W. Daniel Hillis
He is one of the founders of the Long Now Foundation, whose purpose is to promote long-term thinking. The Long Now Foundation numbers years in five digits—it refers to the present year as 02007. Hillis is the designer of one of its projects, the Clock of the Long Now. This is a serious attempt to build a purely mechanical clock, on a monumental scale, that will last and keep time for ten thousand years. The Foundation has purchased land in Nevada for that purpose. Plans for the clock involve not only mechanical engineering, but societal considerations, since the clock must resist vandalism, cannot require continuous funding or maintenance, and, if need be, must outlast the civilization that built it.
Early Years (notes for later expansion) Born in 1956, graduated with an undergraduate math degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1978, then an MIT SM degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) then specializing in robotics. Hillis completed his PhD in EECS from MIT in 1988, under Gerald Jay Sussman.
At MIT he was already well known for his accomplishments as a computer science student. He built a computer that played Tic-Tac-Toe made of tinkertoys and went on to design computer-oriented toys and games for the Milton Bradley Company. He also co-founded Terrapin Inc., a producer of computer software for elementary schools. Later, he became vice-president of Walt Disney Imagineering, the research and development arm of The Walt Disney Company.
For his doctoral work, Hillis designed the Connection Machine, a massively parallel computer built as a platform for artificial intelligence and simulation of complex physical systems. This is written up in Kevin Kelly's book "Out of Control."
The specific chapter is linked here: