Stephen Hawking is warning that humanity might self-destruct in the following 100 years, unless it becomes resourceful enough to tackle all the challenges it will have to face.
These allegations were published online by RadioTimes on Tuesday, January 19, as part of an interview that the renowned scientist had with the magazine.
Hawking has recently embarked on a media blitz in order to promote his latest annual Reith Lecture, scheduled to be broadcast by BBC’s Radio 4 on Tuesday, January 26, starting from 9 a.m.
This year’s topic revolves around black holes, and the programme has been recorded at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London, while being presented to a live audience by Hawking, assisted by his speech synthesizer.
In order to generate more interest regarding this upcoming transmission, the theoretical physicist and cosmologist has broached once again an all-too-familiar subject: humanity’s demise.
According to him, with every year that passes, the probability that our planet will be struck by a major calamity keeps escalating, and as a result it’s an almost indisputable truth that such widespread destruction will occur in the following millennia or tens of millennia.
There are several things that could spell doom for the human race, and in the opinion of the acclaimed scientist, the highest risks are posed by climate change, nuclear warfare and genetically engineered pathogens.
The only way to save the human race if such an apocalyptic scenario were to materialize would be by colonizing other planets or galaxies. This way, even if life on Earth were to cease being sustainable in the future, at least human beings would continue to thrive and live on, albeit in a completely different setting.
What’s disconcerting at the moment is that space exploration still hasn’t progressed sufficiently enough in order to hold hopes of people traveling to other planets and actually building a new civilization there.
As Hawking predicts, in the following century there are virtually no chances of creating a self-sufficient space colony, which is why humanity will be especially vulnerable until such an endeavor is successful.
Aside from the growing dangers posed by genetic engineering, global warming and nuclear weapons, unprecedented advances in the field of artificial intelligence, no matter how remarkable and dazzling they might appear at first, might also prove fatal to mankind.
Hawkins believes that eventually machines or software endowed with reason and adaptable behavior will be able to rebel against their human creators, and even dethrone them as rulers of the Earth, hijacking their authority.
Unlike human beings who are ephemeral creatures, with a slow-moving biological cycle that can be marred by disease and poverty, robots will be able to live forever, functioning at full capacity right from the start, without being affected by aging or illness.
Although the physician admits that technological advancements can’t be halted, reined in or undone, it’s still possible and even essential to gain awareness of their potential risks and try to mitigate them.
Hawkins, who has been battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) ever since he was a 21-year old student at Oxford and has never allowed his condition to deter him from his work or take away his independence and self-reliance, remains hopeful that humanity will also be able to tackle the challenges it will have to face, no matter how insurmountable they might appear at first.
While just these few excerpts from Hawkins’ interview appeared on RadioTimes’ online media platform as a sneak peek, the entire set of questions and answers can be accessed either by getting hold of a physical copy of the magazine at newsstands, or by downloading the Radio Times app from iTunes.
Alternatively, those interested in hearing the Reith Lecture can also stream it on January 26 or on February 2 starting from 15:06 GMT, on the BBC World Service radio.
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