I'm Sebastian Thrun. I am a research professor at Stanford, a Google Fellow, and a co-founder of Udacity. My latest mission is to create a free, online learning environment that seeks to empower students and nothing more!

You can see the answers to the initial announcement


but please post new questions in this thread.

Comments: 1066 • Responses: 47  • Date: 

Xephyrous334 karma

Professor Thrun, You are involved in a range of different things; robotics, AI, CS, teaching, and Google X. (If anyone reading this hasn't seen his interview on Charlie Rose, it's a must-watch). How can a recent college graduate get on a path leading to similar work? What are the career prospects of someone who wants to do cool research and coding or robotics projects (as opposed to manufacturing automation)?

In my experience learning CS on my own over the past couple years, it's often been harder finding out what to learn than to actually learn it. How can self-learners organize their education so they don't have gaps in their knowledge? A drawback of online classes is a lack of one-on-one mentorship. How do you aim to provide that guidance at Udacity?

sebastianthrun423 karma

There is no single recipe here. The thing that worked best for me is to be relentlessly driven by the desire to solve problems I really care about, and to be open to changing my mind along the way when I learn new things. A lot of successful entrepreneurs do this. They pick a vision of something that's important, and work as hard as they can to make it happen. It can be done inside companies. They all try to solve important problems. Act as if you already know that you won't fail. What would you do if you knew that you wouldn't fail? (credit to Regina Dugan for this question). And have a healthy disregard for rules. There are way too many rules, and they usually have only one effect: to slow down those how are active. If you believe your activities are in the best interest of the company that employs you - yet you fear you have broken enough rules that you might be fired - then you are doing well.

Now - on to education. We are trying to design Udacity around the idea of student empowerment. Rather than lecturing to you how to solve problems, we let you, the student, solve problems. I am a strong believer in learning by doing. I believe you can't lose weight by watching someone else exercise. It's really hard to learn by watching someone else solve problems (and lecture about it).

I wouldn't really worry about "gaps" in the education. Even if your education is gap-less right now, it'll have tons of gaps 5 years from now. Worry about skills. Worry about that you feel empowered to solve hard problems.

Mentorship: There is a on of mentoring going on at Udacity, although I agree, we have a long way to go. This is one of the holy grails in online education. Can we educate at scale, yet still empower all students? Is 1:1 mentorship by an instructor really required, or can peers mentor each other with the appropriate guidance? We hope to explore this going forward.

DrDiv79 karma

Your first paragraph was a massive boost of much-needed motivation. I've started and stopped a mirad of different projects, all from a fear of failure and a waste of time. However, I do have a passion for solving problems and mysteries that I see in a day-to-day basis, and for that I keep pushing myself.

sebastianthrun144 karma

Regina Dugan gave an amazing talk at TED, and everyone should watch it. "What would you do if failure is not an option?". Think about it. Say you know you will succeed. What would you do? It's really inspiring to me.

roboduck135 karma

I'm sure you know the people involved with Coursera. What are the top differences that you see between Udacity and Coursera? What is your relationship like with them?

sebastianthrun298 karma

I really want both entities to succeed. I really like Coursera a lot, and the founders are amazing individuals. Both companies are trying to being high quality education to everyone. We need more entities doing the same.

A lot has been written about the commonalities and differences between Udacity and Coursera. You cal easily Google people's opinions. At Udacity, we are trying to change the pedagogical approach. we don't just aspire to bring the existing classroom experience (lectures, assignments, exams) to the online world. You find that Udacity classes are focused around student exercise, not lectures. Videos are minimal, often less than 90 seconds long (although some are longer). At Udacity, you will spend more time thinking on your own than listening to a professor. I feel the online medium is so amazing, we should really go beyond the replication of the classroom experience.

ascento76 karma

That is what I love about Udacity. You aren't just copying the old way of teaching, but using the advantages of the new technology. For example sending Andy around Europe for the new physics class.

humping_hippo29 karma

Indeed. Udacity's methodology reminds me a lot of Khan Academy. It something that really changes the way professor's teach and students' learn and it works very well. It's completely different than Coursera's lecture based approach, which, although having its own merit, it's not something that works so well.

sandollars52 karma

Mr. Thrun has mentioned in interviews that Sal Khan and Khan Academy inspired him.

