People, ever more greedy and stupid, destroy the world - Stephen Hawking to Larry King
King last spoke to Hawking six years ago, when Hawking said: “Mankind is in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity.” On Monday, King checked in with him to see what has changed in the past six years.
“We have certainly not become less greedy or less stupid,” Hawking replied.
Hawking gave a quick recap of what the world looks like in 2016, saying: “Six years ago, I was warning about pollution and overcrowding, they have gotten worse since then.”
“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,” he said.
Despite the grim outlook for our civilization, Hawking said pollution, what he felt was the biggest problem facing humanity, had still not been addressed.
“The increase in air pollution and the emission of increasing levels of carbon dioxide. Will we be too late to avoid dangerous levels of global warming?” he said.
But that isn’t the only thing Hawking is concerned about. When asked about the dangers of artificial intelligence, Hawking explained that increases in technology may be coming at a steep cost, saying: “Governments seem to be engaged in an AI arms race, designing planes and weapons with intelligent technologies. The funding for projects directly beneficial to the human race, such as improved medical screening seems a somewhat lower priority.”
That does not mean that artificial intelligence may not come without a cost.
“Artificial intelligence has the potential to evolve faster than the human race. Beneficially AI could co-exist with humans,” but there must be a line drawn, Hawking said. “Once machines reach the critical stage of being able to evolve themselves, we cannot predict whether their goals will be the same as ours.”
Hawking is at the Starmus Festival in the Canary Islands where, this year, the festival is dedicated to the lifelong researcher. Hawking has been a large presence in science and mathematics, and his reputation precedes him. One of the many unique things about Hawking is how well he has beaten the odds. Having lived with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Hawking has become gradually paralyzed over the decades. The majority of ALS patients die of respiratory failure within three to five years from the onset of symptoms. However, Hawking has made it to 50 years and counting.
When asked what keeps him going, Hawking replied: "There are questions I want to answer.”