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Culture shock on return to America


How much does it cost to settle an air strike?
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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Years and years later I went back to India with a friend who had a Gulf Stream and we got permission to go into Aurangabad to see the Ellora Caves which is a remarkable mountain that's been carved over centuries. And I'd always wanted to see them. But they're hard to get to. So we landed in Aurangabad and the only airport is an army base. But we arranged to fly in with the air force officer. I mean, we got in and we toured the caves. But then when it came time to leave they announced to us that there was an air strike and that we might be stuck in Aurangabad for weeks and weeks. And my friend who had the plane, of course, was very upset about this, and I was like, 'No, no, no, you don't understand. Ask them how much it would cost to settle the air strike.' And he's like, 'What do you mean? He's like, they're all... All the air controllers are on strike.' And I was like, 'Yes, but ask how much money would be required to settle the strike.' And so we sent out our Indian air force officer to negotiate and he came back and it turned out that it would cost $500 to settle the strike which is almost exactly the same as the landing fee for Gulf Stream in an American airport. And he was quite relieved to discover that we were not, in fact, going to have to spend two weeks waiting for the strike to get settled.

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: Auragaband, India

Duration: 1 minute, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017