Stephen Hawking has a warning for all of us here on Earth: “We must continue to go into space for the future of humanity. I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet.” Hawking’s concerns over the fragility of human life have also led him to consider artificial intelligence as either “the best, or the worst, thing to ever happen to humanity.”
Elon Musk has announced his hopes to build a human colony on Mars within the next 20-40 years. His aerospace firm, SpaceX, is actively seeking this goal. Says Musk: “I don’t have a doomsday prophecy, but history suggests some doomsday event will happen.”
Hawking, though, believes that planetary colonization will take at least 100 more years, time which we may not have. Says Hawking’s: “Although the chance of 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. 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.”
In a research coalition including both Musk and Hawking, more than 20,000 experts called for a ban on developing automated weapons capable of firing on targets without the necessity for human control. Musk has spearheaded a new research initiative to study the ethics of AI. Calling today’s robots entirely submissive, he still expresses concern for their in-monitored progress into the future.
“It seems that we’ll keep whittling away at their constraints, and in the extreme case they will reach human performance on virtually every intellectual task. It’s hard to fathom how much human-level AI could benefit society, and it’s equally hard to imagine how much it could damage society if built or used incorrectly.”
With the possibility of meeting advance alien societies able to control our technology, this proposition becomes even scarier. What if another organism could command our future armies of deadly robots? Stephen Hawking is “more convinced than ever that we are not alone”, and his word is reliable.
Closing with words from Hawking: “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.”
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