On 14 March 2019, the world lost one of its greatest scientists. Stephen Hawking breathed his last breath at the age of 76. The theoretical physicist, author and cosmologist was one of the leading minds in science and this despite being stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s diseas.
Respected one of the best scientists in the world, that still didn’t prevent Stephen Hawking from making a commotion, especially when he made certain statements and opinions that would cause heated discussion
It is as they say when the smartest people on earth issue a statement, the whole world will listen. And although some of the statements he made might sound strange and unreasonable, they still are something that should be thought upon.
So here are five opinions of the late Stephen Hawking made that were pretty controversial
1. If there were aliens and we were to meet them, they would likely destroy us
During the program Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking, he said that people should focus on themselves instead of trying to find something that does not need to be found. He imagines that if aliens did actually exist and lived in big spaceships, they were likely to be like nomads and maybe hostile. After all, they’d be far from home, wandering, seeking and conquering the planets they meet.
He once reiterated his thoughts on the matter in Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places by giving an analogy of humans being native Americans.
“Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well.”
2. Mankind should and must explore other planets or not, they will eventually become extinct
In Stephen Hawking: Expedition New Earth, the scientist said that humankind would need to look to new worlds as the Earth is becoming increasingly precarious. He said that if we waited too long, there is an increasing chance of a disaster like an asteroid collision or nuclear war might occur to wipe out humanity.
“Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next thousand or ten thousand years,” he said.
Add to the increasing population growth on the planet and reduction in resources, it is imperative that humankind explore other planets to live in. Also by expanding beyond Earth, it lives less chances of the human race to go extinct should a disaster happen on the planet.
“By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race,” he said. “However, we will not establish self-sustaining colonies in space for at least the next hundred years, so we have to be very careful in this period.”
Similar to the Interstellar plot don’t you think?
3. Time-travel is possible, but….
Stephen Hawking believed that time travel was possible, but it came with a lot of drawbacks. In an interview with Larry King in 2010, the award-winning physicist said that it could be possible to time travel by rocket ship if you base it of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. There is a catch though. The force of the warping that occurs during time-travel will destroy the aircraft you are traveling in (unless of course we can build materials to stand that force). So imagine if the damage done to metal is exerted onto your body? You might just turn up in the timestream smashed into a pulp.
4. Humanity must be improved through genetic engineering so that AI (Artificial Intelligence) does not take over the world
Even before the AI revolution we’re seeing now, Stephen Hawking already foresaw the dangers of the technology. Back in 2001, he said that if we wanted to keep humankind as the dominant species we would need to genetically engineer ourselves to keep up with the advance of technology. It would take humans at least 18 years to know the effects of changes that occur in their genes and in contrast, an AI or computer only needs 18 months.
He also advocated cyber-tech where human brains were linked to computers.
‘We must develop as quickly as possible technologies that make possible a direct connection between brain and computer so that artificial brains contribute to human intelligence rather than opposing it.’
5. Computer viruses should be regarded as a form of life
For some, it may seem kind of silly but this is Stephen Hawking we’re talking about. According to him, computer viruses are supposedly considered to be living beings as well. This is because he said that computer viruses actually fit the definition of living systems. This is despite not having and biological metabolism of their own.
A computer virus exploits the metabolism of the host computer it infects and becomes a parasite. This parasitic existence is a key characteristic of biological viruses, as is the ability to replicate only inside the cells of a living host. This is why Stephen Hawking has stated why he believes they are a form of life.
“I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We’ve created life in our own image.”
These controversial statements and the reasoning behind them are the reason Stephen Hawking has been seen to be more than just an average scientist. With his death, we mourn the loss of a great mind. Rest in peace Stephen Hawking