NZ Herald business editor at large

Futurist conference off to a shaky start

The Singularity conference kicked off today in Christchurch hours after a 7.5 magnitude earthquake.
The Singularity conference kicked off today in Christchurch hours after a 7.5 magnitude earthquake.

With building safety inspections completed the SingularityU Summit kicked off on schedule in Christchurch this afternoon, just hours after the 7.5 magnitude quake that rocked the city.

The Summit - a sell-out expected to attract some 1300 people from 12 countries over three days- brings together tech leaders and futurists from all over the world.

"After inspections from an in-house engineer as well as three Council engineers through the venue, we can confirm SingularityU New Zealand Summit is 100 per cent going ahead," organisers posted on the website this morning.

Aftershocks have continued to shake the Horncastle Arena venue this afternoon but it has been business as usual for conference goers enjoying displays of virtual reality, thought controlled software and robotics - including Baxter the University of Canterbury's resident robot.

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel opened the event with a minute's silence to recognise the loss of life in last night's quake.

The quakes represented great challenges but the SingularityU Summit offered a chance to look forward and immerse ourselves in the innovation that was needed to respond and adapt, she said.

This is the first SingularityU Summit to be held in Australasia. It is hosted by SingularityU New Zealand in tandem with Silicon Valley's Singularity University.

Singularity University was founded in 2009 by Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil to focus on exponentially developing technologies. It offers educational programmes and a business incubator.

Speakers over the next three days, including NASA astronaut Dan Barry and former Microsoft executives, will deal with topics such as robotics, artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, biotechnology, the future of food production and other aspects of technological disruption.

Meanwhile organisers will be hoping that any further geological disruption remains limited.

- NZ Herald

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