[Day 176] Why Stanford has the coterm program

Co-terminal master’s degree is a unique Stanford’s program that allows Stanford undergraduates to stay on for an extra year to earn a master’s degree. You have to apply, but it’s  a pretty easy and sweat-free process. Almost everyone I know who applied  got in. I never knew about the history of the program until today, when I talked to Pat Langley.

Pat Langley is a fascinating person to talk to, and I’m glad that he made time for me. he taught the course “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” in 1985, and if I’m not mistaken, he taught the first AI course at Stanford. He isn’t very happy with the state of AI research nowadays. He thinks that AI researchers rely too much on Math, and ignore entirely the cognitive side of learning. In his words, people just want to use massive datasets to produce impressive results without bothering to understand what bring about those results. When I asked him if he thinks nowadays AI researchers are lazy, he chuckles: “Yes, I think they are very lazy. Throwing data at models is much easier than trying to understand them.” It was refreshing to talk to someone with his “old school” approach to AI (he calls himself “old school”). When I have more time, I’d definitely write more about his approach.

Back to the coterm program. When I informed Pat that I’ve recently been accepted to the coterm program, he asked me: “Do you know the history of the coterm program?” Of course, I didn’t, so he told me that the program was started because of the Vietnam War. To help students avoid being drafted, Stanford created the coterm program so they could stay on a couple of years longer.

I know it’s random but I thought it was pretty cool to know.

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[Day 176] Why Stanford has the coterm program

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