Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking believes that humanity may be doomed if the current trend of runaway technological advances continues along with humankind’s willingness to succumb to its own aggressive nature. He fears nuclear and biological warfare, unmitigated global warming, and mass species extinctions could land the species-killing blow. But dodging the shot will come down to control, Hawking says.
Stephen Hawking is now warning that it is imperative that humanity retain its control over technology as the future provides more and more dangerous challenges. He says that the only hope humanity may have is through its collective “logic and reason.”
“Since civilization began, aggression has been useful inasmuch as it has definite survival advantages,” he told The Times. “It is hard-wired into our genes by Darwinian evolution. Now, however, technology has advanced at such a pace that this aggression may destroy us all by nuclear or biological war. We need to control this inherited instinct by our logic and reason.”
Part of the rapid advances in technology will be improved artificial intelligence, which Hawking has warned about in the past. As artificial intelligence becomes more integral to operating systems, Hawking warned that humans might have to form a “world government” to retain control. However, he conceded that such a government would produce problems of its own, like developing into a “tyranny.”
And yet, despite the doomsday predicting, Hawking says he is optimistic.
“All this may sound a bit doom-laden but I am an optimist. I think the human race will rise to meet these challenges.”
The 74-year-old scientist has brought up the need for global cooperation before. Along with a unified planet, Hawking also noted that hope also rested in humanity’s move to other planets. But first, there is the problem of making it through the next several decades. Back in December, he wrote in The Guardian, “For me, the really concerning aspect of this is that now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together.”
He then listed why: “We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans. Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity.”
“We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it. Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it.”
Last September, he was more blunt when he said, “I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers. I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go to space.”
Colonization of neighboring worlds could begin as soon as the next decade or two. China’s National Natural Science Foundation has commissioned a study on the feasibility of establishing a permanent manned base on the Moon, but, as Newsweek reported, the plan is already under fire for its potential cost.
China also has plans for the eventual colonization of Mars. NASA, too, has long-term plans for Mars. Billionaire Elon Musk and other private corporations and organizations have designs for placing colonies on Mars as well.
But what about the challenges of technology run amok? What about the dangers to humanity arising from global warming and other detrimental environmental impactors that require a planet-wide unified effort to combat? Will a world government materialize to save the future?
Perhaps. But given that the European Union is facing several nations exiting or at least voting to do so, and given that the United Nations has difficulty controlling its more powerful members (or even those not all that powerful, such as Iran, which constantly ignores the U.N.’s resolutions with regard to its nuclear program), it would appear that a unified world government will not emerge anytime soon to lead humanity back from the abyss.
And yet, Stephen Hawking believes humanity will rise above the enormous challenges facing the species and the planet in the coming years, and it avoids destruction with an eventual move off planet Earth and into space.
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