A superstar among physicists once again issued a tough warning about existential threats looming in the future of humanity. But hope dies last.
Stephen Hawking is not shy about shaking the world with his reality checks. The world-famous British theoretical physicist, whose work has revolutionized the understanding of black holes and cosmic physics, and is often a realist, who often discusses his fears for the future of humanity.
In a talk at Oxford University on November 14, Hawking raised important questions, including: the origin of the Universe and why we exist. But, besides this, he reminded the audience in the debate hall of the Oxford Union that our civilization has terms of existence. At least, if we stay on Earth, then we also have an expiration date.
“I don’t think we will survive the next thousand years without escaping beyond our fragile planet,” he said.
Hawking is a strong supporter of space exploration. Of particular interest is Hawking's desire to bring the human species beyond the limits of the earth's orbit and spread it throughout the Solar System and, possibly, beyond its limits. Although the thirst for knowledge is the main fuel for the desire to explore the universe, Hawking perceives the development of alien worlds as a safety net for our species and counteraction to the looming threat. After all, if catastrophic events take place on Earth, then it would be nice to have a spare house somewhere in outer space. It is so? His enthusiasm for interstellar travel, for example, recently manifested itself in support for the Breakthrough Starshot project, which is part of the 100 millionth Breakthrough Initiative. The project seeks to initiate the development of technologies that could create laser self-propelled “nano-probes” capable of going beyond the solar system and to Alpha Centauri.
A closer target is Proxima Centauri (the nearest neighbor of the Sun), located 4.2 light years away. It is known to resemble Earth in size and is considered a potentially suitable exoplanet for life. If we use modern technology, then we would have spent tens of thousands of years traveling one way. Therefore, we need new technologies to shorten these deadlines. Then objects such as Proxima b can be used as future human colonies.
This confirms Hawking's previous warnings that we should not screw it up in the near future. We need to create self-sufficient colonies outside our planet. The development of a home in the solar system should take no more than 100 years, and more if we go towards interstellar targets.
“Although the chance of a catastrophe on Earth in a particular year can be quite low, it adds to the universal time. And every year they create confidence in the inevitable outcome in the next thousand or 10,000 years, ”said Hawking during his January lecture at the BBC in Wright. “By then, we must go into space and get to other stars.” Then the disaster on Earth will not be equated to the end of the human race. " “However, we will not be able to establish self-sustaining colonies in space for at least the next 100 years. So we should be careful. ”
For key threats to our civilization, Hawking takes climate change (man’s fault), asteroid strikes, the rise of artificial intelligence and deadly flashes. And although the development of technology can reduce some of the biggest threats, the technology itself can be the cause of our death.
Despite Hawking's dire warnings about our future, he is interested in ending on a positive note and motivating his audience to never lose interest in the secrets of the universe.
“Do not forget to look at the stars, not under your feet. Try to realize what miracles surround us, ”he said on Monday. “No matter how difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do to change everything for the better.”