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My visit to Guantanamo Bay


'The government is a pretty lousy customer'
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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Applied Minds was still doing a lot of work in the government stuff, and Bran still liked it a lot. So I said to Bran, 'You know, I really want to do the commercial work.' And the commercial work and the government work is hard to coexist, because of all the rules that happen. For instance, it's very hard to hire a foreigner and things like that. And I was just like, 'We need to separate these up. We need to stop doing the government work or I want to take the commercial group out and do that as a separate thing.' And I think... I mean Bran, I think, was sort of hurt by that, because he felt like I was sort of abandoning him, but... and giving him an ultimatum, but fundamentally I felt it had to be done, so that's what we did. We split the company. I left him with the brand name and split off. By then, most people naturally either wanted to come with me or stay with Bran, so it was pretty obvious who went with who. And so we split the company and Applied Invention doesn't do government work, and Applied Minds still does government work. So I admire Bran for continuing to try to make that better. And I still try to volunteer and help with that, but I don't mix it with my business. I think the government is a pretty lousy customer, but I think it's also important that they do a good job. And I'd like to help them do a good job.

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: Applied Minds, Applied Invention, Bran Ferren

Duration: 1 minute, 47 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 05 July 2017