Resilient people usually object when pessimists say things such as: the Earth is going to hell. When I encounter people talking about how the world is bad and becoming worse, I try to show them how they are mistaken. Even if they are right about the trends, we don’t reverse those trends by accepting it as fact. But Stephen Hawking recently made a very logical argument with the conclusion that Earth will soon become a living Hell.
During a video clip aired at a recent Peking conference, Hawking said that humanity would have to deal with massive population growth in the centuries ahead. He noted that the world’s population has been doubling every 40 years.
“This exponential growth cannot continue into the next millennium,” Hawking opined. “By the year 2600, the world’s population would be standing shoulder to shoulder, and the electricity consumption would make the Earth glow red-hot.
His logic is pretty impeccable. If population doubles every 40 years, every inch of the planet will be covered by people in 583 years.
There’s lots of evidence we are going in that direction. Witness the massive cities and pollution of Asia and the destruction of African landscapes in the past 30 years
However, Hawking’s logic is built on the assumption that people won’t work to control population growth. And that war won’t destroy the population. Nuclear bombs or biological weapons could do the job.
Hawking’s new prediction is also contradicted by his 2014 prediction. “I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” Hawking said in a 2014 BBC interview. “Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it will take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate,” “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”
So war could decrease human population and AI systems, having superseded man, could implement procedures to insure human populations decline.
And Hawking’s 40-year doubling rule won’t necessarily hold true for the next five centuries. Middle-of-the-road projections suggest that population growth will level off sometime after 2100, well before we’re standing shoulder to shoulder.
Even if he’s wrong, Hawking’s video of the earth becoming a living hell could wake some people up. Maybe a modern day Jeremiah is just what the world needs.
Though we dislike doomsayers, the facts are that human population is growing too fast, destroying natural systems right and left and using way too much energy. If you are sticking your head in the sand and denying these facts, you are part of the problem.