He watched Sal Khan's TED talk where he mentioned he was reaching millions and Thrun felt embarrassed (probably not the right word) that his own Stanford classes were only a few dozen students every year. This inspired him to explore ways to reach a wider audience and impact more lives.

sebastianthrun100 karma

That's all correct. A lot of credit goes to Peter Norvig, my co-instructor, and Mike Sokolsky and David Stavens, who believed in us and founded Udacity. Sal's TED talk was a real wake up call for me, and it reminded me of my old and intense passion for education.

SawRub53 karma

I literally just got an email from you.

Hi -name-,

I am writing you to ask a personal favor. I am trying to break the student record for the largest online class ever taught with my new class "Intro to Statistics", which will begin June 25th.  Sign up, forward this e-mail to your friends and family and let's set a new record! 

We've also launched a challenge for high school students.  Winners will get a trip to Stanford University and I will be delighted to give a tour of my lab!

Sebastian Thrun, Professor

I suspect this wasn't as personal as you claim, and that you sent a similar email to a lot of people. I suspect this because I've been on the internet a few times, so I know these things.

sebastianthrun46 karma

Indeed, many students go this email. but I have been spending all evening with truly personal replies.

micphi20 karma

I know that as a traditional educator this may seem like blasphemy, but is there any chance that these types of online universities may eventually become degree-granting institutions? I understand that things like University of Phoenix exist, but I'm more interested specifically in those online universities offering a free education.

Edit: I understand this question is a bit naive, and there is probably something about the traditional post-secondary educational system I'm missing in regards to accreditation, but if you'd humor me anyway I'd greatly appreciate it.

sebastianthrun42 karma

I so totally hope that online education will be en par with traditional education. For some of us, staying on campus is the right choice. For many others it isn't. The focus on physical campus presence puts education out of reach for so many people. We should vote with our feet. We should demand that any form of education will be recognized - so long as it is effective and gives us comparable skills and knowledge.

lahwran_21 karma

What keyboard layout do you use? based on the "cal" typo, it doesn't look to me like you use qwerty.

sebastianthrun29 karma

oops. Can. It's qwerty and I have no clue what happend. Perhaps UC Berkeley was on my mind (=Cal).

[deleted]52 karma

I am currently going through classes on Udacity and Coursera (and Code Academy, and Khan Academy, and Duolingo...).

The Coursera class I'm taking (HCI) feels more like a university class ported to a website format, while the Udacity class I'm taking (CS 101) feels more like a custom-made class tailored to be on the web. I'm "falling behind" my Coursera class which is a little stressful since the class is in real-time and the Udacity class I'm taking is already over with so I don't have any deadlines to meet.

I'm not entirely certain this is true, but as far as I can tell from the Coursera website you have to take classes on a schedule. They cannot run automated and you can't, for example, blast through a course in a week or take two months to complete a course. You need to follow their schedule. And all courses aren't available all the time. This requirement may be to organize the peer-grading. Someone please correct me if I'm off-base here.

No matter what you use (why not try them all in turn?), make sure you have a reasonable amount of time to commit (at least 1hr a night per course?). Most people cannot step away from it for a week and then just pick right up where they left off. You have to keep it fresh on your mind.

sebastianthrun99 karma

For the classes starting June 25th, the timing is entirely open. You can go at your own pace. No deadlines. Your motivation should be your eagerness to learn something you care about, not a deadline.

BTW, I love Duolingo.

sebastianthrun131 karma

I want to thank everyone who participated in this IAmA. It was a ton of fun. I love hearing from fellow Udacians. Let's do it soon again. And yes, please vote this post all the way up to the top, so people can see it. Thanks. See you in class!!!!!!!

z0nar87 karma

Professor Thrun,

I am curious on your opinions on the development of high-quality open-access textbooks?

sebastianthrun164 karma

Would love it. I hear form the Department Education that they are pouring $2B into the development of open source educational materials. They have an amazing vision. Anything "open access" is great.

