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A sense of connection with the Congolese
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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There was a moment when we were in Bujumbura, I remember, I wandered back into the yard, I looked in the bushes, and there were orchids blooming. Just... They hadn't even been planted there, they had just taken root themselves. Parasites, I guess.

And just looking into the orchid and thinking, wow, this must be what it was like for Alice to be in Alice in Wonderland. And that's how the whole place felt, there was a kind of magic about it. And so I've always wanted to go back but I'm always frightened to go back because it can't possibly be as wonderful as I imagine it. But still to this day when I meet somebody from the Congo I instantly recognise that they're from the Congo and I feel a sense of connection with them. And quickly start talking to them. Usually end up hugging them pretty quickly. You know, it's... I feel such a sense of connection to the Congolese.

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: Congo

Duration: 1 minute, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017