Even though scientists have considered the possibility of humans being able to live on another planet, most of our space exploration to this point has been to satisfy our immense curiosity. Is it possible, however, that the survival of our species will rely on us finding a home outside of Earth? World renowned, and greatly respected, scientist Stephen Hawking expressed this exact concern in 2016. He publicly stated that humanity will be unable to continue living on this ‘fragile’ planet for more than another 1000 years.
Hawking, who made this announcement at the Oxford Union, said that his conclusion was based on several contributing factors. These include: overpopulation, a growing resistance to antibiotics which will possibly cause worldwide pandemics, habitat destruction and what seems to be our most unnecessary human compulsion – war. Nuclear and autonomous weapons are sources of widespread, uncontrollable destruction, and even the creators of many new weapons are unaware of the full extent of the damage that their designs may have on the Earth.
As an intelligent species we have also taken steps towards creating artificial lifeforms, in our own image. The consequence of this to humanity has been predicted in many science fiction films and books, and is now becoming a high possibility. This is the fact that our artificial intelligence is so advanced that they may turn on the humans that created them. If this ever happened, due to their combined intellect, strength and longevity, robots would be a force that humans would be unable to control after letting loose on the earth.
The reasons that the scientist based his beliefs on are not just those controlled by humanity, but also a factor outside of our planet. This would be a possible result of actually making contact with extra-terrestrial beings. We have no idea whether they will be friend or foe, and how destructive they might be to our species and planet once we have approached them. Hawking’s scientific opinion is that they will be either the best thing, or the worst that has ever happened to us. Many other scientists also share the view that any alien species that is able to communicate with us may either surpass us in intellect, and therefore only be interested in us for experimental purposes, or may be violent and determined to attack Earth rather than befriend those on it.
Based on his certainty that our planet will soon be inhabitable, Hawking has taken steps towards finding humanity a future possible home. He advised us to ‘remember to look up at the stars, and not down at your feet,’ and is one of the major investors in the Breakthrough Starshot program currently exploring our nearest star system. Stephen also urged us to continue to enjoy our life on Earth as ‘a great time to be alive.’ However, there are many that disagree with his thoughts about the future of mankind on the planet, but only time will tell.