The late theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author Stephen Hawking feared genetic engineering would create a race of “superhumans,” wiping out humanity as we know it.
Hawking, who passed away in March, made a series of alarming predictions in a collection of essays published in the Sunday Times.
Hawking’s last essays, according to the Guardian, are a sneak peak into Brief Answers to the Big Questions, the renowned scientist’s last book set to be published Tuesday.
“I am sure that during this century, people will discover how to modify both intelligence and instincts such as aggression,” Hawking wrote.
“Laws will probably be passed against genetic engineering with humans. But some people won’t be able to resist the temptation to improve human characteristics, such as memory, resistance to disease and length of life.”
Hawking predicted that by editing genetic makeup to enhance intelligence, longevity, and the immune system, the wealthiest individuals in our society could fuel the creation of superhumans. Along with scientific breakthroughs that some are bound to use selfishly, this could have deadly implications for “unimproved” humans.
Regular humans, Hawking wrote, will simply not be able to compete with genetically engineered superhumans. Eventually, they will become unimportant or die out.
Instead, “there will be a race of self-designing beings who are improving at an ever-increasing rate.”
Hawking made similar predictions in 2014, according to BBC, warning about the rapid development of artificial intelligence. The late theoretical physicist feared that humans would create an AI organism of sorts, capable of reinventing and redesigning itself, outpacing biological evolution of human beings.
These rapidly-evolving AI systems would eventually surpass and suppress the human race, Hawking argued.
Many share Stephen Hawking’s concerns.
In 2015, a group of scientist signed the Future of Life Institute‘s open letter, warning about the dangers of artificial intelligence.
Stephen Hawking was among the dozens of signees, as were Max Tegmark, Elon Musk, Lord Martin Rees, Nick Bostrom, Jaan Tallinn, and Steve Wozniak.
“Because of the great potential of AI, it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls,” the letter reads.
Some have taken concrete steps to prevent and combat the seemingly imminent AI takeover. Business magnate Elon Musk and president of Y Combinator Sam Altman, for instance, jointly run a non-profit artificial intelligence research company, OpenAI.
As detailed by a previous Inquisitr report, OpenAI aims to develop and promote safe, friendly AI.
But not everyone is pessimistic about artificial intelligence.
Unlike Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and others, Microsoft founder Bill Gates is optimistic. Gates, as CNBC reported, shared his thoughts on AI in January this year, suggesting that this new technology is “overwhelmingly great” for society since it allows mass production with less labor.