Stephen Hawking (January 8, 1942, to March 14th, 2018) was a British scientist, professor, and celebrated theorist whose groundbreaking work helped shape public understanding of cosmology and quantum mechanics. During his years on Earth, Hawking warned us about the consequences of our irresponsible treatment of our planet and offered plenty of wisdom and advice regarding the challenges that face the human species at large.
Some of the warnings he has given include an unnerving speech to CNBC in which he echoed Elon Musk’s famous concern about Artificial Intelligence. Hawking said that the emergence of AI could be the “worst event in the history of our civilization” unless society finds a way to control its development.
According to Hawking, computers can theoretically surpass human intelligence. In the speech, he said, “Success in creating effective AI, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don’t know. So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it.”
Among other threats endangering humanity, Hawking also discussed asteroid strikes, population growth, epidemics, nuclear war, and was known to be critical of climate change policy. The professor has strongly (and very publicly) condemned U.S. president Donald Trump for his stance on climate change and his decision to pull the country out of the Paris Climate Accord.
In an interview with BBC in May 2017, Hawking warned us for the need for the human species to become multi-planetary in order to survive any potential threat of extinction. The threat he is referring to is the one arising from climate change, which would eventually make the world no longer habitable.
Discussing Trump’s decision, Hawking states: “We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. Trump’s sanction could push the earth over the brink to become like Venus with a temperature of 250 degrees and raining sulfuric acid. Climate change is one of the great dangers we face and it’s one we can prevent if we act now.”
When asked whether he thought that humanity will ever solve these environmental and social problems or whether he thinks our days are numbered, he responded, “There is no sign of conflict lessening and the development of militarized technology and weapons of mass destruction can make that disastrous. The best hope for the survival of the human race might be independent colonies in space.”