Stephen Hawking is undoubtedly viewed as one of the most intelligent individuals alive today. He is a gifted scientist who has captivated a generation. So, when one of our “greats” provides us a warning for the future — it would be wise to take heed.
The BBC reports that Professor Hawking will be giving this year’s BBC Reith Lectures and gave the warning as a response to a question from the audience. The scientist said:
Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next thousand or ten thousand years.
By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.
However, we will not establish self-sustaining colonies in space for at least the next hundred years, so we have to be very careful in this period.
Hawking also said scientific progress could be a source of new threats like genetically engineered viruses, climate change, nuclear war and supported some previous warnings regarding the potential risk posed by artificial intelligence (AI). He has highlighted the risks of AI causing the extinction of the human race.
When asked for some advice for young scientists, Hawking said that along with retaining the sense of wonder about “our vast and complex” Universe, they should also remember how critical it is to assist the masses in understanding it.
It’s important to ensure that these changes are heading in the right directions. In a democratic society, this means that everyone needs to have a basic understanding of science to make informed decisions about the future.
We are certainly well aware of what happens when uninformed science deniers take to making policy. Sadly, we also know that for many of those conservative lawmakers – comprehension doesn’t have anything to do with it. They are driven by pure corruption and no amount of understanding will trump the dollars in their pockets.
Featured image via Flickr/LwpKommunikacio