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Feeling safe in Africa
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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I also have memories that are of Africa that almost go off into... I can't even quite remember if they were real.

Like finding crystals of amethyst which I can't... I had a piece of amethyst that I must sort of have imagined finding this, but I had a piece of amethyst that I brought back, it was a crystal, but where would I have gotten a crystal of amethyst?

I have another story which can't have been real but I remember enough about it. Which is remember I told you my little man, that part was definitely real, but the... My little pygmy friend. And he definitely would make these charms which would frighten the other servants. But we would get stopped at roadblocks, that part was definitely true. There were all kinds of roadblocks, some of them real government ones, some of them just hoodlums. And they would collect their taxes or whatever before letting you go. In fact, I was very surprised when we left the Congo the last time, all the roadblocks were abandoned. But I seem to remember like the... And maybe this was just a fantasy but of them opening up the trunk and being frightened away on seeing one of the charms that my pygmy friend had made. Being frightened away. I don't know if that was just a fantasy or if that really happened. But it sort of protected us. But I sort of imagined him as kind of having protective magic of us. And it could have been true. I mean, there was a lot of superstition, a lot of... But I definitely felt that people were so benign and loving and friendly and connected, even though there was a lot of danger around, I always felt very, very safe. And taken care of.

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: Africa

Duration: 2 minutes, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017