• Professor Hawking: Pollution and 'Stupidity' Are Biggest Threats to Humanity

Air Clean Up

Professor Hawking: Pollution and 'Stupidity' Are Biggest Threats to Humanity

Jul 25 2016

Professor Stephen Hawking has reiterated his belief that pollution and “stupidity” remain the biggest dangers to the continued existence of the human race.

Speaking in Tenerife at the annual Starmus conference aimed at disseminating scientific ideas, Hawking unleashed a scathing attack on ignorance and unwillingness to tackle the major challenges which face the global population today.

“We Certainly Have not Become Less Greedy or Less Stupid”

Hawking highlighted the huge problems faced by everyday people all over the world and lamented our collective inability to act and tackle the issue head-on.

“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,” he told the audience.

“At this rate, it will be 11 billion by 2100. Air pollution has increased by 8% over the past five years. More than 80% of inhabitants of urban areas are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution. 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?”

The air pollution to which Hawking refers is especially troublesome and prevalent in industrialised cities in developing nations, such as the megacity of New Delhi in India, for example. The Indian capital endures alarming levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and the country as a whole is home to 22 of the 50 dirtiest cities in the world.

Investment being diverted to less worthy areas of research

Hawking went on to criticise the amount of public spending which goes into areas of research such as the military and artificial intelligence used in warfare. Not only did he cast aspersions on the sensibility of pursuing such avenues long term (lest the robots evolve beyond our realm of control), he also suggested that improving air quality and reducing transport-related pollution, among others, were far more pressing issues which demanded investment and attention.

“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,” he explained. “I don’t think that advances in artificial technology will necessarily be benign. Once machines reach the critical stage of being able to evolve themselves, we cannot predict whether their goals will be the same as ours.”

While not all pollution is manmade, we as a species are having a significantly damaging effect on the atmosphere of our planet and we have a duty to reassess our habits and try to curb our destructive ways of life. This includes transitioning to cleaner forms of energy production and consumption, recycling and reusing materials as much as possible and generally taking care of the Earth.

Professor Hawking was at the conference to promote his radical new technology which aims to explore the extent of our universe with the aid of radiation patterning.   



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