Stephen Hawking has not always been the most optimistic person when asked about the future of humanity. And now he is really zeroing on how long long our race has left.
During a talk at the Oxford University’s Union debating society, he has given us less than a millennium to get our affairs in order.
“I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet, “ said Hawking.
What are the threats Hawking sees in store for us? A previous lecture mentioned “nuclear war, catastrophic global warming, and genetically engineered viruses”.
He thinks that the threats will increase even more once new technologies (especially AI and robots) are developed. New things will go wrong.
“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. 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,” said the esteemed Professor.
What can we do to prevent doom? Hawking doesn’t necessarily focus on solutions to the Earth-bound crises but sees space exploration as integral to any hopes we may have. Settling on other planets will give our race insurance once Earthly ills will take over. Hawking famously backed the recent Breakthrough Starshot Project, which aims to develop new space technologies like “nano probes” that would sail out of our solar system.
Cover photo: Professor Stephen Hawking attends the New Space Exploration Initiative ‘Breakthrough Starshot’ Announcement at One World Observatory on April 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)