BTW, I wonder what happens to the idea of a text book in the video age. One of the things that frustrates me about books is that they "don't talk back". I can do the exercises, but the book won't tell me what I am doing wrong. I really want to see innovation on that end as well.

kenehdian3 karma

I think you are bang on. My main use now for textbooks is for quick reference to material I have already learned. I do think that better on-line course notes (and maybe multiple levels of summarization) is the way to go though. Once I have learned your course, I remember the high level stuff and forget the details. I just need a quick way to refresh my memory years later without going through all the videos. So far for me, that has been the course notes.

sebastianthrun12 karma

I don't think Udacity is a great source of reference information. This is a known problem we have. The course notes are good but not great.

Bumbaclot76 karma

At what point will there be too many classes on Udacity? Also, what is the one class you would like to see be created?

Also, thanks for Udacity.

sebastianthrun119 karma

I'd like to throw this back to the people on this forum. What classes do YOU want to see on Udacity? Please reply!

sebastianthrun118 karma

Wow - I love this thread. Thanks for the many suggestions - and keep them coming. You just wrote the roadmap for Udacity!

alexl157 karma

1) What would you say to people who want to learn to code?

2) What programming languages would you recommend?

3) What programming languages do you know?

sebastianthrun148 karma

Do it often. Coding is a skill like riding a bike. If you have a choice between coding and reading a book about coding, do coding first, then read the book when you get stuck. Don't read the book first.

Of course.... I highly recommend CS101 at Udacity and the subsequent classes. All of them focus on making you learn coding by doing it yourself.

DrDiv38 karma

I'd like to chime in and say that I'm currently about half-way through the CS101 course. I have a knowledge of some programming languages, but have never tried Python so I thought I'd give it a shot. The way the classes are organized, and the teaching methods involved (simple quiz right after a 4-minute long lecture) make learning and retaining the information extremely easy.

osm0sis14 karma

To second this, Udacity's focus on mix of making you write your own code and interpret existing code really solidify the new content they've introduced.

Also, they introduce concepts in a way that really allows you to understand the building blocks leading into more complex constructs.

sebastianthrun22 karma

Thanks! Cudos to Dave Evans. He's amazing.

sebastianthrun100 karma

I should add: I know only a small number of programming languages. Some are archaic: Basic, Fortran, Lisp, Modulo II, Pascal. This dates me! Most of my professional programming has been with C++. I have also taught Java. Pythin is my most recent language, and I am not very good at it - as some people remarked for my CS373 class. But I am getting by :). I love python. I also love Matlab. It's amazing. I do a lot of prototyping in Matlab.

I recommend Java, Python, C sharp, Ruby, and perhaps C++ - depending on what you are using it for. C++ is great for systems level work. There are of course a lof of special platforms, like iOs, which requires Objective C. I don't recommend Fortran :)

xamdam51 karma

(I'm copying 2 relevant items from the previous thread, here is #1)

One suggestion I can make to Udacity is to partner with internal Universities in major tech companies. They have significant budgets and many also pay for employees to get advanced degrees at traditional local schools, which is expensive and inconvenient. I think appropriate Udacity courses with official certification (not accreditation) thrown in is something they might be willing to pay for, which increases Udacity's acceptance as a side effect. If that is something Udacity will consider I'll be happy to make a connection to an internal university at a major tech company.

sebastianthrun68 karma

We are very interested. Many of our students are working professionals. We believe education should be lifelong and not just stop after college. So yes, we are interested. Thanks!

lurker_pro_game18 karma

i second this. My company is committed to employee growth and we spend real resources on it. Something that was designed for internal skills training would be sweet. Our CTO currently teaches interns and qa how to code in weekly classes. That's expensive time.

sebastianthrun42 karma

Yes, we are interested. Although I am committed to open education. We can't lock up education in silos.

slideaway49 karma

Software is eating jobs, and self-driving cars are going to put a lot of people out of work who currently make a living driving vehicles. Do you have any thoughts on how society should adapt to what seems to be a "new normal" of higher unemployment?

sebastianthrun208 karma

Ever since time, and certainly through the Industrial Revolution, have seen a restructuring of the workforce. Over 90% of all people used to work in agriculture and now it's about 2% in this country (number may be inaccurate). Are we better off or worse off? I think better off.

