Professor Stephen Hawking has warned of the threat of Armageddon posed by science and technology if human beings are not “careful” in the next 100 years.
The Cambridge professor who specializes in finding a common ground between general relativity and quantum mechanics, and who has given us a glimpse into the workings of an invisible “Black Hole” has warned that advances in science and technology could create “new ways things can go wrong.”
The wheelchair-bound specialist in theoretical physicist and cosmology, warns that science needs to understand where it is heading and communicate that understanding to the general public. There needs to be a dialogue between humanity and scientists who might be unwittingly involved in potentially dangerous projects that could be taking us closer to Armageddon. Hawkins says that it is a “near certainty” humans will score a lethal “own goal” soon. We are creating dangerous scenarios of our own, says the scientific genius of our time.
The BBC reports:
Nuclear war, global warming and genetically-engineered viruses are among the scenarios he singles out.
And he says that further progress in science and technology will create “new ways things can go wrong”.
Prof Hawking is giving this year’s BBC Reith Lectures, which explore research into black holes, and his warning came in answer to audience questions.
He says that assuming humanity eventually establishes colonies on other worlds, it will be able to survive.
“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.”
Reith Lectures: Prof Stephen Hawking
Prof Hawking’s first Reith Lecture will be broadcast on 26 January and on 2 February at 9am on BBC Radio 4. BBC World Service listeners can tune in on 26 January at 15:06 GMT and 2 February at 15:06 GMT or catch up online via www.bbc.com/worldserviceradio
BBC News online will be publishing the text of Prof Hawking’s lectures with accompanying notes by our science editor, David Shukman.
It is ironic that such a prominent figure in science identifies scientific progress itself as the major source of new threats.
On previous occasions, he has highlighted the potential risks of artificial intelligence (AI) becoming powerful enough to cause the extinction of the human race.
But he insists that ways will be found to cope.
“We are not going to stop making progress, or reverse it, so we have to recognise the dangers and control them. I’m an optimist, and I believe we can.”
Asked for advice for young scientists, Prof Hawking said they should retain a sense of wonder about “our vast and complex” Universe.
“From my own perspective, it has been a glorious time to be alive and doing research in theoretical physics. There is nothing like the Eureka moment of discovering something that no one knew before.”
But he also said that future generations of researchers should be aware of how scientific and technological progress is changing the world, and to help the wider public understand 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.
“So communicate plainly what you are trying to do in science, and who knows, you might even end up understanding it yourself.”
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