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Feeling safe in Africa


Africa - a place of warm hugs and warm smells
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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One thing I remember, because people were very... With the children, they were very warm and they would hug us, they would hold us. And particularly, you know, the women would hold us with their children, or the children would also hug us. So they were very... It was a very huggy, close culture.

And people didn't bathe. So they had a smell. But it was a very human smell which I've always loved, that smell. Because I associate it with sort of warmth and it doesn't... It doesn't smell like athletic sweat to me or something like that, it just smells like Africa to me. And I can still conjure up that smell, you know, whenever... Sometimes I do smell it and it always makes me feel sort of warm and comfortable.

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: Africa

Duration: 1 minute

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017