Professor Stephen Hawking believes that our days are numbered as a species and the only thing that can save us from certain extinction is setting up colonies elsewhere in our solar system.
The renowned theoretical physicist even provided humanity with a deadline for finding another planet to colonize: 1,000 years. Hawking said in a lecture at the Oxford Union debating society in the U.K.:
“We must continue to go into space for the future of humanity, I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet.”
Hawking warned that our demise could even come sooner:
“Earth’s cataclysmic end might be hastened by humankind, that will continue to devour the planet’s resources at unsustainable rates.”
Despite the faithful warning, Hawking also implored audience members to live their lives to the fullest while they still can:
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet,” he said. “Try to make sense of what you see, wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. However difficult life may seem, here is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”
The fate of humanity appears to have been weighing heavily on Hawking of late as he has spoken several times recently of what he sees as our doomed fate, with the risk of nuclear war and the threat of global climate change.
Hawking also fears that lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs) could have serious consequences for humanity. In 2015, he added his name to a coalition of more than 20,000 researchers and experts, including Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, and Noam Chomsky, calling for a ban on anyone developing lethal autonomous weapons that can fire on targets without human intervention.
His wide-ranging talk at the Oxford Union was not all doom and gloom. He also touched upon the origins of the universe and Einstein’s theory of relativity, as well as his role in theoretical physics:
“Though the challenges ahead are immense, it is a glorious time to be alive and doing research into theoretical physics.” He added: “Our picture of the universe has changed a great deal in the last 50 years, and I am happy if I have made a small contribution.”
Speaking to audience members during the Q&A session, Hawking said that leaving the planet behind was our best hope for survival:
“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. 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.”