Stay on target
It’s been a rough year for life on Earth. The Arctic is a staggering 36 degrees hotter than it should be, we’ve had some of the largest storms on record (in part fueled by rising global temperatures), and we’ve hit 400 parts per million global carbon dioxide levels — long considered the point of no return for climate change. You could be forgiven, then, for thinking Earth’s days are numbered. And many of the planets’ top minds agree.
While giving a lecture at Oxford last week, Stephen Hawking said that he expects disaster in the next few thousand years.
“Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low,” he said, “it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next 1,000 or 10,000 years.”
Hawking has long believed that humanity needs to become a multi-planet species, suggesting that the rarity of intelligent life and the distinct technological ability we possess gives us a moral obligation to protect ourselves and others from world-ending events. Hawking believes that we should avoid developing AI, proliferating nuclear weapons, and that humanity must start working now to mitigate the potential damage caused by climate change. If left unchecked, Hawking thinks that any number of these developments could potentially destroy life as we know it.
“[But] by that time,” Hawking added, “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.”
SpaceX tests a reusable rocket in. (Photo: Screenshot via National Geographic)
Given the way things are going, it’s hard to argue that he’s an alarmist. With all this and the expectation that President-Elect Trump will fight any efforts to stop climate change tooth and nail, the Earth has some rough years ahead.
Even so, Hawking is hopeful. “Our picture of the universe has changed a great deal in the last 50 years, and I am happy if I have made a small contribution,” he said, according to The Independent. “The fact that we humans, who are ourselves mere fundamental particles of nature, have been able to come this close to understanding the laws that govern us and the universe is certainly a triumph.”
That scientific progress may well be our salvation, too. With billionaires like Elon Musk inspired to help protect humanity through the progression of tech, Hawking says that looking to the stars and believing in the majesty of the universe and the strength of the human spirit is more important than ever.
“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. Be curious. However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”