Stephen Hawking, a well-known theoretical physicist, and cosmologist by profession has expressed his views on a wide range of topics like global warming, politics and philosophy. However, most of his critical statements have been about the technological perils to the future of the human race.
In his last paper published on October 16 this year, finished by his family in collaboration with his colleagues, Hawking talked about how he thought technology could risk humanity, among some other issues. He explored a range of avenues in technology which revealed some distressing facts about the future of the human race in his last book, Brief Answers To Big Questions.
Hawking talks about the genetic editing of humans in the future and that which can go about destroying the current humanity entirely. We already have CRISPR-Cas9 to modify our genes at a remarkable level. He opined that people would find ways to modify something as difficult as intelligence and aggression by using the scientific advancements of genetic engineering and it will not take a long time to achieve that. It may also enhance disease resistance and longevity.
All these advances in genetic engineering made Hawking fear for the future of humanity and he was of the opinion that they will eventually be a threat to the ordinary human world. “Once such superhumans appear, there will be significant political problems with unimproved humans, who won’t be able to compete,” he wrote. “Presumably, they will die out, or become unimportant. Instead, there will be a race of self-designing beings who are improving at an ever-increasing rate.”
Hawking was concerned about the advent of Superhuman AI which will be able to not just depict human intellect, but also expand it. He said that the technology will surpass humans and enable themselves to not just do what humans are capable of, but also learn and grow, eventually surpassing humans in their abilities. He stated in the book that AI will overtake humans in intelligence during the next 100 years. But humans will need to ensure that the AI must have the same goals as us.
His paper also says the possibility of AI building a will of its own in the future, a will that will conflict the fill of us humans, and that in the next 1,000 years, major environmental calamity or a nuclear war will ‘cripple the Earth’. Many computer scientists today do believe that consciousness will arise from AI.
Stephen Hawking made very important scientific discoveries that wed Albert Einstein’s great theory of gravity, general relativity, with the strange world of quantum mechanics, normally applied to tiny things like atoms and molecules. What Hawking ended up with were descriptions of black holes that could boil themselves out of existence and equations that described the entire history of the Universe in a single sweep.
Written by Arijit Saha with inputs from Analytics India Magazine