In a collection of essays which will be published posthumously, the late Professor Stephen Hawking made an eerie prediction regarding the future of humanity.
Professor Hawking, who died in March 2018 at the age of 76, suggested there would be a new superhuman race, on account of the wealthy elite editing their own DNA and that of their children; manipulating factors such as memory, resistance to disease, cognitive ability and longevity.
The legendary theoretical physicist believed advances in genetic engineering could lead to a new superhuman species, ultimately resulting in the destruction of the rest of humanity.
In an extract of upcoming essay collection – which has been printed in The Sunday Times – Professor Hawking wrote:
I am sure that during this century people will discover how to modify both intelligence and instincts such as aggression,
Laws will probably be passed against genetic engineering with humans. But some people won’t be able to resist the temptation to improve human characteristics, such as memory, resistance to disease and length of life.
Those who are left unedited – i.e. us regular Joes – would face serious problems should this frightening prediction come to pass, helpless to even consider keeping up with the superhumans.
Speaking with the concern for humanity which endeared him to so many, Professor Hawking continued:
Once such superhumans appear, there will be significant political problems with unimproved humans, who won’t be able to compete,
Presumably, they will die out, or become unimportant. Instead, there will be a race of self-designing beings who are improving at an ever-increasing rate.
Frighteningly, Professor Hawking was drawing from existing techniques which are sparking debate within the scientific community.
DNA-editing system Crispr-Cas9, was invented back in 2012, allowing for the modification of harmful genes or for the addition of new ones. Children at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital who have incurable cases of leukaemia have undergone gene-editing.
However, some scientists believe parents wouldn’t run the risk of modifying genes for fear of side effects.
Today's quote is from Stephen Hawking pic.twitter.com/vXABCPyNOG
— Project Syndicate (@ProSyn) October 12, 2018
According to The Sunday Times, many scientist have welcomed Professor Hawking’s predictions, including professor of climate science at University College London, Chris Rapley.
Professor Rapley said:
Humans have arguably reached a critical moment,
We have moved beyond affecting the planet at the landscape scale to interfering with its very metabolism at the global scale. All the indications are that the limitations of our brains, both individually and collectively, leave us incapable of addressing the challenge. On this basis the future looks desperately gloomy.
Even after his death, Professor Hawking’s writings live on; encouraging each and every one of us to think about the future in a considerate and responsible way.
Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Professor Stephen Hawking will be available to purchase in bookshops from October 16, 2018. The perfect Christmas present for a brainy friend or family member.
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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.