Greedy, stupid people continue to destroy the world, says Stephen Hawking

[British physicist, Professor Stephen Hawking / CP]

When Larry King first interviewed renowned physicist Stephen Hawking about the state of humankind, his outlook was bleak: “Mankind is in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity.”

That was six years ago. And it turns out his sentiment hasn’t changed. At all.

King reconnected with Hawking recently and asked if anything has shifted since the last time they spoke.

“Six years ago, I was warning about pollution and overcrowding, they have gotten worse since then,” he replied. “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.”

Hawking says the issue of pollution hasn’t been addressed and wonders if it’s too late to avoid dangerous levels of global warming.

The doom and gloom doesn’t end there. Another worry that plagues Hawking is the advance of artificial intelligence. He says governments are engaged in an AI arms race, putting funding into weapons with intelligent technology, rather than project that could directly benefit the human race, like improved medical screening.

“Artificial intelligence has the potential to evolve faster than the human race. Beneficially AI could co-exist with humans,” he says. “Once machines reach the critical stage of being able to evolve themselves, we cannot predict whether their goals will be the same as ours.”

Despite his disheartening predictions, Hawking isn’t ready to call it a day just yet. When he was asked what keeps him going, he replied: “There are questions I want to answer.”

Hawking is attending the Starmus Festival in the Canary Islands, where the festivities this year focus on his accomplishments and research.

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