Most threats to humans come from science and technology, warns Hawking

Jan 19, 2016

Photo credit: BBC/LAURENCE CENDROWICZ/Mentorn

By Ian Sample

The human race faces one its most dangerous centuries yet as progress in science and technology becomes an ever greater threat to our existence, Stephen Hawking warns.

The chances of disaster on planet Earth will rise to a near certainty in the next one to ten thousand years, the eminent cosmologist said, but it will take more than a century to set up colonies in space where human beings could live on among the stars.

“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,” Hawking said. His comments echo those of Lord Rees, the astronomer royal, who raised his own concerns about the risks of self-annihilation in his 2003 book Our Final Century.

Speaking to the Radio Times ahead of the BBC Reith Lecture, in which he will explain the science of black holes, Hawking said most of the threats humans now face come from advances in science and technology, such as nuclear weapons and genetically engineered viruses.

“We are not going to stop making progress, or reverse it, so we must recognise the dangers and control them,” he added.


Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

25 comments on “Most threats to humans come from science and technology, warns Hawking

  • As long as the Elite live on the same planet as the rest of us, there’s at least a chance they won’t let it become totally uninhabitable. Once they have their off-planet “Elysiums”, all bets are off.



    Report abuse

  • The chances of disaster on planet Earth will rise to a near certainty in the next one to ten thousand years, the eminent cosmologist said…

    The chances of a disaster on planet Earth will rise to a near certainty in the next 50 to 100 years as we max out the population credit card and global warming puts the bight on the repayments, the eminent RDFRS commentator said….

    Sadly Hawkings, IMHO, has gone from being one of my heroes to someone who needs regular media coverage, which means he sometimes says silly things, like the bleeding obvious above.



    Report abuse

  • The human race faces one its most dangerous centuries yet as progress in science and technology becomes an ever greater threat to our existence, Stephen Hawking warns.

    I think he is pointing out, that while many of the innovative scientists are visionary thinkers, many of the commercial and political muppets who end up taking key decisions, are still primitives. (Trump + Palin???)



    Report abuse

  • Do Trump & Palin even think? I think that they are just christian automatons – created by some evil genius – maybe the actual individuals are prisoners in his evil-genius base! (Usually inside a volcano.)



    Report abuse

  • Thanks Dave,

    You said it for me too.

    Except I wouldn’t go so far as to hint Hawking is a media whore. He’s using his high profile to, hopefully, get people thinking about the legacy we’re leaving our children and grandchildren. Nothing wrong with that.

    Peace.



    Report abuse

  • (The Guardian article closes with this quote from Hawking; “Just because I spend a lot of time thinking doesn’t mean I don’t like parties and getting into trouble.”)

    Here at RDF there are as yet only 6 comments to the Guardian article. Some are intensely opinionated.

    I dunno’ if Hawking is right, wrong, or somewhere less simple to describe, but IMHO it’s obvious from the content of the reaction to him that RDF is an advocacy site.



    Report abuse

  • Overpopulation, won’t be a problem. Genetically engineered viruses along with nuclear weapons will take care of that. As for global worming…. That’s silly to think the Earth being a few degrees hotter 100,000 years from now takes precedence over the two things Dawkins mentions.



    Report abuse

  • I am anti-gun, so this is intended with a touch of irony, and yet I think it is an apt statement: it is not science and technology that will kill us; it is people who will kill us.



    Report abuse

  • I dunno’ if Hawking is right, wrong, or somewhere less simple to describe, but IMHO it’s obvious from the content of the reaction to him that RDF is an advocacy site.

    I don’t understand this. Can you spell it out and type slowly for us southern hemisphere dwellers. What are you alleging this site does?



    Report abuse

  • What are you alleging this site does?

    Who the hell cares what he says? It’s a good site, a damned good site, with a lot of wonderful articles and topics and threads, and very interesting and mostly nice, humane members. (Some I like more than others but that’s how it should be.) The funds go towards the foundation whose mission (which is clearly stated in Richard Dawkins’ letter “about us”) is a laudable one.
    I for one am proud to be associated with this site and to be able to contribute in some small way to the RDFRS. Dawkins is a fantastic human being, a courageous, witty, and highly decent man, a great writer, scientist and communicator.
    Who cares what this person says or what it means? The likelihood is that it means very little.
    But hell, go ahead and explain yourself, fella.



    Report abuse

  • Which ‘genetically engineered viruses”? Ridiculous. Been reading HIV and Ebola conspiracy theories? Don’t tell me, man never walked on the moon and the twin towers were destroyed by the CIA, right?

    Virologist



    Report abuse

  • Steve Wylie
    Jan 23, 2016 at 3:48 am

    Which ‘genetically engineered viruses”? Ridiculous.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12074486
    Multiple viral agents have been classified by the CDC as potential weapons of mass destruction or agents for biologic terrorism. Agents such as smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fever viruses, agents of viral encephalitis, and others are of concern because they are highly infectious and relatively easy to produce. Although dispersion might be difficult, the risk is magnified by the fact that large populations are susceptible to these agents and only limited treatment and vaccination strategies exist. Although the risk of large-scale bioterrorism using viral agents is small, public health programs and health care providers must be prepared for this potentially devastating impact on public health.