This is just my personal opinion. I believe society is wasting huge resources with "inefficiencies," and when we invent methods to overcome these inefficiencies, society tends to be better off. I think we have to be socially responsible to the people who might be negatively affected by all this, but just retaining things as they are cannot be our guiding principle going forward.

Just my 2c

Baconandbeers37 karma

Do you believe that online schooling will eventually replace all classrooms?

sebastianthrun121 karma

No! Absolutely not. Cinema hasn't replaced stage play either. What online will do is to reach many more students, those who can't afford being in classrooms. And it'll augment classroom teaching to enable teachers to focus more on the tutoring aspects of learning, and meaningful small group interaction - over giving lectures.

LudicrousGibs37 karma

I have several people with Ph.D.'s tell me not to go on for one after my master's unless my career path genuinely requires one. Are doctoral candidates really that badly used and abused as a source of cheap academic labor with little hope of fulfilling the dreams they hoped they might achieve by earning a Ph.D.?

sebastianthrun98 karma

I would not share that opinion.

I recommend all my student to do a PhD if they would enjoy the process of getting a PhD. Getting a PhD is really all about learning to do research. Research is often frustrating, since you don't just find solutions, you also have to find interesting problems to work on. And someone who's great in college isn't necessary great in research.

A PhD is a significant time commitment. Make sure you'll enjoy the process, and you feel good about the process.

waterlesscloud24 karma

Do you think something like Udacity will eventually lead to PhD level education, or is the general idea better suited for undergraduate work?

sebastianthrun70 karma

I don't think so, at lest any time soon. The PhD is a very personal experience where the interaction with the mentor is really essential. I don't think it easily scales to the Web. I think Udacity will go to Master's level for now.

iamsetsuna17 karma

There are also plenty of people who question the value of a Master's degree if you've got a relevant BSc... I know quite a few people with MSc degrees (some of which were in PhD programs but took the MSc after some years and took jobs in the industry), and they didn't find the added knowledge that relevant, and those are people who were working on some very high-profile projects. On the other hand, they probably had an easier time getting those jobs due to the brand-name of their Master's/"ABD".

sebastianthrun96 karma

I don't think there is a single answer here.

Okay, this is a fishy answer.

Here is what I really believe. Learning should be a lifelong endeavor. I feel we should enter the workforce soon, but keep a foot in education. Here is an example: I was taught Modula II and Lisp at college, and I would not be able to be a software engineer today with these skills. I feel the concept of a degree made sense when things moved slower, and when people died earlier. Then it made sense to be educated once and leverage those skills into a single career. Today things move really fast. In computer science, every 5-10 years there are entirely new tools, platforms, programming languages. I think society should acknowledge this. For me, the deal between Udacity and a student is a lifelong deal. We really want to offer meaningful education throughout an entire career.

aPSketchy35 karma

What is your favorite project you have worked on?

sebastianthrun118 karma

Self-driving cars, Google Glass, and of course Udacity. These are all very amazing projects to me. Plus - very importantly - helping my son to grow up (he's now 4 years old)

mind-odyssey34 karma

What do you see as the major challenges for AI/Robotics now and in the future?

sebastianthrun94 karma

I think we should really try again the big goal: create human level intelligence. I think this is totally doable. We now have faster computer than ever before, more data than even 1,000 humans can comprehend during their live times, and much better engineering. If I ever run out of things to do, that's what I'll do.

LoveDude30 karma

Good day Professor Thrun.

I really love Udacity. The only reason I initially took Udacity courses was because I wanted to become proficient in Python but it has taught me a lot more about the art of computer science. Completed cs101 and cs253 but stalled on cs212 and cs262. All the instructors were amazing.

What went onto the thought process of creating cs212 with Prof Novig because as a "[Java School Programmer]"(http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/ThePerilsofJavaSchools.html) because I feel like you decided that there were a lot of potential out there i.e. experienced programmers and coders that lacked certain key skills and conceptual frameworks that would make them great or competitive for jobs with top flight employers in Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley and Kendall Square.

cs101 was easy for me but cs212 really humbled me. Did not manage to get far enough to take the final but I learned so much especially in the dreaded Unit 3(which derailed me not a bad thing). Prof. Novig did an amazing Job transforming that way I viewed the art of CS. Learning functional programming in cs212 revolutionized learning Jquery library and Javascript. It also helped me understand aspects of big data like MapReduce and Pig as well as laying the ground work.

