Sebastian Thrun: What's Next for Silicon Valley?
Mr. Thrun earned a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Bonn, "the 53rd of 53 German computer-science schools," he adds. His focus was on artificial intelligence, a field that failed in the 1980s with a rules-based approach-because humans could never come up with all the rules a machine needed-but then flourished in the mid-90s when machines had to learn the rules by themselves, by trial and error, almost like an infant.
Mr. Thrun left Germany in the mid-90s for Carnegie Mellon-looking "for the lack of authority, unlike Germany"-to build intelligent machines. His mentor at CMU, Tom Mitchell, told him, "Pick a problem that matters to society." So he helped create robots, including a "nursebot" to assist the elderly in nursing homes and robotic tour guides, where one named Minerva led thousands of visitors during a stint at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
This required a cross-discipline education including nursing, psychology, material science and whatever else was required to help machines learn about the real world. These were hard projects, he says. "Just let go, trust your ability to learn, more [than] holding on to the things you've achieved-and that became the central theme in my life", according to a report in Fullermoney. >>More here
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