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>What I find somewhat ironic is this: the author mentions working with Stephen Hawking, an amazing man who produced incredible intellectual work and enriched our understanding of reality while being almost incapable of any physicality.

Not from birth though. I wouldn't dismiss the impact of being able to interact with the world during childhood so easily.

Helen Keller is a better example. It is also the case, however, that her brain, like anyone's, had been shaped, through evolution, by eons of interaction with the environment.

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