Was python just a tool for learning concepts as opposed to using concepts to learn how to use python especially given Prof Novig's Lisp background? Did you ever think about using schema or Lisp to teach cs212?

Thanks and best wishes

sebastianthrun43 karma

CS212 is really a serious and challenging class. Quite frankly, I am not sure I would pass it. But Peter has an enormous number of deep insights. I am super happy we have this class (and other similar classes), because it challenges our students, and it offer deep non-trivial insights.

We hope to launch other programming languages soon. Lisp is not on our list though.

unfinishedloop26 karma

(transferred this question from previous thread) How do you complete a project (that's not part of a class) where it's not clearly defined, and you don't know what you'll need to learn or what steps you need to do it?

I can complete classes because they present material step by step and give you exactly what you need to solve the problems that they give you. But when I want to do my own project, it's not clear what I have to learn to solve it. Furthermore, I'll start learning a topic to solve it, then find that I'll have to learn something else. It's not clear how far I'll have to search and how deep to finally get my answer. Often it's frustrating. As a result, I often give up on completing the project. So how do you do it?

sebastianthrun35 karma

I agree, this is had. The best rule for project completion is to complete it. When you get frustrated, I bet you get frustrated because things don't proceed as you want them to proceed. That's a learning opportunity right there. If you give up, you miss out on the most important part: the opportunity to learn something surprising. If you understand this, and use this as a learning opportunity, and develop pride once a hurdle has been taken - you will complete your projects!

Stratten20 karma

Thank you for doing this.

1) How long would you estimate we have, before we are all riding around in self-driving cars?

2) Is Google's campus really as awesome as I've heard it is?

sebastianthrun18 karma

Highly recommend a visit to Google. The company is truly amazing.

As for time: I wish I had a crystal ball. We are still focusing on getting the technology right.

n1ce17 karma

  • Most courses in Udacity are at the beginner/introductory level. I also noticed that each course covers less material than its semester equivalent in a university. As university graduate, I would be interested in taking in-depth graduate courses in CS. Does Udacity plan to cover fully that need in the future?
  • How come you abandoned a successful career at Stanford? AFAIK you advise your team for a few hours a week? Do you plan to return in the future?
  • Do you have different views/approaches on online education with your Stanford colleages (Ng, Koller) @Coursera? Which are these?

sebastianthrun19 karma

This is a great suggestion. We hoped that CS212 and CS373 were graduate-level advanced. But I agree we need more advanced classes.

I commented on my decision to teach online at my DLD talk (google me and DLD video). I really am intrigued to help hundreds of thousands of students worldwide, and to empower them.

I commented on Coursera above - I am excited to see so much activity in this area. Together we can change the world!

Sheogorath_17 karma

I demand hardware hacking courses

sebastianthrun16 karma

would love those!

dialex198216 karma

Were you speaking English language in childhood? If not, was it difficult to you to learn English? How many natural languages do you know?

Thanks a lot for Udacity.

sebastianthrun42 karma

I learned Latin, English, and a little bit of French in high school. I pretty much forgot all my Latin and French. I learned English mostly by living in the US.

davaca14 karma

Welcome, mr. Thrun. I'd like to thank you for your work on Udacity and being one of the people responsible for the current wave of online education that, I hope, is only just getting started. As someone who dropped out of university the ability to keep learning this way is wonderful, both personally and for my career. I'm also a mod over at /r/OnlineEducation, so please excuse me for promoting that subreddit here.

Here are my questions:
Udacity is planning on broadening their subjects into other sciences and humanities. You have also said that you think/hope Udacity and other online universities such as Coursera will largely replace offline higher education.
How do you think the two above things can be combined? Programming is easy to evaluate and to do with nothing but a pc, but many studies have practical parts or teach skills that can't just be evaluates as right/wrong. For example a chemists needs to be able to do a distillation and a journalist needs to be able to write original articles. How do you plan to evaluate skills that cannot be done on a computer, or cannot simply be graded by an automated program, without relying at least partially on existing centers such as Pearson?

