At the beginning of the twenty first century, we find ourselves caught in the middle of a cumbersome, world-wide crisis. It is a profound, multidimensional crisis which encompasses almost every aspect of our life- our health and livelihood, our economy, technology and politics. World renowned physicist, Stephen Hawking, took it upon himself to convey the message that we face the very threat of the complete wipe out of the human race owing to single disaster.
In the run up to his BBC Reith Lectures being broadcast, Professor Stephen Hawking said that the major threats to humanity are currently of our own making. With his inimitable ability to convey himself, Hawking seems to have provided us with enough logical data which concedes us to believe that the end is near.
Major Threats to Humanity in Hawking’s Opinion:
While Donald Trump might be in oblivion driven denial about climate change, Hawking seems to have made sure that we don’t forget that Global Warming is a real threat by remarking about the prospects of Earth becoming much like its sister planet, Venus. Our constant interference in the environmental setup has in turn interfered with the moderate conditions that let us inhabit the earth. However, with technological leaps governing the provision of a second home for humans, Hawking believes in whole of humanity surviving the mayhem Global Warming is yet to bring about.
Usage of Atoms for Peace
We have stockpiled over tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and brought upon ourselves the looming threat of an upcoming nuclear war. Yet, the arms race is still extant to “make the planet safer”. Nuclear weapons do not increase our security rather just increase the likelihood of global destruction.
Standing against machines offering complete efficiency without any monetary aspect to them except for the upfront investment, humans allowed themselves to take the risk of genetic modification. A concept straight out science fiction, we might be unfortunate enough to witness it becoming a reality, Hawking fears.
Even after discounting the threat of a nuclear war, we are left with another one of our creations threatening our way of living. Artificial Intelligence has crept into our daily lives at a rate that has left most innovators in a fix. Hawking joined Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and Google executive Demis Hassabis in signing a letter that warned against a military artificial intelligence arms race. An imbalance has already come into existence with respect to the benefits AI brings with itself. The risk of working on AI doesn’t end with the unemployment of the working class but also encompasses the possibility of machines acquiring the intelligence to engineer themselves in a far more advanced manner than we can imagine.
Stephen Hawking expressed his concerns about the developments in the field of Artificial Intelligence with the help of a rather interesting analogy,
“You’re probably not an evil ant-hater who steps on ants out of malice, but if you’re in charge of a hydroelectric green energy project and there’s an anthill in the region to be flooded, too bad for the ants. Let’s not place humanity in the position of those ants.”
Is there a solution?
Hawking brilliant answer to this question was, “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.We are not going to stop making progress, or reverse it, so we have to recognise the dangers and control them.”
A technological and cultural shift of this depth was inevitable. What’s yet to be seen is whether the primitive instinct will take over us to stop us from guiding ourselves to our own end.