Hawking Reveals Threat To Humans

Published: January 19, 2016

Hawking Reveals Threat To Humans, Theoretical Physicist Professor Stephen Hawking sits on stage ahead of the announcement of the Stephen Hawking medal for science, ‘Starmus’ on December 16, 2015 in London, England. The new award for science communication is in honour of Professor Stephen Hawking and recognises the work of those helping to promote public awareness of science through music, arts and cinema. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) The human race faces one its most dangerous centuries yet as progress in science and technology becomes an ever greater threat to our existence, Stephen Hawking warns.

The chances of disaster on planet Earth will rise to a near certainty in the next one to ten thousand years, the eminent cosmologist said, but it will take more than a century to set up colonies in space where human beings could live on among the stars.

“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,” Hawking said. His comments echo those of Lord Rees, the astronomer royal, who raised his own concerns about the risks of self-annihilation in his 2003 book Our Final Century.

Speaking to the Radio Times ahead of the BBC Reith Lecture, in which he will explain the science of black holes, Hawking said most of the threats humans now face come from advances in science and technology, such as nuclear weapons and genetically engineered viruses.

“We are not going to stop making progress, or reverse it, so we must recognise the dangers and control them,” he added.

The Cambridge scientist, who turned 74 earlier this month, said his expectations were reduced to zero when he learned he had a rare and slowly progressing form of motor neurone disease at the age of 21. But reflecting on more than 50 years since the diagnosis, he said he had been very fortunate in almost every other way. In Hawking’s area of theoretical physics, his disability was not a major handicap.

Asked what kept his spirits up, he named his work and sense of humour. “It’s also important not to become angry, no matter how difficult life is, because you can lose all hope if you can’t laugh at yourself and at life in general.”

For thirty years Hawking was Lucasian professor of mathematics, a post once held by Isaac Newton, and one of the most prestigious academic positions in the country. But Hawking said he felt closer to Galileo Galilei, the 16th century astronomer, who overturned the received wisdom of his time with rigorous observations. Given a time machine, Hawking named Galileo as the scientist he would travel back in time to meet.


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