By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – The award-winning author and scientist Stephen Hawking, who spent most of his adult life dealing with a slow moving form of ALS, died last March at age 76. But now his final book has been published, entitled “Brief Answers to the Big Questions,” and one of the issues it takes up is the tech revolution and the dangers it poses to us in the future.

According to his daughter, who helped complete the book, Hawking saw humanity approaching “vast transformative change” spurred by high-tech advances.

And he raised a very good question: “How good is the track record of the human race in using advances in technology for the good of ordinary people?”

We’ve talked a lot here about the downsides of the tech revolution, especially when it comes to personal gadgets and social media – the addictiveness, the substitution of technology for thought and human contact, and the avalanche of bullying and trolling behavior that has befouled these new pathways of communication.

When you see people spending time and energy debating whether or not a bagel emoji should have cream cheese on it, you realize how easily distracted we are.

(Image credit: CNN)

And when you see the appeal of a new museum of selfies that just opened up in Los Angeles, you wonder where our tech-fueled obsession with trivia and narcissism may lead us.

(Image credit: KCBS-TV)

According to his daughter, Hawking believed that “We seem to have lost the ability to look outward, and we are increasingly looking inward to ourselves,” a harsh indictment from a man who spent decades in a wheelchair unable to speak, and a warning worth heeding.

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Jon Keller

  1. Theodore Oule says:

    The tendencies of man to look inward and outward have been quite cyclical, often in response cataclysmic events within society.

    Stephen Hawking, as brilliant as he was, was a scientist, and scientists, historically, have not had the best track records in understanding the “truths” of our world…just look a the many scientific theories that have had to be set aside when better evidence, and sharper reasoning, have made those theories no longer operative. Science is one of the few disciplines that is actually willing to admit that change is needed.

    And, remember again, Hawking was a scientist.

    In saying this, however, it is unwise to discount Stephen Hawking’s thinking out of hand. Of all of the scientific minds in our lifetime, Hawkings’ was one of the sharpest. And he has often been more right than wrong.

    Viewing Hawkings’ warnings with skepticism is just good scientific practices. But, until better thinking comes along, his views deserve serious consideration.