The lecture will discuss themes from Martin Rees’s recent book On the Future: Prospects for Humanity. Advances in biotech, cybertech, robotics and space—if applied wisely—could allow a bright future—even for 10 billion people—by the end of the century. But there are dystopian risks. These are of two kinds: those stemming from our ever-heavier collective ‘footprint’ on the Earth, and those enabled by technologies so powerful that even small groups, by error or design, can create a catastrophe that cascades globally. If humans venture to other planets (rather than sending robotic explorers), they will be ill-adapted to their new habitats; they will use genetic and cyborg technology (which one hopes will be heavily regulated on Earth) to adapt—and transform into new ‘post-human’ species. But there will be no “Planet B” for ordinary risk-averse people.
Chair: Hanoch Gutfreund, Jerusalem
Martin Rees is the UK’s Astronomer Royal. He is based in Cambridge, where he has been Director of the Institute of Astronomy, and Master of Trinity College. He was President of the Royal Society during 2005-2010. He is a ‘cross-bench’ member of UK’s House of Lords. He has received many international awards for his research, and belongs to numerous foreign academies including the US National Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy, the Japan Academy and the Pontifical Academy. He has served on many bodies connected with education, space research, and international collaboration in science. He is the co-founder of a Centre in Cambridge with a focus on extreme technological risks and threats to humanity’s future. He lectures, writes and broadcasts widely for general audiences. His books include "Before the Beginning", "Our Final Century?", "Just Six Numbers", "Our Cosmic Habitat", "Gravity’s Fatal Attraction", and (most recently) "On the Future: Prospects for Humanity".