Stephen Hawking spoke of a multitude of manmade threats encircling the planet in a recent BBC lecture. But how real are the risks, and what hope is there of mitigation?
(Photo by Intel Free Press)
By Jason Thomson
Physicist Stephen Hawking has said the chances of cataclysmic events which could affect the survival of humanity are soaring, and we have only ourselves to blame.
In comments while recording the annual BBC Reith lectures, the renowned physicist asserted that disaster befalling planet Earth in the next 1,000 to 10,000 years is a “near certainty”, and that increasingly the threats facing humankind are of our own making.
Yet he also insisted that humanity will likely survive, because by the time catastrophe strikes, we shall have colonized other worlds.
"However, we will not establish self-sustaining colonies in space for at least the next hundred years,” said Prof. Hawking, “so we have to be very careful in this period".
The threats Hawking specified included nuclear war, global warming, and genetically engineered viruses, proposing that progress in science and technology is in some ways a gamble, improving the lives of billions, but also introducing the means to end humanity.
Yet this is no new debate. The idea that man’s advancement could be his very undoing has been with us for decades, centuries.