Thursday, May 09, 2013

Stephen Hawking should boycott his own voice

From Wired.co, 8 May 2013, by Olivia Solon:

An Israeli civil rights group is arguing that since Stephen Hawking has joined an academic boycott of Israel he should also relinquish his Intel-powered communications system to avoid being hypocritical.
Stephen Hawking, Intel's David Fleming (centre), and Martin Curley
Flickr.com/IntelFreePress/CC SA BY 2.0
On Wednesday 7 May, Hawking pulled out of a conference hosted by president Shimon Peres in protest at the treatment of Palestinians. The poor health of the 71-year-old theoretical physicist is likely to have also contributed to his decision. The conference in question is Facing Tomorrow, which this year coincides with Peres's 90th birthday.
The academic boycott aims to exert pressure on Israel to stop violent repression against the Palestinian people by encouraging people and organisations to cease supporting Israeli academic and cultural institutions.
Hawking was due to speak at the event, but wrote a letter to the Israeli president to say that he changed his mind. This hasn't been announced publicly, but the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine published a statement with his office's approval describing how he was respecting the boycott based on the "unanimous advice of his own academic contacts out there". You can read the statement here.
Israeli civil liberties group Israel Law Center argues that Hawking is being hypocritical by using a computer-based communications system that runs on a chip designed by Israel's Intel team.
"I suggest that if he truly wants to pull out of Israel he should also pull out his Intel Core i7 from his tablet", says director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.
Hawking -- who has motor neurone disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) -- used an Intel-sponsored computer to allow him to talk since 1997. He was diagnosed just after his 21st birthday and lost the ability to speak during a bout of pneumonia in 1985, when doctors performed a tracheotomy to help him breathe. A speech synthesizer was fitted to give him his robotic voice, which he could operate by selecting words from menus by hand. You can read more about the technology in this article by Gordon Kelly.
Since 1997, his computer has been provided by Intel and is currently based on an Intel Core i7 processor. The core architecture was designed by a team in Israel that had also designed the Pentium M mobile processor...
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