November 12–13, 2015  •  San Francisco, CA
Sebastian Thrun

Sebastian Thrun
Co-Founder and CEO, Udacity


Certain people are the very personification of what I once called “an alpha geek.” When you find one person at the epicenter of more than one seemingly disparate trend, your radar should start pinging, hard. Self-driving cars, check. Massive Open Online courses, check. Data science, check. On-demand labor networks, check. (Udacity uses an on-demand network to grade homework and provide personalized feedback.) These things come together in more than the person of Sebastian Thrun, but by understanding why he is pursuing each of these ideas, you can learn a great deal about the future.

— Tim O’Reilly

Quotes from Sebastian

The Jetsons had them in the 1960s. They were the defining element of ‘Knight Rider’ in the 1980s: cars that drive themselves. Self-driving cars appear in countless science fiction movies. By Hollywood standards, they are so normal we don’t even notice them. But in real life, they still don’t exist. What if you could buy one today?

I don’t think we will put Higher-Ed out of business. I think we’ll evolve it. More access, higher quality, lower costs, more global reach.… Giving education away for free is a really good idea, but it can’t be the future of education. There has to be a business model around it that actually works.

I have a really deep belief that we create technologies to empower ourselves. We’ve invented a lot of technology that just makes us all faster and better, and I’m generally a big fan of this. I just want to make sure that this technology stays subservient to people. People are the number one entity there is on this planet.

At the end of the day, the true value proposition of education is employment.

If we study learning as a data science, we can reverse engineer the human brain and tailor learning techniques to maximize the chances of student success. This is the biggest revolution that could happen in education, turning it into a data-driven science, and not such a medieval set of rumors professors tend to carry on.


Sebastian is CEO of Udacity, founder of Google[x], and a part time research professor at Stanford. He works on moonshot businesses and technologies.

Register now