Stephen Hawking has warned that humanity is in danger of destroying itself in the next 100 years as we rapidly progress in the realms of science and technology.
Speaking to the BBC, he said that while progress was good, it creates “new ways things can go wrong.” He highlighted nuclear war, global warming, and genetically-engineered viruses as possible harbingers of doom of our own creation.
This is not the first time Hawking has warned that we face a self-made disaster; in 2014, he said that artificial intelligence could “spell the end of the human race.”
Hawking pointed out that he is ultimately an optimist, and he believes we can overcome the problems that could face humanity. But if the worst were to happen, one way we could ensure the survival of the human race is to have a colony on another planet, such as Mars.
This is unlikely to be a reality in at least the next century, though. Suggesting that a global disaster was a “near certainty” in the next thousand to ten thousand years, Hawking therefore said that the next 100 years are our most dangerous, as we become much more advanced but without a safe haven off this planet.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Hawking said we need to colonize other worlds to survive. Aphelleon/Shutterstock
Nonetheless, Hawking said this was a “glorious time to be alive” for scientists, specifically theoretical physicists like himself, with countless new discoveries waiting to be made.
Hawking was speaking to the Radio Times ahead of his Reith Lecture on black holes, which will be aired on BBC Radio 4 in the U.K. at 9 a.m. GMT on January 26 and February 2. International audiences can listen in on the BBC World Service on the same days at 10:06 a.m. EST (3:06 p.m. GMT).
Hawking’s latest theory on black holes, published in a paper earlier this month, is that they could contain “hairs” at their event horizon – the boundary beyond which nothing, not even light, can escape. These hairs could contain information about the black hole, and help resolve the “information loss” paradox.
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