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Does cause and effect really exist?


Marvin Minsky's Society of Minds
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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Thinking about consciousness, I think Dan Dennett probably has a much... is also... he's stayed a good friend. But I think his way of thinking about consciousness as just something that emerges from thought is much closer to what I think of, rather than some little part of the brain that is either on or off. But it's definitely true that thinking is way more complicated than we thought, and it's not just one thing. We have lots going on. And I think that's one thing that I learned from Marvin, is that thinking is complex, multi-dimensional, it's not a neat idea, it's not just one thing. And I do see the world much more like Marvin's... I do see myself much more like Marvin's Society of Minds. There's lots of intelligences that sometimes contradict each other, sometimes cooperate. And the me that I imagine in my story I tell of myself is probably no more accurate than the story I read in the newspaper about what's going on in the world. It's just a simplified story to make me understandable to myself, but it misses most of the interesting details.

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: Daniel Dennett, Marvin Minsky

Duration: 1 minute, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 05 July 2017