Replace Aggression With Empathy, Stephen Hawking Says

February 26, 2015
Two pairs of hands clasped together.

Being a theoretical physicist and cosmologist may have helped enhance Stephen Hawking's insight into humanity.

During a tour of London's Science Museum with a "Guest of Honor" contest winner, Adaeze Uyanwah, Hawking answered the questions Uyanwah posed to him: Which human shortcoming would he like to change? And which trait would he enhance?

Hawking picked aggression as our greatest shortcoming. While that trait may have stood us in good stead when our predecessors were fighting over scarce resources as survival advantages, now it "threatens to destroy us all" by taking on different forms but with fewer opportunities to be used productively.  

Hawking would instead replace aggression with empathy. While he believes our long-term future is in space, we still need to solve the problems that face us here and now. Cultivating empathy can help bring us together in a more benign state. 

And he does attribute our explorations beyond the boundaries of the planet Earth to giving us this knowledge. Putting humans on the moon, Hawking says, has changed our future in ways we have yet to comprehend. In the meantime, it "hasn't solved any of our immediate problems on planet Earth, [b]ut it has given us new perspectives on them and caused us to look both outward and inward."

What human failing would you most like to correct? Which would you like to enhance?

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