Stephen Hawking Was an Atheist. Here’s What He Said About God, Heaven and His Own Death

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

By JAMIE DUCHARME

11:12 AM EDT

For more than 50 years, death was a poignant part of Stephen Hawking’s remarkable life.

The physicist, who died Wednesday at age 76, wasn’t expected to see his 25th birthday, after being diagnosed with the incurable neurodegenerative condition ALS at age 21. Though Hawking beat the odds for more than five decades, the scientist told theGuardian in 2011 that death was never far from his mind.

“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years,” Hawking said. “I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.”

Here are some of Hawking’s most interesting thoughts about death, the afterlife and God.

Hawking didn’t believe in heaven

The scientist took a pragmatic view of what happens to the brain and body after death.

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail,” he told the Guardian. “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

He believed in an ‘impersonal God,’ but not a creator

Hawking invoked the name of God in his seminal book A Brief History of Time, writing that if physicists could find a “theory of everything” — that is, a cohesive explanation for how the universe works — they would glimpse “the mind of God.”

But in later interviews and writings, such as 2010’s The Grand Design, which he co-wrote with Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking clarified that he wasn’t referring to a creator in the traditional sense.

“Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” he wrote in The Grand Design. “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

Using language about God, Hawking told TIME after the book’s release, is more figurative than literal.

“God is the name people give to the reason we are here,” he said. “But I think that reason is the laws of physics rather than someone with whom one can have a personal relationship. An impersonal God.”

Hawking considered himself an atheist

Hawking spoke more plainly about his thoughts on God in an interview with Spanish publication El Mundo.

“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation,” he said“What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.”

But still thought the universe had meaning

Though Hawking rejected the conventional notion of God or a creator, he fundamentally believed that the universe and life have meaning, according to the New York Times.

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist,” Hawking said of the meaning of life. “Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”

Stephen Hawking dies aged 76

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Stephen Hawking dies aged 76

Media captionNick Higham looks back at Professor Stephen Hawking’s life

Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76, his family has said.

The British physicist was known for his work with black holes and relativity, and wrote several popular science books including A Brief History of Time.

“We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today,” a family statement said.

At the age of 22 Stephen Hawking was given only a few years to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease.

Stephen HawkingImage copyrightBBC/RICHARD ANSETT

The illness left him wheelchair-bound and largely unable to speak except through a voice synthesiser.

In the statement his children, Lucy, Robert and Tim said: “He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.”

They praised his “courage and persistence” and said his “brilliance and humour” inspired people across the world.

“He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”


Factfile: Stephen Hawking

  • Born 8 January 1942 in Oxford, England
  • Earned place at Oxford University to read natural science in 1959, before studying for his PhD at Cambridge
  • By 1963, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given two years to live
  • Outlined his theory that black holes emit “Hawking radiation” in 1974
  • Published his book A Brief History of Time in 1988, which has sold more than 10 million copies
  • His life story was the subject of the 2014 film The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne

Bill Gates on dangers of artificial intelligence: ‘I don’t understand why some people are not concerned’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Bill Gates on dangers of artificial intelligence: ‘I don’t understand why some people are not concerned’

 (THE END OF THE HUMAN RACE?)
January 29, 2015

Bill Gates is a passionate technology advocate (big surprise), but his predictions about the future of computing aren’t uniformly positive.

During a wide-ranging Reddit “Ask me Anything” session — one that touched upon everything from his biggest regrets to his favorite spread to lather on bread — the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist outlined a future that is equal parts promising and ominous.

Midway through the discussion on Wednesday, Gates was asked what personal computing will look like in 2045. Gates responded by asserting that the next 30 years will be a time of rapid progress.

“Even in the next 10 problems like vision and speech understanding and translation will be very good,” he wrote. “Mechanical robot tasks like picking fruit or moving a hospital patient will be solved. Once computers/robots get to a level of capability where seeing and moving is easy for them then they will be used very extensively.”

He went on to highlight a Microsoft project known as the “Personal Agent,” which is being designed to help people manage their memory, attention and focus. “The idea that you have to find applications and pick them and they each are trying to tell you what is new is just not the efficient model – the agent will help solve this,” he said. “It will work across all your devices.”

The response from Reddit users was mixed, with some making light of Gates’s revelation (“Clippy 2.0?,” wrote one user) — and others sounding the alarm.

“This technology you are developing sounds at its essence like the centralization of knowledge intake,” a Redditor wrote. “Ergo, whomever controls this will control what information people make their own. Even today, we see the daily consequences of people who live in an environment that essentially tunnel-visions their knowledge.”

Shortly after, Gates was asked how much of an existential threat superintelligent machines pose to humans.

The question has been at the forefront of several recent discussions among prominent futurists. Last month, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said artificial intelligence “could spell the end of the human race.”

[Why the world’s most intelligent people shouldn’t be so afraid of artificial intelligence]

Speaking at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium in October, Tesla boss Elon Musk referred to artificial intelligence as “summoning the demon.”

I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.

British inventor Clive Sinclair has said he thinks artificial intelligence will doom mankind.

“Once you start to make machines that are rivaling and surpassing humans with intelligence, it’s going to be very difficult for us to survive,” he told the BBC. “It’s just an inevitability.”

After gushing about the immediate future of technology in his Reddit AMA, Gates aligned himself with the AI alarm-sounders.

“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence,” Gates wrote. “First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”

Once he finished addressing the potential demise of humankind, Gates got back to answering more immediate, less serious questions, like revealing his favorite spread to put on bread.

“Butter? Peanut butter? Cheese spread?” he wrote. “Any of these.”

The Microsoft co-founder’s comments on AI came shortly after the managing director of Microsoft Research’s Redmond Lab said the doomsday declarations about the threat to human life are overblown.

“There have been concerns about the long-term prospect that we lose control of certain kinds of intelligences,” Eric Horvitz said, according to the BBC. “I fundamentally don’t think that’s going to happen. I think that we will be very proactive in terms of how we field AI systems, and that in the end we’ll be able to get incredible benefits from machine intelligence in all realms of life, from science to education to economics to daily life.”

Horvitz noted that “over a quarter of all attention and resources” at Microsoft Research are focused on artificial intelligence.

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