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Groundbreaking technologists and influential public thinkers Jaron Lanier and Sebastian Thrun reflect on Douglas Engelbart’s pursuit of human augmentation. What direction is our digital future going to take?


 

About Sebastian Thrun

Sebastian Burkhard Thrun is CEO of Udacity, a Google Fellow and VP, and a Research Professor at Stanford University. He has published over 370 scientific papers and 11 books, and he is a member of the National Academy of Engineering in the US. Fast Company named Thrun the fifth most creative person in business, and Foreign Policy touted him Global Thinker #4. Thrun works on revolutionizing all of transportation, education, and mobile devices. 

At Google, Thrun founded Google X, which is home to projects like the Google self-driving car and the recently announced Google Glass. He and his team are trying to radically innovate, innovate, innovate.  He says: "I am on a mission to learn from Google's amazing founders, Sergey and Larry". "At Udacity, we are trying to democratize higher education. Udacity stands for "we are audacious, for you, the student". This is an audacious step, and it has been a thrill ride." He is an educator, programmer, robotics developer and computer scientist from Germany.  He is CEO and cofounder of Udacity, an institution he cofounded with David Stavens and Mike Sokolsky. He is a Google VP and Fellow, and a part-time Research Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University. Thrun led development of the robotic vehicle Stanley which won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, and which has since been placed on exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. His team also developed a vehicle called Junior, which placed second at the DARPA Urban Challenge in 2007.  Thrun led the development of the Google self-driving car. Thrun is also known for his work on probabilistic programming techniques in robotics, with applications including robotic mapping. In recognition of his contributions, and at age 39, Thrun was elected into the National Academy of Engineering and also into the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in 2007.  In 2011, Thrun received the Max-Planck-Research Award and the inaugural AAAI Ed Feigenbaum Prize. Fast Company selected Thrun as the fifth most creative person in business in the world. 


About Jaron Lanier

A Renaissance Man for the 21st century, Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, composer, artist, and author who writes on numerous topics, including high-technology business, the social impact of technology, the philosophy of consciousness and information, Internet politics, and the future of humanism. Lanier’s most recent book is Who Owns the Future? He offers a critical and insightful perspective in his talks on big data: who owns the data, what it all means for our society, and the quest for a sustainable digital economy. Lanier looks at the large patterns shaping digital world, such as the 2008 financial crisis, NSA surveillance, and the implementation of healthcare.gov. Who Owns the Future? remains an international bestseller, and was declared the most important book of 2013 by Joe Nocera in The New York Times and was on the Amazon 2013 Best Books of the Year list. It has also been awarded Harvard’s 2014 Goldsmith Book Prize. The impact of Who Owns the Future? was celebrated prominently in Europe when Lanier was awarded the 2014 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, one of the highest literary honors in the world. 

Jaron Lanier has been on the cusp of technological innovation from its infancy to the present. A pioneer in virtual reality (a term he coined), Lanier founded VPL Research, the first company to sell VR products, and led teams creating VR applications for medicine, design, and numerous other fields. He is currently Interdisciplinary Scientist at Microsoft Research. He was a founder or principal of startups that were acquired by Google, Adobe, Oracle, and Pfizer. In 2010, Lanier was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine. In recent years he has also been named one of top one hundred public intellectuals in the world by Foreign Policy magazine, one of the top 50 World Thinkers by Prospect magazine, and one of history’s 300 or so greatest inventors in the Encyclopedia Britannica. In 2009 Jaron Lanier received a Lifetime Career Award from the IEEE, the preeminent international engineering society.