Stephen Hawking had a lot of time to think. Trapped in his steadily failing body, he let his mind roam the expanse of the universe – and the future of humanity itself. His final thoughts are about to be published. And they contain an ominous warning.
Civilisation as we know it is on the brink of being overrun by super-rich super-humans.
We have the technology.
It just didn’t arrive in time to save the 76-year-old theoretical physicist himself.
He died in March.
But the looming potential for humans to re-engineer themselves occupied much of Hawking’s thoughts in his last days. He put them down amid a collection of articles addressing what he called “the big questions” facing our future.
They will be posthumously published later this week in Brief Answers to the Big Questions.
“I am sure that during this century people will discover how to modify both intelligence and instincts such as aggression,” he writes.
And that poses a problem.
The technology is bounding ahead.
The DNA editing system CRISPR was only invented in 2012.
It allows defective strands of DNA to be cut out and replaced. It also allows DNA modules which control characteristics, such as those involving our eyes, to be replaced with enhanced versions.
It already has Australia’s defence force thinking of ways to enhance the concentration, awareness, strength, endurance and health of its soldiers.
And the race towards providing immortality – at a price – is gathering pace.
Human nature, Hawking says, makes it inevitable those seeking an ‘edge’ for themselves, or their children, will abuse this technology.
And those best placed to do this will have lots of money.
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