Thrun’s Contradiction

“At the end of the day, the true value proposition of education is employment.” –Sebastian Thrun, founder of Udacity

“We decided at Stanford to build a different self-driving car… we made it learn from us, and we set it free in the desert.” –Sebastian Thrun, inventor of the self-driving car

Is there a tension or contradiction between these two statements? Thrun’s great breakthrough with the challenge of the self-driving car was to program a machine, not to do, but to learn. The result of this machine education is indeed employment, as Google’s self-driving fleet of vehicles presages. Woe unto the truckers, whose job is more complex than a travel agent’s or an accountant’s, but is now within grasp of the machines.

In another sense, Thrun has inadvertently put his finger on the central challenge facing education today. As machines become smarter, they raise the bar on the value an employee needs to add.

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