Coursera has Standford, Berkeley, the university of Michigan and others backing it. EdX is the work of Harvard and MIT. Udacity has no famous 'real-life' names supporting it. Do you think this will be a problem?

Google Glass and self driving cars seem to push existing technology forward a lot. Have you had ideas for things that didn't simply push the edge of technology, but where currently impossible? What do you think will be possible in 10 or 20 years that can't be done now?

sebastianthrun30 karma

First, let me clarify. I don't think online education will replace higher offline education. Quite the contrary. I think it'll draw more people into education. Movies draw people into theater. Radio brings people to live concerts. It's long been known that MIT's Open Courseware program has drawn students to MIT.

I believe that online education will improve the educational experience and the outcomes. It'll give existing colleges and universities much more reach, and reduce their costs.

[jumping forward]

10-20 years: cure cancer. Flying cars. Yes!

afischer1514 karma

Will google glass ever be... real?


sebastianthrun20 karma

Babak Parviz and the team are working on it!

NikhilT9013 karma

Professor, I took the first CS101 course on Udacity and I have to say it was amazing. What else are you doing to encourage technology and the sciences? I've always felt that Google should have some massive expo for kids like the Stark Expo in Iron Man 2.

sebastianthrun17 karma

For high school students: I very strongly endorse US First. Dean Kamen and the First team are doming something amazing for the Nation. If you haven't heard about this, Google it. A great way to spend your time!

xamdam13 karma

(I'm copying 2 relevant items from the previous thread, here is #2) As systems become more autonomous and intelligent, what kind or research do you think needs to be done to make sure the machines "understand our wishes" properly? Specifically what do you think about SIAI's efforts in this area?

sebastianthrun39 karma

I think this is key to intelligent systems. In the end we build smart systems to help us, the people. Not to serve themselves. A lot of existing technology doesn't really connect to people. But.... the machine doesn't have to be human like. My calculator perfectly understands my wishes (by pushing calculator buttons) without smiling at me and asking me how I feel.

bastetswarrior12 karma

You mentioned at one point that designing good questions is key. Do you use trial and error for designing questions or something more systematic? Have you thought about hiring an instructional designer to help?

sebastianthrun29 karma

We don't do a great job with this quite yet. In my own class, I usually do things twice. The first version of questions is okay, but will be rejected by our internal instructors. The second version is then much better. We still don't do a great job with A-vs-B testing, and we don't yet have a good mechanism for student feedback. So much more work to do....

dialex198212 karma

1) What is the reason that Udacity's coursers are easier than Coursera's coursers and graduate level courses in general? Is it deliberate approach? 2) Are you planning to implement sort of holistic approach when students may get equivalent of knowledge that brick and mortar universities give? Or you are going to provide just special courses for someone who needs just to broaden his knowledge? 3) It seems that Coursera provides coursers under brands of universities (Princeton, Stanford, etc) and Udacity provides coursers under name of its authors. Why is it so?

sebastianthrun8 karma

some people thought the Udacity CS101 was harder than the Coursera CS101. I haven't paid much attention to the other courses on Coursera's Web site, sorry.

We are trying to make complicated material as accessible as possible. And we are trying to shift the focus from lectures to exercises. I generally believe exercises make material easier to learn.

AnalogousPants510 karma

For Google Glass, are you currently beta testing the devices with people out in the world? And if so, is there any way I could get my hands on a pair? Also, you're pretty awesome both for your neat Google stuff, and for doing this AMA.

sebastianthrun12 karma

Thanks!! Glass: A few of us at Google are testing them in public right now, and it seems there is now a good number of photographs of people who spotted us. But we are not handing them out to others right now.

subtle-yelling9 karma

Are there any plans for networking courses? I'd really enjoy a good class on that, especially as the world becomes even more connected.

