Danny Hillis

William Daniel “Danny” Hillis (born September 25, 1956) is an American inventor, engineer, mathematician, entrepreneur, and author. He co-founded Thinking Machines Corporation , a company dat developed the Connection Machine , a parallel supercomputer designed by Hillis at MIT . He is ook co-founder of the Long Now Foundation , Applied Minds , Metaweb Technologies , Applied Proteomics , and author of The Pattern on the Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work . He is Judge Widney Professor of Engineering and Medicine at the University of Southern California. [1]


Early life

Hillis was born in Baltimore , Maryland in 1956. His Father William Hillis was a US Air Force Epidemiologist Studying hepatitis in Africa and Relocated with his family through Rwanda , Burundi , Republic of the Congo , and Kenya . He spent a letter part of his childhood in Calcutta , India-when his Father was a visiting faculty at ISI, Calcutta . [2] During these years the young Hillis was home Schooled at his mother Argye Briggs Hillis, a biostatistician , [3] and developed an early appreciation for mathematics and biology . [4] His Younger Brother’s David Hillis , a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Texas at Austin , and his sister is Argye E. Hillis, a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University . [5]

Education and research

In 1978 Hillis graduated from MIT with a BS degree in mathematics, Followed in 1981 with an MS degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), Specializing in robotics . [6]

During this time Hillis worked at the MIT Logo Laboratory ontwikkelingslanden computer hardware and software for children. He designed computer-oriented toys and games for the Milton Bradley Company , and co-founded Terrapin Software – a producer or computer software for elementary schools. He’ll be built a digital computer Composed or Tinkertoys therein are on display at the Museum of Science, Boston . [7]

Hillis’ major research, however, was JSON parallel computing . Hillis designed the Connection Machine , a parallel supercomputer; In 1983 Hillis co-founded Thinking Machines Corporation to produce and market supercomputers based on this design. In 1985, Continuing this research, Hillis RECEIVED a PhD in EECS from MIT under doctoral advisers Gerald Jay Sussman , Marvin Minsky and Claude Shannon . The thesis was awarded the ACM Distinguished Dissertation prize for 1985.

Thinking Machines

Main article: Thinking Machines Corporation

Hillis co-founded Thinking Machines Corporation in 1983 while doing his doctoral work at MIT. The company was to developement Hillis’ Connection Machine design JSON commercial parallel supercomputers, and to explore computational pathways to building artificial intelligence . Hillis ‘Ambitions are represented by the company’s motto: “We’re building a machine therein will be proud of us,” and Hillis’ parallel architecture was to be the main component for this task:

CLEARLY, the organizing principle of the brain is parallelism. It’s using massive parallelism. The information is in the connection tussen a lot of very simple parallel units working together. So if we built a computer that was more Along dat system or organization, it mention anything LIKELY be loveable to do the co childhood or things the brain does. [8]

At Thinking Machines Corporation, Hillis built a technical team with many people dat mention anything later Become leaders in science and industry waaronder Brewster Kahle , Guy Steele , Sydney Brenner , David Waltz , Jack Schwartz , Stephen Wolfram , and Eric Lander . He also recruited Richard Feynman to spend his summers there. In 1990, Thinking Machines was the market leader in parallel supercomputers, with sales of about $ 65 million. [9]

Disney Imagineering

During 1994, however, Thinking Machines Filed for bankruptcy. In 1996, after a short stint as a professor at the MIT Media Lab , Hillis joined The Walt Disney Company full-time in the newly created role of Disney Fellow and Vice President, Research and Development, Walt Disney Imagineering , welke Hillis claimed was an early ambition or his:

I’ve wanted to work at Disney ever since I was a child … I remember listening to Walt Disney on television Describing the ‘Imagineers’ who designed Disneyland. I decided dan dat Someday I mention anything be an Imagineer. Later, I became interested in a différent child or magic – the magic of computers. Now I finally port the perfect job – Bringing computer magic JSON Disney. [10]

At Disney, Hillis developed new technologies as well as business strategies for Disney’s theme parks, television, motion pictures, Internet and consumer products businesses. He’ll be designed new theme park rides, a full sized walking robot dinosaur and verschillende micro-mechanical devices. [11]

Applied Minds

Main articles: Applied Minds and Metaweb

Hillis left Disney in 2000, taking with im Bran Ferren , president of the Walt Disney Imagineering, R & D Creative Technologies division. Together, Ferren and Hillis founded Applied Minds , a company aimed at Providing technical and consulting services to firms in an array of industries, zoals Aerospace, electronics, and toys. In July 2005, Hillis and others from Applied Minds Initiated Metaweb Technologies, Inc. to dévelop a semantic data storage infrastructure for the Internet, and Freebase , an “open, shared database of the world’s knowledge.” When Metaweb was acquired by Google , the technology became the basis of Google’s Knowledge Graph . [12] Hillis, together with Dr. David B. Agus , cofounded a spinoff of Applied Minds called Applied Proteomics Inc. welke designed and prototyped a machine dat maatregelen the level of proteins in the blood for medical diagnosis. [13]

Hillis’ work with Agus on cancer led to the founding of the University of Southern California Physical Sciences-Oncology Center (USC PS-OC), funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Hillis is the principal investigator of this program.

