Stephen Hawking thinks interplanetary travel is the smartest way to counter Earth-bound extinction
Swashbuckling astrophysicist Stephen Hawking argues that our time here is fairly limited. “Earth is becoming increasingly precarious because of threats from epidemics, asteroids, errant technologies and alien invaders. We have 100 years max,” according to the British boffin. “Colonizing another world is an insurance policy against a planet-wrecking disaster.”
The kickass cosmologist has been pondering human extinction for a while now. He thinks interplanetary settlement is the solution to the range of risks currently confronting human civilization. For example, “if we stick to our single rock, planet Earth,” he argues, “we will be sitting ducks for a super-virus, a malevolent artificial intelligence (AI), inevitable ecological catastrophes, an asteroid as big as the one that dispatched the dinosaurs, a nuclear holocaust, or predatory aliens with crafty intellect and evil intentions.” The last one is his perennial fetish: “One day we might receive a signal from an alien planet, but we should be wary of pinging back. Confronting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well.”
Professor Hawking therefore thinks of Mars as a happy hedge against existential hazards here on Earth. On multiple occasions, he has warned of the likelihood that alien species will act like blood-thirsty colonialists or intergalactic imperialists if they ever visit Earth, likening extraterrestrials’ actions to our own rapacious tendencies and grabby behavior.
The superstar scientist has cautioned that it’s only a matter of time until Earth is turned into a wasteland. “Although the chance of 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 1,000 or 10,000 years,” he argues. “Colonizing both the moon and Mars is mandatory, and it is essential to do so within 100 years.”
In a fascinating forthcoming documentary — called ‘Stephen Hawking: Expedition New Earth’ — Hawking warns that humans should depart the planet within the next century if we have any hope of insulating against extinction. According to the BBC, which will debut the hair-raising doc next month, Hawking says that “humanity only has about a century left before we need to inhabit another planet — or else face certain armageddon”
“The prognostication shows that Professor Hawking’s ambition isn’t as fantastical as it sounds — that ‘science fact’ is closer to ‘science fiction’ than we ever imagined,” the outlet says. The doc will highlight “the latest advances in astronomy, biology and rocket technology that will make it possible to live on Mars — from plasma rockets to human hibernation,” with a focus on Elon Musk’s rocketry firm — SpaceX — that has become the flag-carrier for a buccaneering “New Space” industry and alarmists like Hawking and China’s Jack Ma (who shares the professor’s paranoia). Musk has said humans must somehow merge with machines or risk becoming irrelevant in the age of AI. The Tesla and SpaceX founder is working on a company called Neuralink to do just that (i.e. usher in the sigularity), as well as spirit us off to distant planets to set up sustainable colonies.
Concerning human extinction, many scientists are sympathetic to Hawking & Co. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, for instance, has maintained a “Doomsday Clock” since 1953, concentrated mostly on the threat of nuclear obliteration, which seems to be an escalating risk in 2017 and beyond. The clock is currently positioned at two-and-a-half minutes to midnight — a rather scary time for human civilization.
Images via Wikimedia Commons
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