Thanks for doing what you're doing! Keep up the good work

sebastianthrun6 karma

Thanks - will add this to our list. I agree this would be great to have!

waterlesscloud8 karma

What do you think of the future of Symbolic AI? In what areas would Statistical AI not be suitable?

sebastianthrun10 karma

I feel the pendulum swings into one direction, then into another. If you look at the best of AI in a company like Google, there is a lot of symbolic AI. But it's different from the symbolic AI from the 1980s. It's using extensive machine learning, and it marries symbols with probabilistic methods. I believe symbols will be in, but in a very different way from how it all started.

tymon_7 karma

  1. Ai-class was highly connected to Stanford University. Why did you decide to make Udacity completely independent of any university?
  2. What do you think about edX (MITx + Harvard)?

Thanks for Udacity! It's a great place!

sebastianthrun12 karma

I love edX and what MIT and Harvard is trying to do. The more of us try to do meaningful online education, the better.

Udacity is independent because we want to radically innovate. I think as a Stanford entity, it would be hard to issue meaningful certificates without confusing the entire world what these certificates mean. And remember, in AI Class we graduated 23,000 students with a certificate (and we never checked IDs).

We have an excellent relationship with Stanford. President Hennessy and I meet regularly.

VancitySwag6 karma

**1. As a child/teengaer, did you always thought you were going to grow up as a person of major influence? Did you always knew you were smart and perhaps always one step ahead of your peers?

  1. When did you start getting into computers/coding?**

Also, could you please do a C++ class for udacity? Thanks!

sebastianthrun29 karma

I was just the opposite. I didn't think I had a talent. I honestly didn't care much about school, and it took me until college to realize I am actually good in math.

Two things I always had were: passion, and a gentle disrespect for rules. If people say it can't be done, then likely those people are wrong. But instead of arguing things, I really tried to do things, and to keep my mind open for learning new things.

So be passionate, try things, and when you get stuck don't give up. See it as an opportunity to learn something new. Every wall can be climbed, any ocean can be crossed.

vinodipinte5 karma

Sebastian, I am not a big fan of classroom structure either in H.S or college. In fact I forced myself to go to college and decided to pursue a career in the AF, I later developed skills in structural science now I am out of the Air Force and own and manage an art gallery. Everything I know was acquired through my real life experiences, trial and error etc. Does the online teaching method at Udacity seperate the drone students from the ones interested in getting down to business and avoid time wasters? I realize I am being a bit vague but I am also looking for a broad answer.

sebastianthrun6 karma

we are really focusing on learning by doing. The instructor is your tutor. I am like you - I learned nearly everything in my life by attempting to do them.

tomite5 karma


sebastianthrun12 karma

We have decided to stay within technical fields for now, especially in areas where there are ample employment opportunities. We are getting a ton of interests from employers, and many students asking about meaningful certificates that employers would accept. Once we have figured out how to make it work in CS-related fields, we will think about extending this to other disciplnes.

So let me turn this around: People on Reddit: what subject disciplines would you like us to cover???

lekha1124 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA Sebastian. Can you tell me the difference between Stanford and CMU Robotics program? What is each school's strength and weakness? What are your thoughts on the faculty, students, resources?

I'm interested in your opinion because you've been a significant part of both programs.

sebastianthrun2 karma

Both are great. Stanford is more theoretical than CMU. CMU is very hands on, for most parts. CMU's is also bigger. I generally believe CMU takes better care of the students; yet Stanford comes in ahead when it comes to depth of insight and general scientific impact. In either case, try to find an advisor who you really like. The advisor is more important than the name of the school. Just my 2c.

dialex19823 karma

Is your job now manage others people work or you are still write programs by yourself for example? Do Larry Page and Sergey Brin still write programs and make research or they are concentrated only on management now?

sebastianthrun9 karma

I actually still write some software, but not much. Most of my software relates to the quizzes in my classes. For example, all the lousy python software in CS373 is by me (this is the first time I am doing python).

musictomyomelette3 karma

Is there a future for Udacity to give degrees or will it always be just a learning service?

sebastianthrun9 karma

We are moving into certification. We soon will be offering in-person tests through Person VUE. We are working with employers to give meaning to these certificates. We already placed students in jobs.

We won't give a "degree" any time soon, and we are not accredited.