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NEXT STORY

The Entanglement needs a different paradigm

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Age of Enlightenment versus Age of Entanglement
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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I've taken to calling this idea the Entanglement, by analogy to the Enlightenment. So the Enlightenment was that brief period of time when we thought we could understand what was going on and control it. And we could reason about everything and design everything logically and it was the Age of Reason. But now, as things are getting more intertwined and complicated, we can't reason about them anymore, we have to negotiate with them, and so I think we're getting into what I'd call the Age of Entanglement instead of the Age of Enlightenment, where we no longer can make these hard distinctions between what's born and what's engineered or what we control and what we garden. So it's all becoming kind of like gardening. Our relationship with technology is more like the relationship a farmer has with his plants. We can kind of get it to do what we want, but we don't really understand quite how it's doing 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: Enlightenment, reason, gardening, design, technology, Entanglement

Duration: 1 minute, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 05 July 2017