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Sci-Tech

Stephen Hawking, the man who made us think

Commentary: As tributes to the renowned physicist pile up, it's worth remembering Hawking was one of the few scientists many people actually knew of.

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


Stephen Hawking Addresses The Cambridge Union

And now we'll have to think all by ourselves.

Chris Williamson/Getty Images

Ask many people to name a famous scientist, and they might struggle.

Ask them if they've heard of Stephen Hawking, who died late Tuesday, and many might at least know there was a book and a movie, and that he was in a wheelchair, and that he'd done, thought and said something important about the universe.

Perhaps it doesn't sound like much, but ours is an era in which science has struggled not to be cast far into the background.

In his latter years, Hawking spent his time trying to spread a broad message to as wide an audience as possible on the biggest issues.

He wanted us all to think.

He often spoke about the waning decades of our Earth. He feared we'd have to leave it within 100 years.

He believed we were ruining it with our anticlimate ways and was desperate for governments to pay attention before it was too late. He even offered climate deniers a one-way ticket to Venus.

He wanted us to prepare for what he saw as the inevitable time when the Earth would be uninhabitable. He wanted us to stop being so aggressive and to focus on space travel.

He feared the consequences of artificial Intelligence too. He feared AI could be "the worst thing ever for humanity." He worried that the machines were evolving quickly while we were evolving very slowly -- if at all.

He joined Elon Musk and many others in begging humanity to gird itself for the sweeping changes AI would bring.

And then he worried about aliens. They might hate us. They might, in some nomadic sweep, stomp all over us in a fit of indifference.

Oh, he could still joke about it all. He even played an evil villain in a Jaguar ad

No, he wasn't a Donald Trump fan, calling him "a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator."

Hawking didn't have time to think of lowest common denominators when his head was constantly on higher planes, seeking new facts, but not alternative ones.

Of one celestial thing, though, he was very clear. He was convinced there is no God. He insisted that science could now explain everything, which some might find a touch optimistic.

Even last week, he was explaining to fellow physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson what happened before the Big Bang. (Nothing.)

Now that he's dead, he's left a void. No one can fill it like he did. 

Which leaves us to keep on thinking hard, while occasionally looking up at the stars and wondering if he's somewhere out there.

If he is, he'll be begging us to find more answers. And quickly.

Now Playing: Watch this: A brief history and a long legacy: Stephen Hawking dies...
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