Given his speech impediment and complex research, many would be given to believe now-late physicist Stephen Hawking as unapproachable or impersonal. However, he carved a space as the preeminent name in modern physics in part due to the clarity and personality of his writing, which allowed him to sell millions of copies of books and bring astrophysics to the masses. Hawking displayed his trademark wit and his own promotional genius in an interview with John Oliver on HBO’s Last Week Tonight.
Oliver had his own humor and wordplay turned against him when he asked “You once stated that there could be an infinite number of parallel universes, so theoretically there could be a universe where I’m smarter than you,” only for Hawking to reply “Yes. And also a universe where you’re funny.” Hawking displayed genuine comedic timing, showing that his robotic speech had not destroyed the normalcy of his personal interactions as much as one would have thought.
The two did use the platform to discuss serious talking points, such as the threat of nuclear holocaust and the dangers of artificial intelligence. Hawking issued a grave warning in explaining to Oliver that artificial intelligence’s ability to reprogram and improve unlike humans will ultimately come back to haunt humanity.
However, he also kept the jokes going throughout his rhetoric, keeping the casual viewer engaged and yet still informed. “Why should I not be excited about fighting a robot?” Oliver asked, “You would lose”, said Hawking, almost bringing his paralyzed face to a half-smile.
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