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India and martial arts
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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Another story about her making a decision is: very early we were at Zorthian's house, Feynman's artist friend, at a barbecue. And Zorthian had a pig on a spit, and India looked at the pig on the spit and turned to me. And she was probably about four years old. And she turned to me and she said, 'Dad, does all meat come from animals?' And I said, 'Yes.' And she said, 'Oh. I'm not going to eat meat.' And she didn't just mean for the party, she didn't eat meat until she was like 21 years old. She just decided it. It was never a big deal with her, she didn't preach about it, she didn't do anything, but she just made the decision and stuck with it. And that was how India was, she would just decide things. And she would focus on things, so it was funny. And the boys always had that unflappable strength and confidence.

I remember we had, for instance... well, we home schooled them, which was wonderful, so we really got to see them a lot. And we had a martial arts teacher whose family had been part of the bodyguard of the Russian czars, he was a very serious martial arts teacher. And he would try to intimidate them into serious martial arts. And finally, he just came in and said, 'I quit.' I was like, 'What do you mean, you quit?' And he's like, 'They have no fear. I can't control them.' And he left. And we were like, well, what went on? And India says, 'Well, you know, he just... they were just giggling and he tried to get them to behave and so he threw knives at their feet to make them...' and she showed, like, in the floor, that he would throw knives down at them and they just giggled. Which is probably what they would have done. And he just gave up on... but India was very, very disciplined and in fact had... became a great martial artist. I mean, India had this habit of whatever she concentrated on doing, she would really concentrate on and just become excellent at it. And she had... the martial arts, she was just fantastic at. And she was so good, in fact, that someone who was producing a movie saw her do her kind of [moves] and they were working with Quentin Tarantino to do Kill Bill II, and they got the martial arts instructor for Kill Bill II to come look at her to play the part of a little girl and he said, 'Yes, we can train her to do this, but she'll have to be on the set and she'll have to be in...' and India was old enough at that point that we asked her, do you really want to do this? And she was smart enough to say no. So... but she was good enough to do it.

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: Kill Bill II, Quentin Tarantino

Duration: 3 minutes, 26 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 05 July 2017