Physicist Stephen Hawking says that mankind could be wiped out by our own creations within the next 100 years.
Answering audience questions at this year’s BBC Reith Lectures, Prof Hawking said that our rush to understand and improve life through science and technology could be humanity’s undoing.
He has previously suggested that colonising other planets will be the only way that the human race can survive, but he warns that we may lose Earth to some kind of major disaster before we have a chance to do so.
“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 explained.
“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.”
It is not the first time the professor has mongered doom; he has previously warned that artificial intelligence robots will wipe us out unless we ban them first and that hostile aliens are about to destroy us.
This latest warning comes with the footnote that further research into science and technology will provide “new ways things can go wrong”.
“It’s important to ensure that these changes are heading in the right directions,” he said.
“In a democratic society, this means that everyone needs to have a basic understanding of science to make informed decisions about the future.
“So communicate plainly what you are trying to do in science, and who knows, you might even end up understanding it yourself.
“We are not going to stop making progress, or reverse it, so we must recognise the dangers and control them.”
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