Observing Creative Destruction First Hand

Now, I am not a big fan of Google and believe much of what passes as innovation in the consumer IT sector is empty bells and whistles.  But there is something to be said for the impact that the continual reinvention of business models has on the rest of us.  The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating interview with Google’s Sebastian Thrun.  This guy is busy either reinventing or destroying (it’s hard to tell) large chunks of civilization, including higher education:

Frustrated that his (and fellow Googler Peter Norvig’s) Stanford artificial intelligence class only reached 200 students, they put up a website offering an online version. They got few takers. Then he mentioned the online course at a conference with 80 attendees and 80 people signed up. On a Friday, he sent an offer to the mailing list of a top AI association. On Saturday morning he had 3,000 sign-ups—by Monday morning, 14,000.

In the midst of this, there was a slight hitch, Mr. Thrun says. “I had forgotten to tell Stanford about it. There was my authority problem. Stanford said ‘If you give the same exams and the same certificate of completion [as Stanford does], then you are really messing with what certificates really are. People are going to go out with the certificates and ask for admission [at the university] and how do we even know who they really are?’ And I said: I. Don’t. Care.”

The full interview is here.  Really worth a read, for better or worse.

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