CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

HolidayBuyer's Guide
Culture

Stephen Hawking: We're not getting any less greedy or stupid

Technically Incorrect: Speaking with Larry King, the renowned physicist despairs about the state of humanity and suggests rogue AI will be hard to stop.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


He's not hopeful for the world.

Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA/Corbis

Look around the world and what do you see?

Progress? Compassion?

Or, like Stephen Hawking, do you see little hope for us all.

On Monday, the famed physicist caught up with famed softball interviewer Larry King. They'd last talked six years ago, so has anything improved?

"We have certainly not become less greedy or less stupid," Hawking mused.

He expanded on this sad but painfully true thought: "Six years ago, I was warning about pollution and overcrowding, they have gotten worse since then."

The population has grown by half a billion, he said. Air pollution has increased too.

"More than 80 percent of inhabitants of urban areas are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution," he said. Global warming, he insisted, is the worst threat to us all.

And then there's artificial intelligence. Hawking's not optimistic about that either.

"Governments seem to be engaged in an AI arms race," he told King. "Designing planes and weapons with intelligent technologies. The funding for projects directly beneficial to the human race, such as improved medical screening seems a somewhat lower priority."

Worse, he said: "Once machines reach the critical stage of being able to evolve themselves, we cannot predict whether their goals will be the same as ours."

Of the singularity, or the time when human and robot become the same thing, Hawking believes the projections are far too simplistic and cheery.

"Exponential growth will not continue to accelerate," he said. He believes something unknown will interrupt the pace of the robot-enthusiasts such as Google director of engineering Ray Kurzweil.

Some -- and I'm not specifically referring to the upper echelons of any political party -- might hope that something unknown would interrupt humanity's crazy impulses within, say, the next week or two.