks have been intense full of learning and amazing speakers. The photo below shows a few of the speakers that came to share their insights on the Global Grand Challenges we face. Some of the speakers included Ramez Naam, Vince Perez from WWF,  Darin Gunesekera from Ashoka, Women Activist Alaa Murabit, and famous for his TED Talk, Ernesto Sirolli, among many others!!


One of the exercises we did this week was a prototype exercise. We were given a limited amount of materials, 20 minutes, a team of 4 people and an ice cream bar. We had to build something to keep the ice cream cold in the sun for at least 20 minutes. I definitely thought I had this exercise in the bag, as an architect I knew exactly what and how to build it, how to insulate it, how to reflect the sunlight, BUT I learned a big lesson. The rules didn’t mention or prohibit the use of ICE, and we only limited ourselves with the tools we were given, while some other teams went out of their way to find ice. Of course, we didn’t think about it because we were thinking inside the parameters and materials we were given. In the end, our ice cream did pretty good, but it definitely could have done much better… with some ICE! …and yes, we ate all the ice cream afterwards!


Technological advances can positively impact the lives of many all over the world, but any change can also bring a lot of controversy and the potential of negative change. We are aware of this and it is important to discuss all the ethical and moral implications of exponential technologies in the next few decades. To continue this conversation, we did a mock trial where we were given specific cases involving exponential technologies, we divided in teams that represented both the prosecutor and the defense for each case. Below are some of the cases we discussed. The class was in charge of voting for the best argument and it really opened our perspective to the complexity of this issues.


Another Highlight of the week was a “Fireside” Evening with one of Singularity U. founders Ray Kurzweil, inventor, artificial intelligence expert and currently Director of Engineering at Google. It was a time for us to ask him questions about anything. A few phrases that stuck with me during his talk…

“People think the world is getting worse, but it is just access to information that is getting better” – Ray Kurzweil

“Evolution is a spiritual process that takes us closer to God” – Ray Kurzweil

Q: How do you activate your creative process? A: “Dream while awake.. still with some rational thoughts but with the dimension of a dream” – Ray Kurzweil


During one of our sessions this week, we participated in a virtual brainstorming session with Field Innovation Team based in San Francisco, who are partnering with Governor of California to find solutions for the drought that California is currently facing. We were able to actively participate through Skype with the teams from FIT that were currently brainstorming different scenarios. It worked surprisingly well, it was a great example of the use of technology for collaboration. Who knows, maybe the Governor will implement some of our ideas!

CULTURE NIGHT: North America, South America and The Caribbean!

One of the traditions of Singularity University is to celebrate our culture! This week we had the first Culture Night featuring North America, South America and the Caribbean! Of course, it was full of dance, drinks and fun! The night was organized by all of us from those countries. Below are some pictures from the night!


Did you ever watch Minority Report? We are not far away from reality! See me below trying out the META Augmented Reality Glasses! In the future we will look a little crazy walking down the street if we start pointing to objects only we can see…. 🙂

WEEK # 1 – Virtual Reality

I have no idea where to start! It has been a week of intense learning, discussions, getting to know each other, scavenger hunts, fun conversations, virtual reality, robots and wine!


Wellness and team building was part of the main focus of the first week. We did a scavenger hunt around the campus, (I finally found the laundry room!) and We have done many fun stuff for team building and to get to know each other. We also have a wellness program laid out for us so we have many options for excercising and stay healthy. We now created yoga groups, running, biking, tenis, field games, meditation, martial arts and more! I am very impressed with how comprehensive and well rounded this program is! …Staying healthy is a priority!


Scavenger Hunt

marshmelow challenge

Marshmallow Challenge – Click on this photo above to follow the official GSP15 Blog and twitter feeds

I won’t be able to write about EVERYTHING that we have done because I don’t have enough time, BUT I will show you an overview of our curriculum and a schedule for a typical day at Singularity… you know.. nothing too intense!



Normal Day at Singularity


We got an introduction to the Innovation Lab that we will be playing with over the course of the program… Amongst the toys available, we can find: lego robot that solves the rubic cube, bitcoin miner, google glass, Virtual Reality sets, lots of gadgets, 3D Printers, lasercutters, drones… And a dancing  NAO robot! I thought I had taken video but I didn’t.. So stay tuned for the robot video soon!



