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There are many ways of being smart


Realising that I may be smarter than others
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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When I was a kid... I think I realised that... Well, I was different in so many different ways because I'd also lived so many different places, I knew different things. I mean, I knew I was smart but I also was knowledgeable in ways that the other... You know, I knew about things that... And I was also very lucky that I had, you know, scientists as parents. And so I lived in a bigger world than most of the kids I was around. Literally. So that was maybe the big difference.

And then I think when I went to MIT, I think until that semester I kind of assumed I was pretty average at MIT. But then when I realised that actually taking all those courses at once really wasn't that hard for me and everybody else was really surprised by it, and they really did have to study it. And it began to sink into me that, you know, maybe some of these things were easier for me than they were for the other students. But that took a while to kind of notice.

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: Massachussets Intitute of Technology

Duration: 1 minute, 21 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017