Professor Stephen Hawking isn't afraid to state his opinion bluntly and honestly. He has publicly expressed his fears about the future of artificial intelligence (AI), the need for a new Space Age, the serious realities of global warming, how we might reach another Solar System, and that, as a species, humans must leave Earth in order to survive.
Hawking has previously stated that our time on Earth is limited to 100 years, after originally estimating 1,000 years. But, in a new announcement in a video presentation this past Sunday, November 5th at the Tencent Web Summit in Beijing, he gave the human species less than 600 years before we will need to leave Earth, according to the British newspaper The Sun.
Earlier in the year, Hawking said that: “We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds. It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth."
A major concern of Hawking, and others, is that climate change is already causing rapid sea level rise. It is possible that, if this progression isn't diminished by a cut in emissions, a significant percentage of what is currently land will be under water. (This is, of course, in addition to the other life-threatening effects of climate change.) Additionally, as this continues, populations are set to continue increasing, which could have disastrous consequences. Hawking is confident that within the next few hundred years, Earth will no longer be a habitable option for humans.
This hypothetical day when humans will supposedly have to leave Earth has been likened to a "Doomsday." Hawking has asserted multiple timelines for this eventual moment, but he is certain that, at some point, we will have to find a new home.
With ongoing projects by NASA, SpaceX, and both private and government agencies around the globe, it is likely that within the next few decades we will land humans on Mars. And, between proposals to terraform Mars and innovative designs like those from the Mars City Design competitions, it is possible that, if humans must leave earth, the red planet could one day be our alternate home.
In addition to efforts to reach Mars, Hawking helped to launch the Breakthrough Initiatives, a series of projects seeking to probe "the big questions of life in the Universe," including finding and communicating with extraterrestrial life. One of these initiatives is Breakthrough Starshot, which will send nanocraft to Alpha Centauri, our closest star, in an effort to better understand life in the Universe. This technological platform could also allow us to find faster and better ways to travel to other planets. After all, if Hawking is right, the International Space Station (ISS) isn't big enough to house the billions of people who currently reside on planet Earth.