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The black and white childhood picture from Congo

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Facing segregation issue in Louisiana
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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But we got to live in lots of other places in Africa when we evacuated. Safe places like Kampala. And then eventually we went back to Louisiana when it became clear that we couldn't stay in the Congo. And then I had another session in Louisiana. It may be that the election happened in that second session, I don't remember. And it was so strange going back from a place where all of my friends were black to a place where black people were totally separated from white people. And realising just how bizarre that was.

And so of course I made... In school we were, I mean, I had friend at home that were black, but you know, they were of a different social class. Everything was separated, everything was segregated those days in Louisiana.

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: segregation, Louisiana, social classes

Duration: 1 minute, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017