Just one year ago Stephen Hawking and his bulging computer brain gave humanity what we thought was an intimidating deadline for finding a new planet to call home: 1,000 years. “The challenges that confront us,” he said, “are threatening our survival on the earth. And now more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together, as one species, something the species has never done.
The challenges are awesome: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans….” (Any Republicans out there listening???)
The challenges, these and others, are a sharp reminder that we are now at what may be as Stephen Hawking believes the most dangerous moment in our history. Will we go, as has every other species that has ever lived, extinct? For without a doubt we have the technology to destroy the planet, and so far at least we do not have the means to go elsewhere and escape the earth’s destruction.
Now Hawking is revising his deadline and says we don’t even have a 1000 years, probably at most a few hundred, not enough time to establish human colonies somewhere amid the stars. (Does he even believe such is possible?)
For the moment we have only the one planet, Earth, and while we would preserve it, that which may no longer be possible, we will have to, if we believe Hawking, escape from it. And in order to do any of that isn’t it obvious that we need to work together?(Republicans and Democrats) To do that, we need to break down, not build up, barriers those within our own country, those between the nations of the world. (No Walls Donald Trump!!)
The world’s leaders need to acknowledge that they have failed and are continuing to fail the world’s people. With diminishing resources increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, the world’s leaders including Trump need to take active steps to share the resources among the many.
But Hawking is saying that this won’t be enough. We will need to find and then populate a suitable earth-like planet within 100 years. Again, does he believe that this is possible?
There is no doubt that with climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth, and the other challenges out there the planet’s life is increasingly precarious. A new planet, a new home does seem necessary, (but possible?)
Hawking is no longer calling for humans to colonize the moon, or find a way to settle Mars, a locale he referred to earlier, in 2008, as “the obvious next target.”
Hawking does say, and he repeats it several times, that the greatest danger we face is the development of full artificial intelligence (go here AI One and AI Two). For, AGI, if it were to happen, could spell the end of the human race, and that despite its seeming usefulness.
In fact the further development A.I. could prove a fatal mistake. “Once humans develop artificial intelligence,” Hawking warns, ‘it will take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate. For humans beings, unlike AI, are limited by slow biological evolution, and couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”
In fact, throughout what Hawking has to say, his most explicit warnings have revolved around the potential threat posed by artificial intelligence. That which makes – in Hawking’s analysis – humanity’s greatest and most daunting challenge twofold: —one, the need to develop the technology that will enable us to leave the planet and start a colony elsewhere, —and, two, while all the time avoiding the frightening perils that may be unleashed by the very same AI technology.
Well yes, our leaders should be listening. Especially the President and the Republicans in the Congress. The threats Hawking outlines are real. And along side them, such of our worries as immigration, the migration of peoples, of refugees, even the continued existence of terrorist organizations, the Taliban, ISIS, and Qaeda, et al. are as nothing at all. What eventually destroys us we probably won’t even see it coming.