Stephen Hawking (1942-2018), the world-famous physicist and cosmologist, left plenty of famous quotes, wise words, and inspirational sayings behind.
Yet, he’s also famous for his real talk, telling people that humankind is greedy and they cause harm to the planet. During an interview with Larry King of the Larry King Now talk show in 2016, he said that humankind is greedy and has always been its own biggest problem. We are consciously rushing too close to a time when climate change would be irreparable, and unfortunately, there is no breakthrough on the horizon.
“We certainly have not become less greedy or less stupid,” he said. “Six years ago I was worrying about pollution and overcrowding. They have gotten worse since then. The population has grown by half a billion since our last meeting [six years prior], with no end in sight. At this rate, it will be eleven billion by 2100.
Speaking with BBC on another occasion, Hawking said, “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.”…
“Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it’s one we can prevent if we act now.”
Interplanetary relocation as the only plausible solution
While it may still be possible to save the earth, Hawking was certain that humankind is greedy and would never see reasons to take firm, united, and suitable actions. In his words, “[…]evolution has inbuilt greed and aggression to the human genome. There is no sign of conflict lessening, and the development of militarized technology and weapons of mass destruction could make that disastrous.”
The only way to preserve our species would be to secure some sort of backup planet for a time when our planet would become entirely inhabitable.
“The best hope for the survival of the human race might be independent colonies in space.”
On pollution and AI abuse
Hawking said that air pollution was getting swiftly out of control as the growth curve had taken a steady climb in the period of the last five years.
“Air pollution has increased over the past five years,” Hawking said. “More than 80% of inhabitants of urban areas are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution.”
Air pollution is the biggest factor in climate. The prime cause of air pollution today is fossil fuel combustion, a by-product of industrialization and as humankind has ruled it, there’s no way back from the advancements of the modern era.
He also spoke about Artificial intelligence with King, claiming that world governments are dangerously engaging in “an AI arms race.”
“A rogue AI could be difficult to stop,” Hawking said. “We need to ensure that AI is designed ethically with safeguards in place.”
Artificial intelligence has a lot of benefits, but when it is an instrument to fulfill the wrong agenda, it can become a tool of massive invasion and destruction.
As researcher Kate Crawford claimed in 2017, “Just as we are seeing a step function increase in the spread of AI, something else is happening: the rise of ultra-nationalism, rightwing authoritarianism and fascism,” she said to The Guardian.
The famous physicist (estimated IQ – 162) was best known for his efforts in the fields of cosmology, general relativity, and quantum gravity, especially in the context of black holes. Hawking, the Cambridge and Oxford-trained scientist, was diagnosed with a slow-progressing form of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a motoneuron disease that caused paralyze and left him motionless for much of his life.
Hawking made an ever-lasting contribution to the world of science and physics, with numerous authored books and inspirational quotes attached to his name.