On Monday, English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge, Stephen Hawking went on the Larry King show. He was less than optimistic about the future of humanity.
Six years ago, Hawking was on the King show and said, “Mankind is in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity.” When asked if he thought humanity has changed since their last visit, Hawking replied, “We have certainly not become less greedy or less stupid.”
In summarizing the last six years,
Stephen Hawking said, “Six years ago, I was warning about pollution and overcrowding; they have gotten worse since then.”
Hawking’s faith in humanity is apparently dwindling as the theoretical physicist predicted little more than doom and gloom. “The population has grown by half a billion since our last interview, with no end in sight. At this rate, it will be eleven billion by 2100. Air pollution has increased by 8 percent over the past five years. More than 80 percent of inhabitants of urban areas are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution,” he said.
Hawking says that addressing pollution is a major concern, but we’ve yet to do so.
“The increase in air pollution and the emission of increasing levels of carbon dioxide. Will we be too late to avoid dangerous levels of global warming?” he said.
If humans don’t kill themselves with pollutions, according to Hawking, it will be the robots that do us in. When King asked Hawking about the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI), Hawking explained that when government is involved in technological evolution, the outlook is bleak.
“Governments seem to be engaged in an AI arms race, designing planes and weapons with intelligent technologies. The funding for projects directly beneficial to the human race, such as improved medical screening seems a somewhat lower priority.”
When King asked Hawking about his views on Ray Kurzweil’s theory of the singularity, Hawking shot it down as “too optimistic.”
“I think that his views are both too simplistic and too optimistic. Exponential growth will not continue to accelerate, something we don’t predict will interrupt it as has happened with similar forecasts in the past,” he said.
As he continued, Hawking alluded to the fears that some people hold about AI wiping humanity from the earth because of having differing goals.
Hawking said. “Once machines reach the critical stage of being able to evolve themselves, we cannot predict whether their goals will be the same as ours.”
King goes on to ask Hawking, “Will artificial intelligence ever go on to render human society obsolete?”
“Artificial intelligence has the potential to evolve faster than the human race. Beneficially AI could co-exist with humans and augment our capabilities. But a rogue AI could be difficult to stop.”
After claiming humans are stupid, greedy, and AI will destroy the world, Hawking noted that it is still important to pursue the cause of AI as it will be highly beneficial to humans in the future.