Google fellow and Stanford University computer scientist Sebastian Thrun -- who is ranked #4 on our Global Thinkers list for his work developing and promoting self-driving cars -- spoke during this afternoon's panel on "The New Economic Sources of Power." Thrun was withering in his assessment of the U.S. education system:
The thing that pains me by far the most is education and the direction where we're going. I think we're going in exactly the opposite direction from where we should be going. We're really dumbing down our children. We're doing an increasingly lousy job with high schools. We have increasingly misguided policies in bills such as No Child Left Behind. If you look at the students at a place like Stanford and the international students we could draw from, I think we are neglecting the most important resource which is human capital.
He was equally critical of American higher education:
Right now, in the United States, if you attend college, your parents pay $4,000 per class if it’s an Ivy League school, if it’s the University of Pheonix, maybe $1,200, and the product you’re getting is about 1,000 years old. Sitting in a class with a professor costs a lot of money and is very inefficient and mediocre.
On transportation, Thrun mocked states for investing in high-speed rail, which he called a "19th-century technology" that will soon be overtaken by more efficient and intelligent car designs.