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Stephen Hawking asks a big question of Mark Zuckerberg

Technically Incorrect: In a Facebook Q&A, Mark Zuckerberg's intellect is tested by one of the world's great minds.

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


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Was he happy with Zuckerberg's answer? Stephen Hawking/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Stephen Hawking woke up Tuesday morning and immediately summoned his handlers.

"Look, one of the world's most foremost scientific minds is holding a Q&A. We must ask him something," Hawking declared.

They convened all morning before deciding the most important question to be asked. At the appointed hour, they leaped upon Facebook to participate in Mark Zuckerberg's one-hour Q&A.

The very last sentence is true. What came before is my dramatic interpretation. But here was Hawking's question: "I would like to know a unified theory of gravity and the other forces. Which of the big questions in science would you like to know the answer to and why?"

Was this a trick question? Was the great thinker trying to catch the slightly robotic social-media pusher in an intellectual trap?

Zuckerberg thought for some time before answering: "I really wish science would tell me how I can sell more ads."

No, wait. What he actually replied might to some seem even more entertaining: "I'm most interested in questions about people."

Zuckerberg's protestations that he's really a people person have often incited suspicion. Too many times it's seemed like he was on a relentless quest for nerdy domination and that people were merely beings who needed to be weaned off ancient notions like privacy.

Perhaps love and wealth have mellowed his perspective, for the Facebook CEO continued: "What will enable us to live forever? How do we cure all diseases? How does the brain work? How does learning work and how we can empower humans to learn a million times more?"

Please, Mark, stop there. Some people might feel they've already learned too much. How moving, though, that Zuckerberg's utopia is one where we know everything and live forever.

And it only got worse. For then Zuckerberg offered: "I'm also curious about whether there is a fundamental mathematical law underlying human social relationships that governs the balance of who and what we all care about. I bet there is."

Yes, our Lord and Master of All Humans wants to makes human relationships understandable through math. How utterly convenient that would be for, say, the CEO of a company that wants to know everything about everyone at every moment?

It's like this, Mark. People are insane. Really quite insane. They'll tell you they don't like white cars or Audis. Then they'll buy a white Audi. They'll tell you they like lovers who are reliable, don't do hard drugs and have respectable careers. Then they'll go and date a cocaine-snorting DC lobbyist.

There is no mathematical formula for our madness, Mark. Please give it up.

I should note that Arnold Schwarzenegger also asked an important question of Zuckerberg. He began it as if he was a tabloid correspondent interviewing, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger: "You've got to be one of the busiest guys on the planet, and younger generations can probably relate to you more than they can the Pope."

Um, yes. Bless you, Arnie.

So what was the Terminator's question? "So tell me how you find time to train and what is your regimen like?" He added: "And will the machines win?"

I really can't bring myself to describe how the Facebook CEO flexes his (physical) muscles. I can confirm, however, that he said the machines don't win.

I worry, though, that after he wrote this, he added a smiley-face emoticon.