Table of contents:

Stephen Hawking. Short Answers To Big Questions. How Do We Shape The Future? - Reviews
Stephen Hawking. Short Answers To Big Questions. How Do We Shape The Future? - Reviews
  • Short answers to big questions
  • By Stephen Hawking
  • Moscow: Bombora, 2018

We publish important theses from the latest book by Stephen Hawking

Short answers to big questions
Short answers to big questions

How do we shape the future?

1. Imagination is the most powerful tool for making discoveries

A hundred years ago, Einstein radically changed our understanding of space, time, energy and matter. We still find amazing support for his predictions, such as the presence of gravitational waves, which were recorded in 2016 in an experiment at the LIGO laboratory.

When I think of genius, Einstein is the first thing I think of. How did all his brilliant ideas come about? Perhaps the reason for this is a combination of qualities: intuition, originality, insight.

Einstein had the ability to look under the surface and see the essence of things. He was not intimidated by the common sense that things are as we see them. He had the courage to take on ideas that seemed absurd to others

And this gave him the freedom to be a genius, a genius of his time and a genius of all times.

Einstein's key feature is imagination. Many of his discoveries came from the ability to recreate the image of the universe through thought experiments. At sixteen, imagining a flight on a beam of light, he realized that from this position, the light should look like a frozen wave. And this image eventually led to the emergence of the special (particular) theory of relativity.

Over the course of a hundred years, scientists have learned much more about the universe than Einstein could have. We have more powerful tools for making discoveries - such as particle accelerators, supercomputers, space telescopes; we can do experiments like in the LIGO laboratory when gravitational waves were discovered.

However, the most powerful tool is still imagination. We can imagine the most exotic natural phenomena, sitting behind the wheel of a car, napping on the couch or pretending to listen to some bore at a party

As a child, I was very interested in how everything works. In those days, it was much easier to disassemble something for parts and try to understand how it all works. It was not always possible to restore toys that I took apart, but I think I was able to learn more than modern boys and girls who wished to do the same with a smartphone.

I'm still trying to figure out how things work, only the scale has changed. Now I am using the laws of physics to try to understand how the universe works.

2. How to develop the potential of the mind?

The human mind is an amazing thing. He can comprehend the greatness of the heavens and the complexity of the basic components of matter. But for the mind to reach its potential, a spark is needed. A spark of curiosity and surprise

Often such a spark comes from the teacher. Let me explain. I was not the best student. I slowly learned to read, my handwriting was always clumsy. But at fourteen years old, my teacher from school in St Albans, Dikran Takhta, helped me to harness my energy and taught me to be creative with math. He opened my eyes to mathematics as a blueprint for the universe.

If you look closely at every outstanding person, there is always an outstanding teacher behind them. When each of us thinks about what he can do in life, it is very likely that we will be able to do it thanks to our teachers.

However, science and education are currently under threat. Due to the global financial crisis and austerity measures, funding has been cut in all areas of science, but especially in the basic sciences. We are in danger of cultural isolation, isolation and separation from everything that can be the engine of progress.

At a certain level of research, international exchange is necessary: this makes it possible to quickly share experiences and ideas with people who have formed in different cultural and scientific environments. This contributes to progress where it is now stuck.

3. What can we do to ensure that science and technology education continues to advance?

Back to my teacher, Mr. Takhta. The basis for further education should be laid at school, by teachers. But schools can often offer only elementary foundations, in which cramming, solving equations and exams can only cause students to reject science. Most people respond better to qualitative rather than quantitative understanding, without having to apply complex equations. Popular science books and articles also help us better understand how we live. However, only a small percentage of the population reads even the best popular science books. A wider audience for popular science television films and series, but this is a one-way relationship.

In the 1960s, when I started studying cosmology, it was considered a largely obscure and bizarre field of science. Today, thanks to theoretical research and experimental advances such as the Large Hadron Collider and the discovery of the Higgs boson, cosmology is revealing to us the secrets of the universe. There are still many questions to be answered. There is a lot of work ahead. But in a relatively short period of time, we have learned more and achieved much more than one could imagine.

4. What awaits today's youth?

I can say with confidence that their future depends on science and technology to a much greater extent than that of previous generations. They will have to have deeper scientific knowledge than before because science will become a part of their daily life in an unprecedented way.

Without going into too general reasoning, we can say that we already see trends and problems that need to be addressed now and will have to be addressed in the future. Among them are global warming, the search for living space and resources for the growing population of the planet, the rapid disappearance of rare species of animals, the need to create renewable energy sources, the degradation of the ocean environment, deforestation, epidemic diseases - and this is only a small part.

In the future, great inventions await us that will radically change our way of life, they will affect work, and communications, and travel. A huge field for innovation is spreading in almost all areas of life. It is very exciting.

