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Stephen Hawking Speaks On Fate Of Civilization

New documentary explores human/technology relationship

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Stephen Hawking is a brilliant man, a theoretical physicist who is well-respected in the scientific community and who has written numerous books about the universe and man’s part in it. So when he talks, people tend to listen.

That must have been front and center in the minds of filmmakers Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks when they penned their documentary, “Surviving Progress”, which opens today in New York. The film, which was produced by Martin Scorsese, explores one main topic, a question with perhaps an infinite amount of answers: Can humanity evolve in a way that truly gels with the progress of our technology?

“We’re entering an increasingly dangerous period of our history. But I’m an optimist,” says Hawking, who is interviewed in the film along with some of today’s most prolific minds, including Margaret Atwood and renowned primatologist Jane Goodall.

The global population is rising, and our natural resources are dwindling just as steadily. As technology progresses, some say, damage is being done to other aspects of human life, such as the economy and environment. Balance needs to be restored, lest our species be wiped out. Environmental pioneer Lester Brown says in the documentary “Plan B: Mobilizing To Save Civilization“:

“Environmentalists have been talking for decades about saving the planet, but the planet is going to be around for some time to come. The question is will civilization as we know it be around for some time to come? Can it survive the mounting global stresses of rising pollution, starvation, food prices, water shortages and failed states? These are the real threats to our security now, but we’re not responding to them.”

Another theme explored in “Surviving Progress” is whether the internet could hold some answers for our society as we move into a future which some say is in danger of becoming dystopian. Robert Wright, who writes about evolutionary biology, says comparisons between the web and the human brain aren’t so out there.

“It looks so much like a nervous system that you almost can’t miss the analogy. Now more than ever you can say there is a unified social brain.”

Hawking is no stranger to the use of technology in gaining a better understanding of the human brain. In fact, he recently helped Dr. Philip Low test a device called the iBrain, a portable device which records electrical data in the brain and translates it; the hope is that it will help doctors treat patients with neurological disorders and allow those patients to communicate more easily. Dr. Hawking, who has suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis–or Lou Gehrig’s Disease–for years, donned the device to allow Low access to his brain functions.

“The idea is to see if Stephen can use his mind to create a consistent and repeatable pattern that a computer can translate into, say, a word or letter or a command for a computer,” Low said about the experiment. Indeed, when asked to imagine squeezing his hand into a ball, Hawking’s brain signals changed markedly.

Dr. Ruth O’Hara, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University Medical School, says the data Low has collected is “compelling”.

“It could be a significant contribution to the field as a window into brain architecture,” she said.

Stephen Hawking Speaks On Fate Of Civilization
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  • http://www.jesusgodgoodetcnjay.blobspot.com Loving

    You are terrifying, you in this video. Your kind, you invented and created the death camps, you created the atomic bomb, now you want to be the Creator of new species. Oh God, YOU, you hubris, your profound and deadly lack of humility – YOU are the weapons of mass destruction. Einstein in the 1950′s (paraphrase) ‘if we make no more advances in techology, in science, that is ok. But if our advances in our morality don’t catch up with our advances in technology and science we will exterminate ourselves.’ Indeed, you and your kind are the weapons of mass destruction. Madness, utter madness.

    • Dom

      Youre either a troll or a total retard. Either way, shut up

  • LP

    Loving, please turn in your laptop at the next antiscience and progress meeting, along with any medication you might use and any other devices you enjoy. And I hope you walked there, no cheating! Couple more things,first, no more refrigeration for you. I hear salt works well. In fact, no electricity for you at all. So go and wash your clothes at the riverbank, churn some butter, and sacrifice a goat to your creator while the rest of us enjoy and appreciate progress.