Stephen Hawking says 'superhumans' could threaten the future of humanity

In his last book, the late scientist Stephen Hawking warned of the dangers of genetic engineering. According to him, this field of research could threaten the future of humanity.

In his final book, the renowned scientist Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant minds of his generation, warned of the dangers of CRISPR and genetic engineering for human evolution.

Shaping the future through gene editing

In his latest - posthumous - book Brief Answers to Big Questions, Stephen Hawking offers his predictions on the future of humanity, the laws of the universe, and everything else. Is time travel possible? Should we colonise space? Does God exist? Or how do we shape the future?

Amongst these thoughts, Hawking warns of the dangers of genetic engineering:

We are now entering a new phase that we could call human-driven evolution, in which we will be able to modify and improve our DNA.
We now have the blueprints of the DNA, which means that we have read the 'book of life' and can now make our corrections.

According to Hawking, the first steps in this new phase ‘will be limited to repairing genetic defects.’ More comprehensive and complex modifications, such as optimising our intelligence or physics, will take more time and energy before they can be implemented. However, we are not immune to the adverse effects of such possibilities.

Towards a division of humanity

Hawking fears that as this technology evolves and permeates society, it will become a source of division between human beings.

Laws will probably be passed to ban genetic engineering in humans. But some people will be unable to resist the temptation to improve human characteristics such as memory size, disease resistance, or longevity.

The elites who benefit from this eugenics - described by Hawking as ‘superhumans’ - could directly oppose the rest of humanity in a quest for supremacy that would dictate the future management of the planet.

He explains:

Once superhumans emerge, significant political problems will emerge with unenhanced humans, who will be unable to compete.

According to Hawking, if they are not destined to disappear, they will probably no longer be considered worthy of interest and will find themselves at the back of humanity which is modifying its own characteristics at an ever-increasing rate.

While these predictions may seem, alarmist, they are not new to researchers working on gene-editing technologies like CRISPR. At a time when the future of the planet and the future of humans is at stake, it would be better to look at what unites us.

This article was translated from Gentside FR.

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