Sebastian Thrun is Awesome

I’m doing the Stanford online AI class this year, taught by Professor’s Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig. And up in week 5, unit 11 is Markov Decision Processes (MDPs), Hidden Markov Models (HMMs) and State Transition Probabilities. Sounds dry, right?

Check this out…

Oh. My. God.

As a teacher myself, and one who genuinely tries hard to interest and engage students, Sebastian is a role-model. How absolutlely RARING-TO-GO is he?! To paraphrase: “I CAN’T WAIT to teach you all about this, and that, and this other cool shit! And you can use it for all kinds of neat stuff! Woo-hoo!” =DDD

And yeah, the course isn’t easy, and it requires time and effort and commitment – but it’s fun! And it’s rewarding, and I’m inspired as a student, and blown-away as a teacher.

If more teachers had this kind of passion, I sincerely believe that the world would be an entirely different place.

Stanford AI Class Decision Diagram



I signed up for the advanced stream of the Stanford AI class (where there’s homework and exams), and it’s brilliant – I love the concept, I love the ambition, I love the teachers (except for Sebastian’s 9’s looking like g’s), I love the format and the content intrigues me no end – it’s all awesome. Hell, I love the price, too! Where else can you get access to truly world class lecturers, giants in their field, without paying a single cent?!

But as much as I love the price, I had no idea about the cost… I just don’t think I have the kind of time needed to do the course any justice, not on top of everything else, and not without losing my sanity and my marriage. So I’m going to continue with the course as if I’m doing the basic no-homework stream, in the only time that I have available to give it. I might give the homeworks a shot, but I’m not going to worry about it anymore. If I fail, then I fail, and no harm has come.

No matter how I do the course I’ll still have learnt a lot, I’ll still have enjoyed it (in fact, I’m likely to enjoy it a lot more with the pressure off) and it’ll still have been worthwhile, whether I get a signed piece of paper or not. But I’m not going to push myself to the brink over it, because as much as I’d like to have that piece of paper, right now the cost is more than I’m willing to pay.

All power to anyone in a similar situation who’s decided to tough it out for the long haul – You can do it! You can do it! You can do it!

And if you can’t then don’t even worry about it – maybe we’ll both do it again next year =D

Update: I managed to stick it out in the end, and finished with an overall grade of 91.7%, putting me in the “top 50%” of the class. I say top 50% in quotes because that’s the top 50% of the 20,000 or so students that completed the course. 150,000 started it. You do the math ;) However you work it, it was a fantastic course, and one of the best things I’ve done in my entire life. Highly recommended.