Stephen Hawking on the biggest risk to mankind

"We certainly have not become less greedy or less stupid." says renowned physicist, Stephen Hawking. 

By Brandon Davis, Larry King Now

If you have ever wondered why the universe and all the laws of nature exist, you are not alone.  Professor Stephen Hawking remains mystified, too, and muses over it and other powerful questions, in a recent interview with Larry King.  As one of the world's pre-eminent scientists, Hawking has previously made efforts to bring awareness to the shifting changes in climate.  However, while speaking with King, Hawking makes a powerful declaration that"the increase in air pollution, and the emission of increasing levels of carbon dioxide”  has become the biggest problem facing mankind.  He then proposes a simple rhetorical:

Hawking's compelling interview took place from the Starmus Festival, in the Canary Islands. It has been six years since the pair last spoke, and humanity remains concerned with many of the same issues today as it was then. After all, when speaking to someone about the universe, a few years are a breath – if even.  Our look back on a ‘better or worse scenario’ might be too soon to definitively call, but when asked about the danger of destroying ourselves through our own ignorance, Hawking’s response was stark:

His warning comes at a turning point election for America, and in a time where world economies might face humbling changes.  Over 65 million people are fleeing war-torn Middle East deserts, and multiple governments are bound in longstanding monetary debts to one another.  Our lives are fueled by carbon, coal, and other price tag energies that citizens pay for as a cost for comfort.  People, now, might feel as though they have other things to worry about ... but climate change is a top priority for the famous theoretical physicist who helped bring ideas about black holes, quantum gravity, and M Theory to a wide public audience.  Although motor-neuron sclerosis (ALS) has confined him to a wheelchair for most of his life and taken his voice, Hawking still manages to get his point across though a computerized system he operates using his cheek: technology, in service of an indomitable human spirit.

Ultimately, every interview between King and Hawking circles back to questions of human choice.  When Larry asks about his stance on artificial intelligence, instead of focusing on A.I. as a dangerous opponent, Hawking suggests that our intention is what will drive its evolution. “Governments seem to be engaged in an A.I. arms race,” his electronic voice informs.  It is considered “low-priority” to fund projects that are geared towards “improved medical screening.”  But, “designing planes and weapons with intelligent technologies”  motivates us, he says.

Later, he states that artificial intelligence “could co-exist with humans” but warns that “a rogue A.I. could be difficult to stop.”  He encourages these future computers to be “designed ethically, with safeguards in place." 

King questions the idea of Kurzweil’s theory on singularity, and of man merging with machine in the near future, to which Hawking replies: 

What he concludes with echoes something similar to free will and choice, saying, “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 and Hawking talked about the greatest threats to society and also how Hawking himself has evolved his own theories about black holes within his lifetime.  He even names the scientific discovery which has surprised him most over recent decades. And, with enormous entertainment and a sly look in his eyes, Hawking proposes a question back to our own King Larry about marriage – and...

In the end, Larry inquires as to what keeps Hawking going year after year?  Hawking simply replies,  "There are questions I want to answer...”  And, maybe that is a good enough reason to keep all our curiosity piqued, for the time to come.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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