Published by Gregory Benford on December 16th, 2014



Here we assemble several of Stephen Hawking’s many remarks on the long range prospects of humanity. His hallmark in all such comments has been caution. He feels radiating powerful signals to announce our presence is an unnecessary risk, in case aliens might wish us ill. Risk aversion also features in his thoughts on subjects he has thought on a great deal, since his teenage years, when he was a prodigious science fiction fan.


We are entering an increasingly dangerous period of our history. There have been a number of times in the past when survival has been a question of touch and go, like the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963, and the frequency of such occasions is likely to increase in the future. We shall need great care and judgment to negotiate them all successfully.
Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill. But our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were of survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million.
Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain lurking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space.
This is why I favor “personed” space flight and encourage further study into how to make space colonization possible.
But I’m an optimist. If we can avoid disaster for the next two centuries, our species should be safe, as we spread into space. Once we establish independent colonies, our entire future should be safe.


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