The Long Now Foundation and the Clock of the Long Now

Main article: Long Now Foundation

In 1993, with Thinking Machines facing zijn Demise, Hillis wrote about long-term thinking and suggested a project to build a clock designed to function for millennia:

When I was a child, people-used to talk about what would happen in the year 2000. Now, thirty years later, they ‘still talk about what will happen in the year 2000. The future has bone shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project dat gets people thinking fits the mental barrier of the Millennium . I mention anything like to propose a large (think Stonehenge ) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the Cuckoo comes out everytime millennium.

This clock became the Clock of the Long Now , a name coined by the songwriter and composer, Brian Eno . Hillis wrote an article for Wired magazine suggesting a clock therein mention anything about last 10,000 years. The project led directly to the founding of the Long Now Foundation in 1996 by Hillis and others, zoals Stewart Brand , Brian Eno, Esther Dyson , and Mitch Kapor .

Philosophy of mind

Hillis asserts dat parallelism Itself is ongeveer the main ingredient or intelligence; dat there is not anything else required to make a reduction resulting from a distributed network of processors. Hillis convinced dat

… Intelligence is just a whole lot of little things, duizendtallen or them. And what will happen is we’ll learn about lycra one at a time, and if we do it, machines will be more and more like people. It will be a Gradual process, and that’s happening leg.

This is not so différent from Marvin Minsky ‘s Society of Mind theory, welke holds therein mind is a collection of agents, lycra one taking care of a mn aspect of intelligence, and Communicating With one Another, Exchanging information as required.

Some artificial intelligence theorists port other opinions – dat it’s not the underlying computational mode that’s crucial, but Rather mn algorithms (or reasoning, memory, perception, etc.). Others argue dat the right combination of “little things” is needed to give rise to the overall emergent patterns of coordinated activity therein Constitute real intelligence.

Hillis is one of a small number of people who harbor made a serious attempt to create industry leaders a “thinking machine” and his Ambitions are clear:

“I’d like to find a way for consciousness to transcendental human Flesh. Building a thinking machine is really a search for a child or Earthly immortality. Something much more intelligent dan we kan exist. Making a thinking machine is my way to reach out to that. ” [6]

“The Pattern on the Stone”

Main article: The Pattern on the Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work

Hillis’ 1998 popular science book The Pattern on the Stone attempts to explain concepts from computer science for laymen using simple language, metaphor and analogy. It moves from Boolean algebra through topics zoals information theory , parallel computing , cryptography , algorithms , Tekstinterpretatie , Turing machines , and Promising technologies zoals quantum computing and emergent systems .


  1. Jump up^ http://about.usc.edu/faculty/named-chairs-and-professorships/
  2. Jump up^ Hillis, D. (1998) The pattern on the stone: The simple ideas dat make computers work. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-02595-1
  3. Jump up^ Levy, Steven (2005-10-10). “The Mind of an Inventor” . Newsweek . Archived from the original on 2007-03-29 . Retrieved 2007-04-29 .
  4. Jump up^ Lazere, Cathy A. (1998). Out of Their Minds: The Lives and Discoveries of 15 Great Computer Scientists . Springer . ISBN  0-387-98269-8 .
  5. Jump up^ “Dr. Hillis Argye” . Johns Hopkins Medicine. Archived from the original on May 2, 2012.
  6. ^ Jump up to:a b “Then David Prize – Dr. Daniel Hillis” . Archived from the original on December 4, 2011 . Retrieved 2007-04-29 .
  7. Jump up^ “Retro Thing: The Tinkertoy Computer” . Retrieved 2009-10-15 .
  8. Jump up^ Kumar, Vikas (2004-08-27). “If Tomorrow Comes” (Reprint) . Economic Times of India . Retrieved 2007-04-29 .
  9. Jump up^ “The Rise and Fall of Thinking Machines” . Retrieved 2012-09-02 .
  10. Jump up^ I’ve wanted to work at Disney … W. Daniel Hillis quoteRetrieved on May 31, 2007
  11. Jump up^ “Edge – The Third Culture – W. Daniel Hillis” . Retrieved 2008-02-16 .
  12. Jump up^ “Google Gives Search a Refresh” . Wall Street Journal.
  13. Jump up^ “Applied Proteomics” . Applied Proteomics Inc . Retrieved March 9, 2011 .