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Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

Last week, I noted that former Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun enrolled 160,000 students in an online computer science class. That inspired him to set up a new company, Udacity, to pursue online education. A new article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek adds some additional color to the story.

Barrett Sheridan and Brendan Greeley answer a question many folks asked about the students: how many actually finished? Answer: 23,000 finished all the assignments.

Second, they note that professor Thrun is also at the forefront of another potentially transformative technology: self-driving cars:

Last fall, Stanford took the idea further and conducted two CS courses entirely online. These included not just instructional videos but also opportunities to ask questions of the professors, get homework graded, and take midterms—all for free and available to the public.

Sebastian Thrun, a computer science professor and a Google fellow overseeing the search company’s project to build driverless cars, co-taught one of the courses, on artificial intelligence. It wasn’t meant for everyone; students were expected to get up to speed with topics like probability theory and linear algebra. Thrun’s co-teacher, Peter Norvig, estimated that 1,000 people would sign up. “I’m known as a crazy optimist, so I said 10,000 students,” says Thrun. “We had 160,000 sign up, and then we got frightened and closed enrollment. It would have been 250,000 if we had kept it open.” Many dropped out, but 23,000 students finished all 11 weeks’ worth of assignments. Stanford is continuing the project with an expanded list of classes this year. Thrun, however, has given up his tenured position to focus on his work at Google and to build Udacity, a startup that, like Codecademy, will offer free computer science courses on the Web.

I wish Thrun success in both endeavors. Perhaps one day soon, commuters will settle in for an hour of online learning while their car drives them to work.

P.S. In case you missed it, Tom Vanderbilt has a fun article on self-driving cars in the latest Wired.

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One highlight of the Milken Global Conference was an excellent panel discussion of how new communication technologies are changing the way that people think and interact.

Moderated by the amusing Dennis Kneale of Fox Business, the panelists were:

Nicholas Carr, Author, “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains”

Cathy Davidson, Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Duke University

Clifford Nass, Thomas M. Storke Professor, Stanford University

Sherry Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, MIT

I am proud to say that I sat through the entire panel without checking my iPhone or iPad. But it was a struggle.

The full panel is a bit more than an hour. If you are short on time, you may still enjoy the first few minutes of movie clips illustrating some perils of modern technology. Here’s the link again.

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Wired’s cover story this month, “The Web is Dead,” features the following chart showing the portion of internet traffic in different uses:

Over the past few years, peer-to-peer services and video have gobbled up an increasing share of traffic, while the “traditional” web — you know, surfing from site to site, reading your favorite blog about economics, finance, and life, etc. — has been declining.

Chris Anderson cites this as evidence of the pending death of the web. To which there is only one thing to say: wait a minute buster. Just because the web’s share of total bits and bytes is falling doesn’t mean it’s dying. Maybe it’s just that the other services are growing more rapidly.

One of the benefits of being off the grid for a week-plus is that other commentators have already had the same thought and have tracked down the relevant data. Kudos to Rob Beschizza at BoingBoing for charting the data in absolute terms. Rather than dying, the web is still growing like fresh bacteria in a petri dish:

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