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There are many ways of being smart
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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I think one of the things that I came to learn is that there really isn't any such thing as smart. In general intelligence. Like that. I was around people who were much better than me at certain things and much worse than me at other things and I was better than them in some things. And what I've come to believe is that intelligence is kind of a catch-all word or what Marvin called a suitcase word where you throw in lots of different skills and so on. And so one of the great things about a place like MIT is there are a lot of people who are smart in lots of different kinds of ways.

And then, you know, I got to go to places like Disney where people are smart in completely other kinds of ways. And so I think smart has lots of different dimensions to it. And so I don't believe in this idea of IQ that sort of, you know, there's many ways of being smart and I'm kind of dumb in some ways and I'm smart in other ways. And different people have different mixtures. And, you know, I'm lucky I've got a fun mixture that works for me. But I need to be around people who are much smarter than me in other ways in order to exist. I would probably not be much use if you put me out in the jungle. I can think of some other people who would survive much better than I would.

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: smart, intelligence, IQ

Duration: 1 minute, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017