Legendary genius and Nobel-winning physicist Stephen Hawking must be a lot of fun at parties. Look at his view of humanity's future: Our descendants will all die in flames unless robots kill them first.
To be specific, Hawking thinks artificial intelligence is a catastrophe in waiting, but if that doesn't do the job, the planet will still end up a "sizzling ball of fire" within 600 years anyway. Whee!
Hawking made his prediction in a speech given long-distance to an audience in Beijing, reports the Mirror. But don't freak out for your six-times great grandkids' fates yet, Hawking did sound a hopeful note about mankind escaping such a fate:
Professor Hawking said that he hoped that tiny spaceships propelled by beams of light could reach Alpha Centauri within his audience’s lifetime.
Hawking says, “Such a system could reach Mars in less than an hour, or reach Pluto in days, pass Voyager in under a week and reach Alpha Centauri in just over 20 years.”
The cold reaches of space for two decades vs. being consumed by fire? Definitely going with space.
Regarding AI, Hawking has been sounding that ominous note for a while, telling the BBC in 2014 that the "development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race."
Human evolution, Hawking said, "couldn't compete, and would be superseded" by truly intelligent machines.
Never fear, though. After all, we're talking hundreds of years from now, and future generations should have ample warning of what they're up against. We hope.