Sophie Ryan is online editor for the Business Herald

Tech to help 1 billion people

Chris Clay, head of Find Your Billion, is an education innovator who calls students "the exponential generation".
Chris Clay, head of Find Your Billion, is an education innovator who calls students "the exponential generation".

Young people will learn how technology can be harnessed to help billions of people at Find Your Billion workshops.

The workshops are part of the SingularityU New Zealand summit - SingularityU - where international tech experts, thinkers and entrepreneurs will meet in Christchurch to analyse exponentially accelerating technologies.

Chris Clay is co-lead of the Find Your Billion programme, a Singularity University initiative that sees today's students as "the exponential generation."

"This is the generation that are creating the future we're all talking about," he says.

Clay is conducting free workshops in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch for 250 high school students to learn about and imagine future technologies. Two members of SingularityU in Silicon Valley will be co-facilitating the workshops.

The message for the workshops is finding 1 billion people who can be helped by exponential technology.

In 2014, Margaux Giles, Katelyn Dunn and Karla Dana, who were aged 18, 17 and 20 respectively, attended a Singularity University workshop and developed Disaster Mesh, a network that can be deployed in disaster areas.

The programme, similar to Find Your Billion, taught young people about the trends in cutting-edge technology and their role in solving global problems.

Clay says some of humanity's greatest challenges include education for all, access to clean water and food and reducing the impact of natural disasters.

Young people see the world with a greater social consciousness than previous generations, Clay says, and the workshop looks at breaking down global issues to provide answers that can then be scaled up.

"When you take a global challenge like hunger, the first thing lots of people will think of is people struggling overseas ... but you can break it down to the first step by thinking how do I feed the kid who is malnourished down the street."

Imagining the technology that could help scale that first step to help 1 billion people is what the workshop is designed to do.

Clay has set a limit of 10 students from any one school who can attend the workshops, to make sure the event "represents the community".

Schools in Auckland and Christchurch are providing lodging for students from outside the cities.

Clay says Find Your Billion reflects a traditional approach to education, not as "training for a career" but as understanding what it means to learn. Linear career paths are no longer an option for young people, Clay says.

"Obviously you want to have ambitions and think about the future, but it's a case of imagining a future so completely different from the present. As time has gone on, industrialisation came and education became all about getting people into jobs."

The tech revolution could see about 47 per cent of jobs in the US at risk from automation, according to McKinsey research.

"Now we're looking down the barrel of those jobs not existing and it's almost like education is fighting back and the importance of developing thinking and thinking about the future has come back," Clay says.

The workshops are on September 26 in Christchurch, September 27 in Wellington and September 28 in Auckland. Register at

- NZ Herald

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