I actually have a lot of respect for physicists doing physics, but sometimes some of their most prominent practitioners are really good at getting everything else wrong. Like Stephen Hawking, for instance.
“Six years ago, I was warning about pollution and overcrowding, they have gotten worse since then,” he said. “More than 80 percent of inhabitants of urban areas are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution.”
Oh. Six years ago, huh? That’s not very impressive, Mr Prophet, when Rachel Carson was warning everyone about environmental pollutants almost sixty years ago, when the filth and disease of major cities like London have been the subject of concern for centuries, and Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population was published in 1798. But I’m glad you’re finally catching on to what everyone else already knew.
But after citing those real problems, guess what Hawking thinks we ought to be worried about?
Hawking warned about artificial intelligence and the fact there is no way to predict what will happen when machines reach the ability to self-determine.
“Once machines reach the critical stage of being able to evolve themselves, we cannot predict whether their goals will be the same as ours,” he said.
Jebus. We do not have self-aware, conscious robots, and their production is not imminent. We do not have an artificial intelligence. We don’t know how to build an artificial intelligence. Skynet is science fiction. The Matrix is not real (and is actually rather hokey). If I had to make a list of real problems we ought to be worried about, it would start with overpopulation, over-exploitation of resources, environmental destruction, and global climate change. It would include the rise of a new fascism, oppression, poverty, growing disparity in wealth, emerging diseases, and a host of other genuine concerns. The sentient robot uprising wouldn’t even make the top 100; it would be somewhere down in the bottom 100, along with the zombie apocalypse, Kardashians taking over the planet, Nazis emerging from their secret base at the center of the hollow earth, and sharknadoes.
But, I know, Stephen Hawking! It takes a world class physicist to make malarkey about nonexistent problems important to the media, I guess.