Stephen Hawking on Space Colonization, Villainy, and Predictive Text

Illustration for article titled Stephen Hawking on Space Colonization, Villainy, and Predictive Text

The fictional version of Stephen Hawking is getting a lot of attention thanks to the biopic The Theory of Everything. But real-life Stephen Hawking is far more badass than his big-screen counterpart. He's also up for discussing his theories on pretty much everything, as Wired's recent interview shows.


The world's most famous theoretical physicist used a predictive text program created by Intel to communicate with his interviewer. Hawking was candid in his answers, noting that humans need to GTFO of this planet if survival is a thing we want to do:

I believe that the human race will not survive indefinitely on Earth without some disaster. I would like us therefore to spread out into space, so humanity doesn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet.

Fair enough! Space colonization it is.

Hawking also discussed the ways technology has helped him communicate after losing his voice to ALS. He credits his computer-generated speech synthesizer with giving him the ability to speak to large numbers of people, though the American accent it gave him was a departure from his real voice. He now considers it "a trademark" and has kept the U.S. inflection. And the Intel predictive text program he uses is a boon that could help a wider swath of people with disabilities:

The program is activated by a small sensor on my glasses. I'm writing these answers using it. Intel is going to open source it, to make it available to other disabled people. Intel has also tried facial recognition, though the range of messages that can be conveyed is limited. I have not had much success with brain-computer interfaces. My carers say it's because I have no brainwaves.

Hawking had plenty more to say, about black holes and his ideal movie role (a Bond villain). "I think the wheelchair and the computer voice would fit the part," he explained. Maybe in an alternate universe. Check out Wired for the full, fun chat. [Wired]

Image: AP




I see Hawking's Bond villain as a sort of malevolent Wizard of Oz type. In the background, behind the last curtain sits a man incapable of doing anything on his own but able to bring the world to its knees.