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'Your children are on the roof'
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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 One time... we would nail shut all the windows, and one time we were sitting in the living room and a neighbour comes and rings the doorbell and says, 'Your children are on the roof.' I'm like, 'What?' And we'd put them to go to sleep and nap in their cribs, but they had climbed out of their cribs. And this was before they walked. But they were very strong in upper body strength, and they crawled. They'd climbed up out of their cribs and gotten over to the window and pushed up the window, and a workman had come and fixed the roof and left the nail out of the window. And they were out on the roof of the three-storey building. And this was before they had any sense of self-preservation, and the big game was, like, chase. So I knew that I went out on the roof after them, they would just run away and giggle and they thought it was really funny. So eventually, what we did is stuck out and I, like, dangled some toy that they liked to play with and some bottles of milk and eventually they crawled back and came back in. But they really... you know, they always had fun and they always were cheerful and happy.

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: George Dyson Christopher Sykes

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: roof, children, chase

Duration: 1 minute, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 05 July 2017