    Report abuse

  • Typing slowly I’m good at! (Isn’t that called “hunt and peck”?

    It’s not necessarily what the site does, it’s the apparent mindset of many posters who share any advocacy site’s views.

    However I’ve had to deal with aggressive moderating here once before, and after being censored and then banned, was surprised to be invited back to the site in an apparently unrelated series of emails from RDF. So far so good.

    To clarify, yesterday I thought I’d been banned again, but it turned out the posting process was merely delayed. My “Right on!” reply to OHooligan this morning at 7:35 am on the “dirty word” thread was intended as a humorous reply to test whether I could post.



    Report abuse

  • Frank Boston
    Jan 22, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    Overpopulation, won’t be a problem. Genetically engineered viruses along with nuclear weapons will take care of that. As for global worming…. That’s silly to think the Earth being a few degrees hotter 100,000 years from now takes precedence

    It is global warming in fifty, one or two hundred years, from now which pose the threat, and that threat is vastly more dangerous (as the Permian mass extinction showed), than anything people can do with nuclear weapons.

    over the two things Dawkins mentions.

    Actually it is Stephen Hawking, not Richard Dawkins, who made the comments.



    Report abuse

  • toroid
    Jan 24, 2016 at 11:31 am

    It’s not necessarily what the site does, it’s the apparent mindset of many posters who share any advocacy site’s views.

    Advocacy for science and reasoning, is not unusual in scientific discussions! – unless you are making vague insinuations about something else you do not disclose?



    Report abuse

  • to Alan4discussion
    Jan 24, 2016 at 11:41 am

    I stand unequivicably behind what the previous post asserted. As stated it’s a general but not vague comment except as it relates to the censorship issue, the details of which AFAIK are known only to one other poster and (I assume) one moderator and was a learning issue for me.



    Report abuse

  • Here’s what I wrote regarding climate change on the Cowspiracy advocacy site’s blog:

    “Reducing human population is the never acknowledged missing link whenever climate change is discussed. Such discussions generally focus on how the rate of population growth is slowing but say nothing about ways to significantly reduce it.

    Furthermore, while climate change is real and earth’s climate is becoming more energetic, it is unknown whether, after being warned about climate changes for the past 50 years, the earth is already past a postulated “tipping point” and thus no theoretical modifications in human behavior will be able to reverse a more energetic climate.

    Eat and enjoy meat and other foods that you like and don’t give up on the pleasure of sex, but STOP BEARING OFFSPRING and adopt children already born!

    In just the past 65 years human population has increased from around 2.5 billion to 7.3 billion people.”



    Report abuse

  • toroid
    Jan 24, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Here’s what I wrote regarding climate change on the Cowspiracy advocacy site’s blog:

    “Reducing human population is the never acknowledged missing link whenever climate change is discussed. Such discussions generally focus on how the rate of population growth is slowing but say nothing about ways to significantly reduce it.

    I don’t see what this has to do with alleged “advocacy” on RDnet.

    Various discussions have raised the issue of population growth, along with growth in consumption, and the aggravation of these issue by various religious groups actively opposing contraception and family planning.

    Furthermore, while climate change is real and earth’s climate is becoming more energetic,

    If you have read my posts on this subject, you will know I am well aware of these issues.

    it is unknown whether, after being warned about climate changes for the past 50 years, the earth is already past a postulated “tipping point”

    It is however known that active management of the carbon cycle, can reduce further risks, and could be organised to reduce global CO2 levels IF this was made a priority.

    and thus no theoretical modifications in human behavior will be able to reverse a more energetic climate.

    This is simple defeatist wild speculation which has no evidenced basis. There is a slight risk that this is so, but climate scientists have given advice on actions needed to avoid such problems. The problems are currently with the politics of ignorance and self delusion, causing disregard of the scientific advice!

    Eat and enjoy meat and other foods that you like and don’t give up on the pleasure of sex, but STOP BEARING OFFSPRING

    Meat eating must not give rise to increases animal populations, and a reduction would help reduce CO2 emissions, but the “stop bearing children” is totally valid!

    It is quite reasonable to identify the the human population explosion as a serious threat to the planetary systems, and to point out that progressive rationing of resources only becomes necessary because of the over-population problem.

    Again – I don’t see any consistency of an advocacy position against your view of climate change, on this site, although individual posters may take such a view. – But where they have, – they have been challenged by others,

    I am however still unclear as to what subject areas you are commenting on on these issues.



    Report abuse

  • Alan4discussion posted at 12:56 pm in reply to a 12:22 post of mine.

    Replying to a post, cut and dissected into individual sentences about different issues, is for me extremely time consuming. To some of it I repeat what I already wrote (to someone else) earlier; “I wish I shared your seemingly total confidence in being able to know the future.”

    Regarding all the other sentences to which the above reply doesn’t apply I merely state, I read what you wrote, some of which I agree with and some not. Some I don’t understand at all.



    Report abuse

  • toroid
    Jan 24, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    To some of it I repeat what I already wrote (to someone else) earlier; “I wish I shared your seemingly total confidence in being able to know the future.”

    I make no claims about “total confidence in knowing the future”, but I like to think I research information sufficiently well to see some possible futures, and to recognise baseless claims or flawed thinking processes, which do not support claimed conclusions.

    Science is very much about making testable predictions based on evidence.



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.