BY: SAMANTHA TAPP
In about 1,000 years, we’re all screwed, unless we can get the hell off planet Earth and colonize other planets. This is what renowned theoretical physicist and astronomer Stephen Hawking said in a speech at Oxford University Union earlier this week, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Hawking argued that the human species is unlikely to be able to survive all of the different issues we’ll face over the next hundreds of years. Even if we’re able to overcome climate change, nukes and the rise of artificial intelligence, Hawking still placed a deadline on humanity to find another planet to colonize.
“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,” he said in the speech. “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.”
This isn’t the first time Hawking has commented on humanity’s demise. In a BBC Reith Lecture in January 2016, he said that humans are quickly growing closer to extinction on Earth as a result of our past and current actions. He also noted that there will inevitably be a disaster that will strike the planet, which could quite possibly be our fault.
More so, in 2014 Hawking told BBC, he believed that the development of full artificial intelligence could result in the end of the human race. “Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it will take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate,” he said. “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”
His hour-long speech this week, seemingly depressing and negative, actually had tonnes of optimism. What sounds like a crazy idea isn’t actually an unreachable goal. NASA has been searching for a planet with Earth-like qualities for humans to colonize since 2009, and the speed of space exploration is travelling at a faster pace than ever before.
According to NASA, researchers have already discovered more than 4,600 candidate planets and about 2,300 other confirmed planets.
Meanwhile, Elon Musk, founder and chief executive officer of Tesla and SpaceX, disclosed a plan last September to begin colonizing Mars by 2024. His goal is to bring down ticket prices to Mars to $200,000 per person once the necessary technical advancements are made.
Hawking’s speech wasn’t meant to scare, but to inspire change and innovation. He ended his speech on a optimistic final note. “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, wonder what makes the universe exist,” he said. “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.”