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The great people surrounding Marvin Minsky


Marvin Minsky writes Society of Mind
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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It was fun because I was living in his house while he was writing Society of Mind. And that book, every chapter, he would stay up all night and he would write a chapter.

And the chapters are kind of only a couple of pages. And so I would wake up in the morning and I would go and I would see... He'd leave me the printout of what he'd written the night before. And then I'd read it. And then he would wake up later and I'd talk about it with him. And discuss it. And then the next day he would write another chapter. And I now read that book... I've seen that book since then, I can't imagine reading it through from cover to cover because it's just such a density of ideas. I can't imagine how you would read it without having a day-long conversation with Marvin in between every chapter. It's so many ideas in it.

And so that was pretty wonderful.

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: Society of Mind, Marvin Minsky

Duration: 1 minute, 4 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017