The human race is facing a series of dangers of its own making and the risks could increase because of rapid progress in science and technology, eminent scientist Stephen Hawking has warned.
Nuclear war, global warming and genetically engineered viruses are among the scenarios singled out by Hawking and progress in science and technology will create “new ways things can go wrong”, BBC reported.
The physicist, who turned 74 this month, said the human race will be able to survive if it establishes colonies on other worlds.
“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,” Hawking said in response to audience questions ahead of the annual BBC Reith Lecture.
“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 the past, Hawking has highlighted the potential risks of artificial intelligence becoming powerful enough to cause the extinction of humanity.
“We are not going to stop making progress, or reverse it, so we have to recognise the dangers and control them. I’m an optimist, and I believe we can,” he said.
Asked for advice for young scientists, Hawking said they should retain a sense of wonder about “our vast and complex” universe.
“From my own perspective, it has been a glorious time to be alive and doing research in theoretical physics. There is nothing like the Eureka moment of discovering something that no one knew before.”
The BBC invites a leading figure to deliver a series of lectures every year to commemorate John Reith, the corporation’s first director-general. Hawking will explain the science of black holes in his lectures.