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.

Bryophites Rock

Poking around the garden yesterday with my robotic tripod, I captured a lot of moss and a few odd interlopers. Did you know that moss that was frozen under a glacier for 400 years can come back to life? Or that little moss tumbleweeds support an entire ecosystem as they bounce around the tops of glaciers? Here we have them growing happily on top of glacial till and outwash.



Click for the higher res image – the original is in the 50 megapixel range! I like the way a long exposure and tiny aperture increased my depth of field and caught the evening light.