S. Hawking address
Address of Professor Stephen Hawking to the participants of the Global University Summit in Moscow
Welcome to Moscow and the Global University Summit.
I would like to talk about how important it is, that we all, have a good understanding of science and technology.
Science and technology are changing our world dramatically, and it is important to ensure that these changes are in the right directions. In a democratic society, this means that we all need to have a basic understanding of science, so we can make informed decisions ourselves, rather than leave them to the experts.
We have a rather ambivalent attitude to science at present. We have come to expect the steady increase in the standard of living, that science and technology have brought, but people distrust science, because they don't understand it, or feel they can control it.
The popularity of science fiction like Star Trek, is because this is a form of science, with which people feel safe. But an understanding of science ~fact, would lay their fears to rest much better.
What can be done to harness this fascination with science, and give people the background they need to make informed decisions on subjects like the greenhouse effect, nuclear weapons, or genetic engineering. The basis must be what is taught in schools.
But school science is often presented in a dry and uninteresting manner. Children learn it by rote to pass examinations, so they don't see its relevance. And science is often taught with equations.
Although they are a concise and accurate way of describing mathematical ideas, they frighten many.
When I wrote a Brief History, I was advised that each equation I included, would half the sales. I included one, Einstein's famous equation, e = mc squared. Perhaps I would have sold twice as many copies, without it.
Scientists and engineers, tend to express their ideas by equations, because they need to know the precise value of quantities. But for most people, a qualitative, rather than quantitative, understanding is sufficient.
This can be conveyed by words and diagrams, without the need for complicated equations.
School science can provide the basic framework. But the rate of progress is now so rapid, that there are always new developments, that have occurred since one was at school or university.
I never learned about molecular biology or transistors at school, but genetic engineering and computers, have changed the way we live. Popular science books and articles, can help to put across these new developments. But only a small proportion of the population, reads even the most successful book.
Television is one way to reach a truly mass audience. But television is communication one way only. Now, with the Internet, people can answer back, and interact.In a way, the Internet connects us all together, like the neurones in a giant brain.
With such an IQ, what won't we be capable of.
I wish you all a successful conference in Moscow.