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Brief Answers to the Big Questions summary

Stephen Hawking

Hawking's final thoughts on the biggest questions facing humankind

4.5 (414 ratings)
25 mins

Brief summary

Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking, explores some of the most fundamental questions about our universe, from AI to the existence of God, leaving readers with an elegantly simple answer that he ultimately comes to.

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    Brief Answers to the Big Questions
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    Forces govern our universe – but a divine creator probably isn’t among them.

    Why are we here? Where did we come from? Why are things this way?

    Science and religion both offer answers to these fundamental questions, but come to radically different conclusions. One argues there is inherent meaning in human life, the other that our existence is little more than accidental. It’s no wonder they’re viewed as two conflicting creeds. 

    These questions come from a natural human tendency to understand and explain our universe – to search for answers and meaning. At first, these explanations came from religion. Gods were seen as causes of lightning, storms and eclipses. But now we have a more rational, consistent and verifiable explanation: our universe is a giant machine, governed by a set of unbreakable natural laws. 

    Just think about a simple game of tennis. Here, the ball always ends up exactly where these natural laws – like gravity and motion – predict. No anomalies. No exceptions. There are variables, of course, like the player’s muscle power or the wind speed, but these act as mere data points, processed by these natural laws in an unchanging way to calculate the outcome. 

    These laws aren’t just unchanging – they’re also universal.

    This means that what applies to our tennis ball also applies to the largest celestial beings. The revolutions of our planet obey these laws, as does an icy meteor hurtling through interstellar space. What’s more, natural laws can’t be broken: even God would be subject to them, which is contrary to theology’s insistence of divine omnipotence. 

    Yet there might be a way to reconcile modern science with the idea of God. 

    This involves defining God as these fundamental laws of nature rather than a conscious being who created them. This is how Einstein referred to God – as a reference term for the observable, unbreakable rules of the cosmos. 

    This explanation is going to be unsatisfactory to many people. That’s because many of us are used to thinking about God as a human-like, sentient being – one with which we can have a personal relationship. But when you look at the universe in all its terrifying magnitude and compare it to how small and accidental human life is, the chance of a divine creator is minuscule.

    So if our traditional explanation for the creation of the universe is flawed, how did the universe begin?

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    What is Brief Answers to the Big Questions about?

    Brief Answers to the Big Questions (2018) addresses some of our universe’s most fundamental questions from a uniquely humanist perspective. By merging scientific history with humanity’s future, the book dashes from the origins of the universe and the inside of black holes, to human space exploration and the dangers of artificial intelligence in a grand and sweeping narrative.

    Brief Answers to the Big Questions Review

    Brief Answers to the Big Questions (2018) by Stephen Hawking is a thought-provoking exploration of some of the most important questions about our universe. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With clear explanations and expert insights, the book provides a comprehensive understanding of complex scientific concepts.
    • It tackles pressing issues such as the existence of God, the future of humanity, and the possibility of time travel, offering intriguing perspectives and stimulating discussions.
    • The book seamlessly combines cutting-edge scientific knowledge, personal experiences, and a touch of humor, making it an engaging and enlightening read.

    Who should read Brief Answers to the Big Questions?

    • Anyone curious about what came before the Big Bang
    • People wondering what a black hole is
    • Humans concerned about superintelligent AI

    About the Author

    Stephen Hawking was an English theoretical physicist and former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. He is generally regarded as one of the most remarkable scientists of his generation. He died in March 2018.

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    Brief Answers to the Big Questions FAQs 

    What is the main message of Brief Answers to the Big Questions?

    The main message of Brief Answers to the Big Questions is a thought-provoking exploration of the biggest questions humanity faces.

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    The reading time for Brief Answers to the Big Questions varies depending on the reader's speed. The Blinkist summary can be read in a few minutes.

    Is Brief Answers to the Big Questions a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Brief Answers to the Big Questions is definitely worth reading. It offers profound insights and engages readers in contemplating the mysteries of the universe.

    Who is the author of Brief Answers to the Big Questions?

    The author of Brief Answers to the Big Questions is Stephen Hawking.

    What to read after Brief Answers to the Big Questions?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Brief Answers to the Big Questions, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
    • On the Origin of Time by Thomas Hertog
    • The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
    • Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
    • Bedtime Biography: Isaac Newton by James Gleick
    • Cosmos by Carl Sagan
    • Future Stories by David Christian
    • How To Read Literature Like A Professor by Thomas C. Foster
    • How to Know a Person by David Brooks
    • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins