Click-click-click: This is what you hear when having a conversation with Stephen Hawking. No voice, no other sounds, no facial expressions. For those who know him, Hawking may be able to communicate through his eyes; but for the rest of us, his sole means of communicating is through infrared connection to his computer.
Today, January 8, is Hawking’s birthday, yet on this day it’s worth examining just who and what we are really celebrating: the man, the mind or … the machines?
Hawking has become a kind of a “brain in a vat.” Since being afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease) almost 50 years ago, his muscles have stopped working, though his mind and senses remain unaffected. In some ways Hawking is, to borrow from Obi-Wan referring to Darth Vader, “more machine now than man.”