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Tech’s Cult Of Self-Teaching

There’s nothing the tech world loves more than a self-educated billionaire. A new site hopes to show you how to become one.

The No Excuse List is a great idea — a clean and well-curated collection of places to start learning about things, from music to food to literature to code. With a bit more breadth and depth it could become a definitive resource for free online learning resources; for now, at the very least, it’s tidy symbol of a strange and fascinating part of tech culture.

Tech culture, and startup culture in particular, prizes two types of people most: the young, well-credentialed aspirant, and the established, barely-credentialed mogul. Think Microsoft or Apple or Facebook: Thousands of Ivy Leaguers working for men who never finished college. Or Thiel-worship — the seemingly unconditional love by the bright young student-entrepreneur class of a man who discourages ambitious young people from bothering with college. In a cred-fight, however, the rugged autodidact always wins.

The No Excuse List, as is, seems less focused on providing a broad education than widening the education of curious STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) students — the types of people that predominate at tech companies. (The fact that the “programming” section is twice as long and far more useful than the “music” section is telling.)

But the concept is powerful, vexing and very modern: All that’s needed to become a well-rounded, learned person, it seems to say, is a good web utility. And judging by the response at Hacker News, those in startup culture, self-taught or not, seem to agree.

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