Stephen Hawking believes that despite all the progress humanity has made in advancing science and technology over the years, we are also creating a number of "new ways things can go wrong.” We are at risk of facing a disaster of our own making.

"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 10,000 years,” he told the BBC.

Hawking has made his concerns known about the advancements being made in artificial intelligence. He and many other persons of note called for the prevention of an autonomous robotic army in an open letter last year. But Hawking remains optimistic, so long as there are people out there able to recognize the dangers and stop them before they advance beyond our control.

“It's important to ensure that these changes are heading in the right directions,” he said to the BBC. “In a democratic society, this means that everyone needs to have a basic understanding of science to make informed decisions about the future.” 

Once we start establishing colonies on other worlds, he says, humanity will endure.

Stephen Petranek agrees. “The reason we need to travel to Mars and to establish a civilization on Mars is to protect the long-term survival of the human species,” said Petranek, a journalist and author of a new book titled How We'll Live on Mars.

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Photo Credit: NASA / Handout / Getty

Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker