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Africa – the most wonderful place I've ever lived in


My little pygmy friend
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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And I had a friend who was a pygmy who lived... We sort of had jungle and I had... He was a very little tiny man, he was like my size. And I don't know what language he spoke but he lived in our yard. But in a hidden way. And we had plantans and he made a little fire and he taught me how to... He would cook plantans in the fire and open the up and taught me how to do that and eat them. I would go visit him and he would teach me little things about the jungle.

And then I would always talk about my little friend. And later I found out that people didn't really believe in my little friend. That there was just a little man living off of the jungle. But he made little charms for me and I would catch lizards and these beautiful multi-coloured iguanas and things like that and he would make little charms out of feathers and lizards and things like that which were very frightening to the other people around. I remember bringing one of these into the house and having like the cook and the – had lots and lots of servants in the house – and them all screaming and running away from my little charm that he'd made for me. So he, yes, he had some kind of magic ju-ju that made them very frightened.

W Daniel Hillis (b. 1956) is an American inventor, scientist, author and engineer. While doing his doctoral work at MIT under artificial intelligence pioneer, Marvin Minsky, he invented the concept of parallel computers, that is now the basis for most supercomputers. He also co-founded the famous parallel computing company, Thinking Machines, in 1983 which marked a new era in computing. In 1996, Hillis left MIT for California, where he spent time leading Disney’s Imagineers. He developed new technologies and business strategies for Disney's theme parks, television, motion pictures, Internet and consumer product businesses. More recently, Hillis co-founded an engineering and design company, Applied Minds, and several start-ups, among them Applied Proteomics in San Diego, MetaWeb Technologies (acquired by Google) in San Francisco, and his current passion, Applied Invention in Cambridge, MA, which 'partners with clients to create innovative products and services'. He holds over 100 US patents, covering parallel computers, disk arrays, forgery prevention methods, and various electronic and mechanical devices (including a 10,000-year mechanical clock), and has recently moved into working on problems in medicine. In recognition of his work Hillis has won many awards, including the Dan David Prize.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes George Dyson

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: plantan, pygmy, jungle, charms, friendship

Duration: 1 minute, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017