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Here’s your chance to ask super-genius Stephen Hawking (almost) anything

July 27, 2015, 5:24 PM UTC
Professor Hawking speaks at a media event to launch a global science initiative at The Royal Society in London
Professor Stephen Hawking speaks at a media event to launch a global science initiative at The Royal Society in London, Britain, July 20, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall - RTX1L1LB
Photograph by Neil Hall — Reuters

Well this should be good. Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking will participate in Reddit’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) and questions are being accepted now.

Early this year, Hawking, along with Elon Musk and others, signed an open letter drafted by the Future of Life Institute, urging caution in the implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and that will be the topic of the AMA. The goal is to make sure such usage include safeguards to ensure that scientists make sure the technology, which Hawking acknowledged can help “eradicate disease and poverty,” is used wisely and not to the detriment of humankind.

Because Hawking, who is director of research, Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge University, has ALS and must communicate through a computerized device, the AMA process will be different this time out. Per the moderator:

The AMA will be in two parts, today we [will] gather questions. Please post your questions and vote on your favorite questions, from these questions Professor Hawking will select which ones he feels he can give answers to. Once the answers have been written, we, the mods, will cut and paste the answers into this AMA and post a link to the AMA in /r/science so that people can re-visit the AMA and read his answers in the proper context.

Reddit AMAs are the wild, wild west of public discourse. There is a ton of great content and smart discussions but also a lot of trolling, rude questions, and obscenity-laced commentary. Accordingly, the community was warned to be on their best behavior for Hawking’s session.


“Comment rules will be strictly enforced, and uncivil or rude behavior will result in a loss of privileges in /r/science,” the moderator added. Members of the r/science sub-reddit group were told that if they have scientific credentials, to verify them with site administrators.

So far the posted questions center on such topics as

  • Should there be an International Atomic Energy Agency-type body to ensure the ethical use of AI?
  • How important is simulating emotion or empathy within the context of AI?
  • How would you personally test if AI has reached the level of humans?
  • Should AI include embedded self-preservation code?

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