Stephen Hawking
We have tech to destroy world, but nothing to prevent it, warns Stephen Hawking [in picture].Reuters File

Barely a fortnight after predicting that mankind has only about 1,000 years to live on Earth before it has to look for another planet to survive, noted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has written in a op-ed piece in the Guardian that the current era is the "most dangerous time for our planet."

Bound to a wheelchair for decades because of crippling motor-neuron disease, the Cambridge professor has this time spoken not only on scientific issued, but also how political developments like the referendum in favour of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States has affected and will continue to affect people across the world.

Hawking wrote in the Guardian op-ed that the two aforementioned political decisions were "a cry of anger by people who felt they had been abandoned by their leaders." He added: "It was, everyone seems to agree, the moment when the forgotten spoke, finding their voices to reject the advice and guidance of experts and the elite everywhere."

Economic inequality

Hawking went on to detail why the opinion of many, including himself, on the consequences of these votes had been ignored by the masses as well as the political class. He blamed it on economic inequality, and said it would only widen.

"The automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining. This in turn will accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world," Hawking wrote.

"The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive," he added.

'People searching for a new deal'

The above-mentioned circumstances, coupled with other financial crashes are creating a world where, Hawking wrote, "many people can see not just their standard of living, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing." Trump and Brexit offered people "a new deal" that they were searching for under these conditions.

This financial inequality, and people now being able to see this disparity thanks to the Internet, are leading to more divisiveness, which is the exact opposite direction Hawking wants to go, because, he writes, "now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together."

'We have tech to destroy world'

Painting a grim picture, Hawking wrote: "We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it." He also issued a clarion call for world-leaders: "We need to break down, not build up, barriers within and between nations. If we are to stand a chance of doing that, the world's leaders need to acknowledge that they have failed and are failing the many."

However, Hawking ended his piece with a glimmer of hope: "We can do this, I am an enormous optimist for my species; but it will require the elites, from London to Harvard, from Cambridge to Hollywood, to learn the lessons of the past year. To learn above all a measure of humility."