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Culture

Stephen Hawking: Being stinking rich shouldn't be our dream

Technically Incorrect: The famed physicist says we're going to have to start sharing our money more.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Greed isn't good, says Hawking.

Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA/Corbis

Stephen Hawking is in favor of the shared economy.

I'm not sure his is quite the interpretation currently used by companies that toss the word "shared" in to make the word "cheap" sound more palatable.

Instead, the famed physicist is railing against the glories of individuals becoming stinking rich.

In a Guardian opinion piece Friday, Hawking mused on life's true purpose and money's role within it.

"I have come to see money as a facilitator," he said, "as a means to an end -- whether it is for ideas, or health, or security -- but never as an end in itself."

This is a strange concept to many on, say, Wall Street who see the true glory of money only in the amount that one can amass.

Hawking, however, believes the world is swinging toward his perspective.

"People are starting to question the value of pure wealth," he said. "Is knowledge or experience more important than money? Can possessions stand in the way of fulfillment? Can we truly own anything, or are we just transient custodians?"

Oh, but try telling the average money-grabber that you can't take your vast stash with you to heaven (or hell). I'm not sure they'd be convinced.

For his part, Hawking confesses he wouldn't know what -- given his disability -- he would do with a Ferrari, even if he could afford one. He believes, though, that newer generations are redefining what they see as valuable.

He sees the challenges of today as world-threatening. Among them he cites: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease and the acidification of the oceans.

In confronting these, we will have to change.

"We will need to adapt, rethink, refocus and change some of our fundamental assumptions about what we mean by wealth, by possessions, by mine and yours," he said. "Just like children, we will have to learn to share."

This may not be as simple as it sounds. Several political movements around the world are rather into the idea of splendid isolation rather than altruistic contribution.

This isolationist attitude, Hawking believes, will spell the end of our civilization.

He worries that "the forces that contributed to Brexit, the envy and isolationism not just in the UK but around the world that spring from not sharing, of cultures driven by a narrow definition of wealth and a failure to divide it more fairly, both within nations and across national borders, will strengthen."

The result? Humanity's destruction.

Hawking has been rather pessimistic of late. He's feared that aliens will hate us and artificially intelligent robots might deem us surplus to requirements.

Here, he ended on a curiously positive note, offering his faith in humanity's adaptive side.

As far as he's concerned, it's all down to humanity. After all, he's made it clear that in his view there is no God who will come and save us.