Friday, November 18, 2016

First The Bad News -- There Is no Good News

"We must ... continue to go into space for the future of humanity. I don't think we will survive another thousand years without escaping beyond our fragile planet."
"[Despite which it is a] glorious time to be alive and doing research into theoretical physics."
"Our picture of the universe has changed a great deal in the last fifty years, and I am happy if I have made a small contribution."
"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. 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."
"I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell 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."
"Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete and would be superseded."
Stephen Hawking, 74, professor, theoretical physics, Cambridge University, U.K.

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking speaking at a press conference where “Breakthrough Starshot” space exploration initiative was announced. Hawking recently said mankind is running short of time and in 1000 years they have to find another planet to colonize as life on Earth is turning risky. (Bryan Bedder | Getty Images )

The theory-mesmerizing professor whose mind is capable of leaping the boundaries of unknown science and nature while his earthbound body has been in slow deterioration for most of his life was given the news that he was destined for an early death when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease as a graduate student. His mind-bending theories have been widely regarded as indisputable forecasting from the mind of a genius. Indeed he may be, even while there appears, at times that his pronouncements have more than a whiff of science fiction about them.

Which is not to say that the minds of science fiction writers have not been uniquely fine in imagining a cosmology and human invention, science and nature intersecting with sometimes amazing results, since many of those predictions decades before mechanical science produced working models reflecting the literarily-imagined technological marvels have become reality.

Leonardo da Vinci whose mind reflected that of a polymath genius in science, humanities and art, politics and warfare has never been replicated. The world has never seen his equal, and possibly never will. His was an instance of a mind outdistancing all others and predicting the future far in advance of reality.

Dr. Hawking is not beating a new drum, warning the world that humanity's time on Earth is limited, and similarly forecasting incredible understated 'difficulties' in producing human-intelligence grade computers whose speed in outdistancing human thinking and invention and capabilities will leave humanity in a fix of redundancy for he has been stating for years what to him is the obvious conclusion to our steady, current trajectory into the future.

Do we have just 1000 years left on Earth? Photo / 123rf
Do we have just 1000 years left on Earth? Photo / 123rf

He has given us a thousand years to come up with a remedy to what he recognizes as the inevitable; a destroyed Earth, no longer able to sustain human life which has managed to drain away all the resources that make life sustainable on the planet. That is, if malevolent natural events, or alternately evil designs of humankind itself do not destroy human life and all other animal life on our lonely planet. Dr. Hawking predicts mass extinction. Which is to say, no more life on Earth, the planet succumbing to becoming a vast, empty desolation.

According to Dr. Hawking, humankind must strive without surcease to engineer a way to say farewell to the only planet we have ever known as our home and comfort. The century looming before us, he states, will be a precarious one. However, has it ever been otherwise on this restive planet where human beings view one another with suspicion, jealousy, blame and conflict? NASA, the good doctor points out, has been on a relentless search to discover planets with Earthlike properties that could conceivably offer themselves as a haven to be colonized by humans.

Thus far, over 4,600 "candidate" planets have been recognized, with an additional 2,300 confirmed to be planets, and thus potentials for further investigation as platforms for human habitation should mankind venture toward them at some unknowable time in the future through modes of travel and time management whereby human beings could transfer technology through another dimension to settle far from their original home, to learn to live in a different atmosphere and to tame it and to exploit whatever resources may be found there.

As for artificial intelligence. Stop. Allow inventive scientific curiosity to go so far and no further. Else we are doomed.

Or maybe not.

Stephen Hawking mass extinction warning
WARNING: Stephen Hawking has warned a mass extinction is coming -- Getty

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