5. The two most important aspects of human development

There is something special in the Universe, and this feature is that there are no boundaries for it. Human inquisitiveness is also not limited by anything. In my opinion, two aspects will be decisive for the development of humanity: the first is the exploration of outer space and the search for alternative planets suitable for life, the second is the positive use of artificial intelligence to improve our world.

The earth is becoming too small for us. Her physical resources are being depleted at an alarming rate. Population growth rates are also alarming. Everything suggests that almost exponential population growth will not be able to persist over the next millennium.

The second aspect that will have an impact on the future fate of mankind is the development of artificial intelligence. Research in artificial intelligence is now actively progressing

Recent advances such as self-driving cars, a Go-winning computer, the emergence of digital personal assistants (voice assistants) Siri, Google, Now Cortana, and others are the first symptoms of an arms race in information technology, fueled by unprecedented investments and relying on powerful theoretical foundation.

6. Artificial Intelligence: Good or Evil?

But these gains are likely to pale in comparison to those that will bring us the coming decades. However, the emergence of superintelligent artificial intelligence may turn out to be both the greatest boon and the greatest evil in human history. We cannot say what will happen: will artificial intelligence always help us, or will start to ignore and gradually push us aside, or will deliberately destroy us.

As an optimist, I believe that we are able to create artificial intelligence for the benefit of the whole world, that it is able to work in harmony with us. You just need to be aware of the dangers, identify them, choose the best methods of use and management, and be prepared in advance for possible consequences

Over the years, both the world and the technologies that influence it have changed dramatically. Our way of life has changed. As technology improves, opportunities open up that I never knew existed. The technologies now available to support people with disabilities are eliminating communication barriers that were previously insurmountable.

All these technological advances were made possible thanks to the creative spark that we all have. Creativity is manifested in many forms - from theoretical physics to sports achievements. But there is even more to come. The brain's interface can make this way of communication, which more and more people use, faster and more expressive.

7. Internet - IQ of the giant brain

I now use Facebook - it allows me to communicate directly with friends and followers from all over the world, and they can keep abreast of my latest theories and see photos from my travels. It also means I can stay on top of what's on my kids' minds rather than just listening to what they tell me about themselves.

Just as the internet, cell phones, medical imaging, satellite navigation, and social media would be incomprehensible to people who lived several generations before us, so the world of the future will change equally so much that we can hardly imagine now.

Information alone will not take us into this world. You need to be able to use it creatively and intelligently. We still have a lot ahead of us, and I hope this perspective will inspire today's students.

We all have a responsibility to ensure that both we and the next generation have not only the opportunity, but also the willingness to be interested in science from a young age in order to realize our potential and create a better world for all mankind.

I am sure that the future of learning and education lies with the Internet. People can ask questions, answer them, interact. In a sense, the Internet connects us all together like neurons in a giant brain. And with this IQ, we are capable of anything

In my youth, it was still considered acceptable - not for me, but among others - to say that someone may not be interested in science and there is no point in worrying about this. It shouldn't be that way anymore. Let me explain. I am not saying that all young people should become scientists, and I do not at all consider this situation ideal, since the world needs people with a wide variety of skills and abilities. But I advocate for all young people to feel confident in general scientific disciplines - regardless of what they want to do in life. They must be scientifically literate and willing to keep abreast of scientific and technological advances in order to learn more.

A world in which only a thin layer of the super-elite is able to understand and use the latest achievements of science and technology seems to me dangerous and limited

I deeply doubt that projects with long-term benefits, such as cleaning up the oceans or combating various diseases, are priorities for countries in the developing world. Even worse, it may turn out that some technologies will be directed against us and we will not have the strength to resist them.

8. The implementation of what idea, important for all mankind, would you like to see?

It's simple. I would like to see that fusion has provided us with unlimited supplies of clean energy - and the transition to electric vehicles. Thermonuclear fusion should become part of everyday life and become an inexhaustible source of energy that does not pollute the environment and does not affect global warming.

I don’t believe in boundaries - neither what we can achieve as individuals, nor what intelligent life can accomplish in the universe. We are on the verge of important discoveries in all fields of science.

There is no doubt that our world will change dramatically in the next fifty years. We find out what happened at the time of the Big Bang. We will come to understand how life began on Earth. We may even find out if there is life elsewhere in the universe.

As an incorrigible optimist, I believe that we will eventually create a suitable habitat for humans on other planets. We will break out of the Earth and learn to exist in space

And this is not the end, but only the beginning of billions of years of prosperity of life in space. At least I hope so.

In conclusion, one more remark. We can never say for sure where the next great scientific discovery will come from or who will make it. But by educating the widest possible youth audience in accessible and innovative ways about the wonder and excitement of scientific discovery, we greatly increase the chances of new Einsteins emerging. Wherever they live.

So do not forget to look not only at your feet, but also at the stars. Try to look for meaning in what you see and think about how and why the universe exists.