As the world mourns the death of eminent theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, we also remember his deep concern for the future of humanity.
During his years on earth, the 76-year-old cosmologist offered plenty of learned wisdom on the challenges facing us.
His insight and compassion will be a profound loss as we strive to understand the universe and our shared fate within it.
His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it's not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure. Stephen Hawking, RIP 1942-2018. pic.twitter.com/nAanMySqkt
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) March 14, 2018
Many of Hawking’s predictions were genuinely terrifying. Back in 2016, he cautioned attendees at a Lisbon Web Summit technology conference of the need to maintain control over computers.
While acknowledging technology’s role in alleviating poverty and disease, he also stressed the worrying potential for computers to become tools for oppression, violence and economic disruption.
According to CNBC, Hawking gave the following disquieting speech to attendees:
Computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence, and exceed it.
Success in creating effective AI, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don’t know.
So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it.
Stephen Hawking. Your legacy will live on forever ?? pic.twitter.com/2ioSKIOZhM
— Bindi Irwin (@BindiIrwin) March 14, 2018
Although he spoke in 2016 about humans having 1,000 years left on earth, this was cut drastically to 100 only a year later; taking into account threats such as climate change, asteroid strikes, population growth, epidemics and nuclear war.
Fiercely critical of climate change policy, he strongly condemned President Trump’s decision to pull of the Paris Climate Agreement; a move he believed could ‘push the Earth over the brink.’
Watch Hawking discuss the significance of this in this in the following clip:
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In May 2017, Hawking advised attendees at the Royal Society, London about the need for humans to branch out beyond earth within the next century, becoming a ‘multi-planetary species.’
According to Newsweek, the renowned academic warned how this extreme migration would help preserve humans as a species, even if earth was struck by disaster:
I strongly believe we should start seeking alternative planets for possible habitation,
We are running out of space on Earth and we need to break through the technological limitations preventing us from living elsewhere in the universe.
We’re very proud to call Stephen Hawking an alumnus of Oxford, and enormously saddened by his passing. Our thoughts are with his family. He reminded us all to “be curious”, for there is “always something you can do and succeed at”. pic.twitter.com/DUSRbeao3U
— Oxford University (@UniofOxford) March 14, 2018
Hawking continued to theorise about the future of earth until the end of his extraordinary life; pushing us all to think beyond our own lifetimes and personal concerns.
In November 2017, Hawking made further troubling predictions about the end of the world, discussing population growth and electricity consumption.
According to GeekWire, the remarkable genius warned of the consequences of the population doubling every 40 years:
This exponential growth cannot continue into the next millennium,
By the year 2600, the world’s population would be standing shoulder to shoulder, and the electricity consumption would make the Earth glow red-hot.
«I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road»
Thank you for an exemplary life.
inspiring the world. pic.twitter.com/VpNv7LAwXm
— Carles Puigdemont ? (@KRLS) March 14, 2018
It is impossible to think about #StephenHawking without realising that not only did he change our understanding of the universe but he changed our perception of disability. He was most able. #RIPStephenHawking
— Mark Lewis (@MLewisLawyer) March 14, 2018
#StephenHawking's life was a magnificent light that burned for reason and humanity.
— Harry Leslie Smith (@Harryslaststand) March 14, 2018
As we near Pi day (3.14) I join the global community in mourning the loss of the greatest physicist of our era. #StephenHawking is free from the physical constraints of this earthly condition we all exist in and he is soaring above us now marveling at it all. pic.twitter.com/o3V0TZrppj
— Mayim Bialik (@missmayim) March 14, 2018
Hawking died peacefully at his home, surrounded by family, in the early hours of Wednesday March 14.
His children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, made the following announcement this morning:
He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.
He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’
We will miss him forever.
— History in Moments (@historyinmoment) March 14, 2018
If Stephen Hawking doesn’t inspire you to do something with your life I don’t think anything ever will. An amazing testimony to human strength, love, and understanding. Above all, an amazing sense of humour through it all. #StephenHawking #Love #Hope pic.twitter.com/bTM0ijKQwn
— Steven Webb (@themovingroad) March 14, 2018
Our thoughts are with Professor Stephen Hawking’s family and friends at this difficult time.
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.