In the realm of good (as well as deflationary) news You (YOU!) Can Take Stanford’s ‘Intro to AI’ Course Next Quarter, For Free

Stanford has been offering portions of its robotics coursework online for a few years now, but professors Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig are kicking things up a notch (okay, lots of notches) with next semester’s CS221: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence. For the first time, you can take this course, along with several hundred Stanford undergrads, without having to fill out an application, pay tuition, or live in a dorm.

This is more than just downloading materials and following along with a live stream; you’re actually going to have to do all the same work as the Stanford students. There’s a book you’ll need to get. There will be at least 10 hours per week of studying, along with weekly graded homework assignments. The professors will be available to answer your questions. You can look forward to a midterm exam and final exam. If you survive, you’ll get a certificate of completion from the instructors, along with a final grade that you can compare to the grades of all those supersmart kids at Stanford.

You won’t technically earn credits for the course unless you’re a Stanford student, but for all practical purposes, you’ll be getting the exact same knowledge and experience — transmitted directly to you by none other than two living Jedis of modern AI. Thrun, director of the Stanford AI Lab, led the team that won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, and, more recently, he helped develop the Google self-driving car. Norvig, a former scientist at Sun and NASA, is now director of research at Google and co-author of the leading textbook on AI.

10,000 have already signed up, and there is no limit.

Parents, if you have kids in high school, I encourage you to have them take this course. It may change their career plans for the better. For signup information and more details, please see the opening link.

I applaud the professors for offering these courses for free. Since the materials will be graded, college credits should apply but they don’t. It’s a start.


10,000 had signed up according to the article. The number is currently 56,000 and counting in various free courses. Here is a list of Free Stanford Courses

Some objected to the $58 (discounted) cost of the required book.

Here’s the deal. Paying $58 for a book is peanuts compared to cost of 3 semester hours. Of course (and as I have pointed out) credits are not given for the free course. They will. Eventually, some college will get accredited and will accept these courses. It is inevitable.

This is a far better development than the failed policy “no child left behind” or raising taxes to throw at teachers’ unions. Indeed, this is the future of education and it is very deflationary.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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