People care about what Stephen Hawking thinks because he is supposed to be so smart. People shouldn’t.
I don’t care how much of a genius he is as a theoretical physicist, what Stephen Hawking thinks about human society is simply stupid. Our latest insight into what Stephen Hawking thinks came from a statement he made about world government and technology. The Independent reports,
The world-renowned physicist, who has spoken out about the dangers of artificial intelligence in the past, believes we need to establish a way of identifying threats quickly, before they have a chance to escalate.
“Since civilisation began, aggression has been useful inasmuch as it has definite survival advantages,” he told The Times.
“It is hard-wired into our genes by Darwinian evolution. Now, however, technology has advanced at such a pace that this aggression may destroy us all by nuclear or biological war. We need to control this inherited instinct by our logic and reason.”
He suggests that “some form of world government” could be ideal for the job, but would itself create more problems.
“But that might become a tyranny,” he added. “All this may sound a bit doom-laden but I am an optimist. I think the human race will rise to meet these challenges.”
When I read that Stephen Hawking thinks that a world government “might become a tyranny,” I briefly hoped that his reputed intelligence might manifest himself. But no, he prefers to be “optimistic” about world government.
Similar optimism gave rise to the EU. How is that working out?
Hawking is completely wrong. The ability of defend oneself, one’s family, and one’s property give a person a survival advantage, but an “instinct” to “aggression” has never aided human survival. Human beings survive and thrive when they refuse war and embrace peaceful production and trade. The division of labor and trade or the “law of association” has been the key to human survival and prosperity, not aggression.
In fact, historically, the only thing that ever got us close to world government is massive aggression. Empires were created through conquest.
And when have governments been known for being ruled by “our logic and reason”? Governments get to give orders and crush those who refuse to comply. Whether a government is nominally accountable to voters or not, they are not places that are known for rational discourse. When you don’t need to persuade people to cooperate with you, logic and reason become dispensable. Governments can always hire intellectuals to rationalize their arbitrary decisions.
Hawking should know this. He recently criticized the head of the Labor Party:
Apparently, many Labor supporters don’t think Hawking is that smart.
But if a politician can be “a disaster,” then why place your hope for the planet in an unknown politician or group of politicians?
Stephen Hawking thinks that world government is that answer even though his own experience acknowledges that government leaders can be disastrous. If that’s true in smaller units of government, then why promote that the entire planet be subject to such people?
Ultimately, Hawking sounds like he is mindlessly regurgitating the kind of propaganda found in the Star Trek franchise. It is mindless because he never addresses how to ensure such a hypothetical world government is a benefit to the world. Instead, he invokes optimism.
I’d rather be optimistic about free people. And I’ve got more evidence.