Press "Enter" to skip to content

Hawking: Humans at risk of lethal ‘own goal’?

Can’t resist a quick comment on this article on BBC News today.Hawking: Humans at risk of lethal ‘own goal’.

He says that assuming humanity eventually establishes colonies on other worlds, it will be able to survive.

“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 thousand or ten thousand years.

“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.

“However, 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.”

In one way he is making a stochastic argument that if something bad is possible, even if unlikely, and you wait long enough it will happen. Mathematically this is true. The same argument would apply if we inhabited multiple worlds. It is possible that all the colonies would die out at once so if we wait long enough it will happen we would just have to wait longer. But this isn’t what gets me with this comment.

Implicit in what is said is that human kind will advance to the level technologically that we can colonise other worlds within a few hundred years but we won’t develop socially to the point that we can live with each other in harmony. This is despite the fact we have clearly made many social advance in recent centuries arguably as great a strides as we have made technologically. In Western culture think the renaissance, the enlightenment, abolition of slavery, gender equality and gay rights. Nothing is perfect or permanent but the direction of travel is strong.

Why is it that so many “scientists” dismiss the human mind and social interactions as something worthy of study and advancement? It has become common to equate science with technology.