6 Crazy Predictions From Stephen Hawking, and 1 That Is Truly Terrifying
Stephen Hawking is one of the truly great minds of the 20th and 21st centuries. Despite struggling with ALS, being confined to a wheelchair, and at one point being given just two years to live, Hawking became one of the foremost voices on many subjects, including physics, climate change, and scientific advancement.
After his passing, there has been a lot of talk about Hawking and the many warnings he gave about the future of humanity. Will we be able to survive without making major changes? Let’s take a look at six predictions from Hawking, plus one that shakes us right down to the core.
Advancement in artificial intelligence has made great strides in recent years, and it seems as though sentient robots are an inevitable part of our future. Hawking warned against A.I. at a conference in Lisbon, Germany, back in November 2017.
“Success in creating effective A.I. could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization, or the worst. We just don’t know,” he said. “We cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by A.I., or ignored by it and sidelined or conceivably destroyed by it.”
Expanding on those thoughts, he later added that A.I. could lead to sentient weapons of mass destruction, replacing and improving upon humans while holding the ability to endlessly copy itself. Elon Musk has gone to great lengths to ensure the public that in his own research, he has done everything he can to ensure that he isn’t putting humanity at risk.
Next: Hawking’s prediction about aliens.
6. Hostile extraterrestrials
One of the most far-fetched topics that Hawking has warned the world about is the potential for destruction at hands of a hostile, alien civilization. Back in 2010, Hawking spoke on a Discovery Channel special and shared grave concerns for what intentions aliens might have in coming to visit us on Earth.
“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans,” he said. “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.”
In the coming years, Hawking further clarified his comments on potential alien civilizations. Considering the relative youth of humanity and how we’ve only scratched the surface of space travel and technology, we would be vastly overmatched. He felt that any life intelligent enough to travel all the way to Earth could be nomadic, looking to find planets with resources to be harnessed. In fact, that’s kind of what the movie Independence Day was all about.
Next: Hawking’s prediction about when aliens might visit us.
5. We won’t meet them anytime soon
Hawking went further to calm the fears of anyone that saw their anxiety go through the roof when he predicted that aliens may be extremely hostile. Although he stood by his theory that an alien civilization traveling to Earth would be planet-destroying nomads, Hawking also theorized that this isn’t a problem we need to worry about anytime soon.
“The probability [of finding alien life] is low. Probably,” Hawking said. “But the discoveries from the Kepler mission suggest that there are billions of habitable planets in our galaxy alone. There are at least 100 billion galaxies in the visible universe.”
The notion of aliens arriving on Earth isn’t something that Hawking envisioned happening in the next 20 years, or so he said back in 2016. You have time to build your laser-proof shelter.
Next: Hawking’s prediction about colonizing Mars.
4. We will need to leave Earth
Speaking at the same time, after predicting that we wouldn’t encounter alien life in the foreseeable future Hawking went on to stress the need for mankind to move beyond our current home. Much like the theoretical aliens traveling from planet to planet, so must humans create a space colony to search for a new home.
“It isn’t wise to keep all of our eggs in just one fragile basket,” Hawking said. “Life on Earth faces danger from astronomical events like asteroids or supernovas. Another danger is from ourselves. If we are to survive as a species, we must ultimately spread to the stars.”
Hawking originally prophesied that we have around 1,000 years left on Earth, but has since said that we may want to speed things up a bit. In 2017, he said that we have about 100 years to colonize a new planet — such as Mars — or risk death at the hands of an asteroid, overpopulation, or natural disasters.
Next: Hawking’s prediction about the effects of climate change.
3. Climate change
Of course, one major reason to fear needing to leave Earth in the next 100 years has to do with climate change. Hawking was outspoken on that subject during his adult life, including after President Donald Trump chose to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
“We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid,” he told BBC News.
“Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it’s one we can prevent if we act now. By denying the evidence for climate change, and pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Donald Trump will cause avoidable environmental damage to our beautiful planet, endangering the natural world, for us and our children.”
We have already seen the massive effects of climate change worsen in recent years, with large-scale natural disasters. In 2017, hurricanes devastated Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico all within days of one another. The people have yet to fully recover in Puerto Rico.
Next: Hawking’s prediction about Donald Trump.
2. Donald Trump
Speaking of Donald Trump, Hawking has even identified the American president as a threat to humanity. That counts for Trump’s lack of action on climate change, but also for other reasons. In general, human aggression and weapons of mass destruction in the hands of unstable leaders could lead to our doom.
“I fear evolution has inbuilt greed and aggression to the human genome,” Hawking said. “There is no sign of conflict lessening, and the development of militarised technology and weapons of mass destruction could make that disastrous.”
The very same week that Hawking died, Trump suggested that America should build a Space Force — a new branch of the military that would be adept at fighting wars in space. He even said “space is a war-fighting domain.” It’s easy to see why Hawking would warn of aggression and nuclear weapons in the wrong hands.
Next: Hawking’s scariest prediction of all.
1. Capitalism will doom us
Finally, Hawking made one very big proclamation about the greatest danger to the future of civilized society: capitalism. In a 2016 “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, Hawking stated that economic equality would only get worse as those in power got closer to artificial intelligence.
If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.
It’s true, that as automation continues to take over the world more and more jobs will be replaced. In theory, this could be wonderful for society if the wealth is shared. Everyone would experience a greater quality of life, thanks to A.I. If not, it could leave a small percentage of wealthy people to become even more wealthy while the many suffer. This one is the scariest because it’s not aliens, unstable leaders, or natural disasters that doom us … it’s simply human greed.
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