An example of the diversity of people, here we are at a Brewery in Mountain View, CA and these are some of the places represented in the photo below….USA, Mexico, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Costa Rica, Chile, Brasil, UK, Taiwan (and reality TV star), South Africa, Poland, Israel and Italy!


Virtual Reality


We had a very interesting night with speakers from the United Nations Innovation and Amnesty International. We used Google Cardboard to Travel to Za’atari Refugee camp in Jordan, home to 84,000 Syrian refugees. We watched a film called Clouds over Sidra, the routine of a 12-year old girl living in the refugee camp.

Since I didn’t take a photo of myself, here is my friend Alix from the Netherlands

The experience with virtual reality was intended to promote empathy for all of the Syrian Refugees by imagining ourselves in the shoes of [in this case], the 12-year old girl refugee.



This one is more like an interesting/out of the ordinary fact…. Gustav, one of my friends here at GSP15 founded a Church in Sweden called the Missionary Church of Kopimism, a congregation of file sharers who believe that copying information is a sacred virtue. Yes… feel free to read the previous sentence again. Happy copying! Ctrl+C Ctrl+V

WEEK #0 – First Impressions & Opening Ceremony!


Imagine being in a room surrounded by 80 bright innovators from 45 different countries, multiple backgrounds, so many different life stories, but with one goal in common: Make the world a better place for at least a billion people! YES, this is where I am. The only classroom where students fight for the first row!

Upon registration, we were given a goodie backpack! Which included regular items such as a notebook, a book, a water bottle and Austronaut Icecream! Normal stuff… 😉

Later, interesting things happened during orientation, while we were getting to know everyone including faculty, we had a staff member just stroll inside the classroom in the “beam”….who needs facetime anymore?

Then, we toured the NASA Research Park campus where some other interesting things are taking place, such as an abandoned Mc Donald’s retrofitted into a lab that captures old satellites for NASA…. Yes.. You read that correctly!


On Monday June 15th, we had the chance to spend the whole day listening and asking questions to the Founders of Singularity University, Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil. It’s impossible to share all the amazing things they talked about, but follow me on twitter as I try to fit some of these amazing ideas into 140 characters!

Later in the evening, we had the Opening Ceremony for the Graduate Studies Program Class of 2015, an event held at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley. Our Keynote Speaker was Nobel Laureate for Peace Muhammad Yunus. During his talk he briefly mentioned Climate Change and the challenges that Bangladesh will face with Sea Level Rise. After his talk I was intrigued and had the chance to ask him what his thoughts were on addressing a problem like Sea Level Rise that is not quite tangible yet, and I couldn’t agree more with his simple two word response: “Fossil Fuels! Get rid of them and you’ll see how this and many other problems will be solved”


Then, of course, no big deal, I casually took a picture with Peter Diamandis…. I dont think I will have enough space in this blog to talk about what he’s done, but if you are in need of a good/light/eye opening/positive book, read his book Abundance. It will really… blow your mind!

And that is all for the first two days of the program! Tomorrow the real action begins, for the looks of it, our schedule is booked Monday through Saturday from 7:30am to 10pm! (some people call it Sleepless University)

But for now, I leave you with the fun fact of the week…


One of the participants is from Taiwan, where they became interested in filming a reality TV show about this experience… So we have a camera crew following us around campus while we “interact” with each other and pay attention in class… I guess we will be famous in Taiwan! (My mission is now to find the link to that reality show….)

How did I get here?

It all started in 2012 during the last year of my Architecture Graduate Degree at Florida International University. I was drawn to a subject that was not being talked about a whole lot, the issue of Sea Level Rise, specific to Miami. 

A couple of months ago, I found out about the Global Impact Competition: Miami in partnership with the Knight Foundation calling for solutions to address Sea Level Rise in South Florida, and I really thought the eligibility requirements read: “Ana Benatuil please apply”  I was immediately drawn and excited to apply and the more I learned about Singularity University the more I wanted to be a part of the Graduate Studies Program!

and IT HAPPENED!!! I worked on my video and application for many many long nights but it was all worth it (and it hasn’t even started yet)

I am so excited to be one of 80 participants in this year’s Graduate Studies Program, where I will spend 10 weeks at Singularity University hosted at NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley CA, with people from multiple backgrounds and from all over the world. We will learn about exponential technologies and how to leverage them to solve Global Challenges that can possibly impact billions of people! HOW COOL IS THAT?

I invite you to follow this blog where I will be sharing a sneak peak of my experience over the next 10 weeks!