Stephen Hawking, the genius-rockstar of theoretical physics, says humanity has 1,000 years left before life on Earth becomes impossible. He points to the usual culprits – climate change, nuclear weapons, and artificial intelligence – as the driving forces behind this.
Speaking at an Oxford University Union, Hawking says the best chance for mankind to survive is to leave this planet and begin colonizing others that can sustain human life, or at least make them sustainable.
Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next 1,000 or 10,000 years,
Hawking said in a report by the Christian Science Monitor. “By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.”
The scientist added that as a race, humans are not likely to withstand all of the crises that will arise in the next millennium. He pointed to the most immediate threats in the next century, the foremost being the potential rise of robots.
On the bright side, advances in space exploration seem to be stepping up on a global scale, with more countries launching their own missions. NASA is continuously searching for planets that might be livable, while private companies like tech billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX program has announced its plans to send civilians to Mars within this century.
Other corporations are racing towards the same goal, meaning the spread of resources ensures more ground can be covered in space research and experiments. These developments in the private sector, and collaboration with government agencies, might allow humanity to find new habitats before Hawking’s time frame runs out.
Hawking ended his talk on a high note, despite the gloomy prediction. He said, “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, wonder about what makes the universe exist.”