Stephen Hawking was not just an outstanding theoretical physician; he did also care deeply for humankind politically. He tried to connect his effort to scientifically explore the universe with the attempt to advocate political enlightenment and create a save future for humankind.
- Concern for the future of humankind
Stephen Hawking was deeply concerned for the future of humankind. He once famously asked: “In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years? (…) I don’t know the answer. That is why I asked the question, to get people to think about it, and to be aware of the dangers we now face.”
Some criticized Hawking for being an “alarmist”, and you can argue that his views on Extraterrestrial Civilizations (“Aliens”) as well as Artificial Superintelligence have such a connotation. However I think that this is much more valuable than the laissez-faire, laissez-passer mentality of many corporate “futurists”. A bright future for humankind doesn’t fall into our lap (or the lap of the next generations) automatically, there are several different options, changing in probability every second, and most of them have problematic aspects.
- Action against climate change
President Trumps move to withdraw from the Paris agreement was strongly criticized by Stephen Hawking. He urged humankind to take action, because: “Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it’s one we can prevent”. He also famously proposed to climate change-deniers to pay a trip to Venus which has an average surface temperature of 462 degrees Celsius and which is thought to be much cooler in the past probably habituating life.
- Opposing imperialist war
Stephen Hawking was an outspoken opponent of the invasion of Iraq by the US and its allies. In 2004 he spoke in a rally in London against the war: “The war was based on two lies, the first was we were in danger of weapons of mass destruction and the second was that Iraq was somehow to blame for Sept. 11. (…) It has been a tragedy for all the families that have lost members. As many as 100,000 people have died, half of them women and children. If that is not a war crime, what is?”
Hawking also participated in the academic boycott of Israel, because of its occupation of Palestinian land and the violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people. He advocated for nuclear-disarmament because he considered a nuclear war an existential threat for humankind.
- Space colonization
Hawking was in favor of space colonization. In a famous statement he urged humankind to colonize another planet saying: “Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves”. Hawking feared that humankind on Earth could be wiped out by different threats (Nuclear war, climate change, an epidemic virus, an asteroid, etc.) and only self-sustainable human colonies outside our home planet could increase our chances of long-time survival as a species.
- Opposing wealth-inequality
According to Hawking human greed and stupidity are still the greatest threats to our species. He warned that automation could further increase in inequalities: “If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed (…) Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality”. This is one of the central problems where he sadly did not come up with a solution. However, it is decisive that we solve it, if we don’t want that humankind’s potential will be wasted. Here is our take on automation.
Future Magazine is deeply grateful to Steven Hawking for his great contributions in science but also his courageous political views. With him humankind has lost on of its biggest minds. We try to develop new ideas and especially new political ideas for humankind in this decisive century. Stephen Hawking made great contributions to these new ideas.