In 2016, famous physicist Stephen Hawking predicted that humans have 1000 years left on Earth. He believes that our only option will be to set up colonies on planets other than our own. (1)
Stephen Hawking Says Humans Have 1,000 Years Left on Earth
In a lecture in November of 2016, Hawking spoke about his beliefs about the future of humans on Earth. His prospects were unfortunately quite grim.
“[W]e must … continue to go into space for the future of humanity,” He said. “I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet.”
Why? Many factors, including:
- Climate change
- Global Pandemics
- Nuclear wars
- AI and autonomous weapons
- Extraterrestrial invasion
Each of these comes with its own consequences, and each of them is dire. Hawking, along with several others, thinks that the only way the human race will survive 1000 years from now is to move to other planets in the solar system. (1)
AI Could Be Both Our Biggest Asset and Also Our Biggest Threat
One of the main reasons Hawking and many other well-respected professionals believe humans have only 1,000 years left on Earth is artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous weapons. Thousands of these signed a coalition in 2015 to put a ban on autonomous weapons that can fire without human intervention.
Some of these people include:
- Stephen Hawking
- Elon Musk
- Steve Wozniak
- Noam Chomsky
Currently, robots and AI are submissive and require a human operator. As it improves and becomes more autonomous, the fear is the impact of incorrect use of these robots who are also stronger and smarter than humans could have. (2)
“AI systems today have impressive but narrow capabilities,” says OpenAI. “It seems that we’ll keep whittling away at their constraints, and in the extreme case they will reach human performance on virtually every intellectual task. It’s hard to fathom how much human-level AI could benefit society, and it’s equally hard to imagine how much it could damage society if built or used incorrectly.”
With a universe as vast as ours, many find it hard to believe that we are the only intelligent life out there in space. Hawking fears that just as we are becoming weaker due to the effects of climate change, that’s just when extraterrestrial life might find us.
In his online film Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places, he says:
“I am more convinced than ever that we are not alone…they will be vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”
In his opinion, we need a backup plan, and we need to start thinking about it now.
Do humans have 1000 years left?
Do humans have 1000 years left? We can’t know for sure. We do know that climate change is real, AI has as much potential to benefit our society as it does to be its demise, and threats from nuclear weapons and global pandemics are always present. Should we prepare to take off into space? Time will tell.
- ‘Humanity Only Has Around 1,000 Years Left on Earth, Stephen Hawking Predicts’ Science Alert. Published November 16, 2016.
- ‘Introducing OpenAI’ Open AI. Published December 11, 2015