Our humanity is in danger of constant advancement of science and technology. Professor Stephen Hawking emphasized that people must be careful.
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”.
“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.”
t 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.
“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.”
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.”