The death of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is rocking the world as science lovers everywhere mourn the loss of the funny genius. That sense of humor was on full display in an interview with HBO’s John Oliver, who met Hawking for a segment on “Last Week Tonight” in 2014.
Launching the segment entitled “Great Minds: People Who Think Good,” host John Oliver invited his first guest, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking to weigh on a variety of subjects including imaginary time, artificial intelligence, killer robots and the possibility of Oliver landing a date with actress Charlize Theron.
Introducing Hawking, Oliver described his “breakthrough work in black holes and string theory” as “hugely important to anyone who pretends to understand it.”
Asking Hawking “If there is one thing you want people to understand about your work — bearing in mind that most people will never understand anything about your work — what would that thing be?,” Hawking replied, “Imaginary time.”
“People think it’s something you have in dreams, or when you’re up against a deadline. But it’s a well-defined concept. Imaginary time is like another direction in space,” said Hawking. Hawking added that it is one thing from his work that science fiction writers haven’t used, “because they don’t understand it.”
Oliver agreed, calling them “idiots.”
Turning to artificial intelligence, Oliver asked Hawking about previous comments he made claiming AI would be “the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last.”
“Are you saying the robots are going to destroy humanity,” Oliver continued. “And is that a scientific argument or a pitch for an amazing movie?”
“Artificial intelligence could be a real danger in the not-too-distant future,” Hawking replied. “It could design improvements to itself and outsmart us all.”
When asked by Oliver why he shouldn’t be excited about the prospect of fighting a robot, Hawking replied, “You would lose.”
Questioning Hawking if he is actually talking to him or a sentient robot, Hawking tells Oliver, “You’re an idiot.”
Oliver then posed a series of yes and no theoretical questions to Hawking including the possibility of life on other planets (“yes”), the existence Schwartzchild wormholes (“yes”), before asking, “Me going on a date with Charlize Theron?,” which Hawking dismissed out of hand as not happening in any of one of the “infinite universes.”