新概念雙語:霍金的哪些預言實現了?
來源: 環球網校 2020-06-30 08:07:00 頻道: 新概念

霍金在物理學界最享有盛名的成就,是他關于宇宙形成的幾大假說。然而他對未來也曾有過不少預測。

Stephen Hawking, the titan of cosmology who passed away Wednesday at the age of 76, made his name hypothesizing about the past—all of it. However, he also had plenty to say about the future.

史蒂芬.霍金于3月14日故世了,人類痛失了一位宇宙學巨擎。霍金在物理學界最享有盛名的成就,是他關于宇宙形成的幾大假說。然而他對未來也曾有過不少預測。

His was not generally a very sunny outlook, but, in honor of his passing, it’s only right to revisit what he saw on our collective horizon.

霍金對人類的未來總體上并不樂觀,為了紀念他的去世,我們現在就來回顧一下他對人類將何去何從的幾大預言。

Doomsday

霍金的末日說

Let’s start with the big one, then: Hawking had in recent years been convinced that humanity needs to get into space with a fair amount of urgency, because “spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves.”

首先是“末日”這個宏大的話題。近些年,霍金深信人類迫切地需要進入太空,因為“向太空擴張或許是人類自我拯救的唯一途徑”。

In late 2016, Hawking reckoned humanity has about 1,000 years left on Earth. Half a year later, he cut that to 100 years, because of climate change, “overdue” asteroid strikes, excessive population growth, and the threat of epidemics. Oh, and nuclear or biological war.

2016年末,霍金曾說,人類大概只剩下一千年左右離開地球的“窗口期”。但是不到半年,霍金就改口稱,這個窗口期離現在只有不到一百年了。在他看來,氣候變化、“遲早會來”的小行星撞擊、人口過量增長、流行病的威脅、核大戰和生物戰爭等都是有可能導致人類滅絕的重大危機。

What changed over those months to so drastically shorten humanity’s Earthbound future? Well, Donald Trump got elected as U.S. president, for one thing.

這幾個月里到底發生了什么事,讓霍金認為人類在地球上可生存的時間大大縮短了?當然,特朗普當選美國總統可能也是令他感到悲觀一個重要因素。

“We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. Trump’s action [pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement] could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid,” Hawking said.

霍金曾表示:“我們已經接近了全球變暖變得不可逆的臨界點。特朗普的做法(退出《巴黎協定》)會將地球推向深淵,變得像金星一樣,成為一個氣溫高達250度、天上下硫酸雨的星球。”

Artificial intelligence

霍金談人工智能

Along with the likes of Elon Musk, Hawking was one of the most prominent voices warning of the dangers of so-called general artificial intelligence—AI that isn’t just designed for a narrow task, but that can improve itself to a point where a new superintelligence leaves humanity in the dust, and robots ultimately replace us.

和伊隆.馬斯克等人一樣,霍金對所謂“通用人工智能”的威脅也是憂心忡忡。“通用人工智能”并非指現在常見的那種僅針對一個或幾個任務而設計的AI程序,而是指可以自我進化、自我完善的人工智能程序,等到它發展一定程度,人類最終會被它趕盡殺絕,由機器人徹底取代我們。

Hawking’s views on AI weren’t entirely gloomy, though. He also noted that the technology could help us get rid of disease and poverty, and reverse climate change damage (something that he otherwise predicted would turn Earth into a “ball of fire”within six centuries).

霍金對人工智能的看法也并非完全是負面的。他指出,人工智能技術也有可能幫助我們擺脫疾病和貧困,甚至在一定程度上逆轉氣候變化的損害(當然他在其他場合還說過,氣候變化可能使地球在600年內變成一個“大火球”)。

“Success in creating effective AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don’t know,” he said late last year.

“人工智能的發明可能是人類文明史上最重大的事件,也有可能是人類文明史上最可怕的事件,不過我們現在還不知道。”他去年曾這樣說。

(This is an apt moment to note that a phrase often attributed to Hawking—”The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”—probably wasn’t his.)

(需要注意的是,有一句流傳甚廣的話據傳是霍金所說——“知識的最大敵人不是無知,而是擁有知識的錯覺。”霍金很可能從沒說過這句話。)

Where to go?

人類何去何從?

Alright, so we need to flee death-rain and killer robots. Where is Hawking’s “Planet B”?

好吧,這樣看來,為了躲避死亡酸雨和“終結者”機器人,我們只有宇宙逃亡這一條路了。那么哪里才是霍金眼中理想的“第二地球”呢?

For the last decade, Hawking had been calling for colonies on the Moon and on Mars. But those are just staging posts—the physicist had his eye on the closest star system to ours, Alpha Centauri.

過去十年,霍金一直呼吁在月球和火星建立殖民地。不過這兩個地方只是人類進入太空的跳板和補給站。霍大爺已經把我們的目的地欽定了,那就是離我們最近的恒星系——半人馬座阿爾法星(沒錯,我們就是要在三體人打過來之前,先搶了他們的老窩)。

A couple years ago, Hawking joined a team of scientists and investor Yuri Milner to design computer chips that could fly through space, aided by a super-thin sail. The Breakthrough Starshot program aims to send these “interstellar sailboats” out as probes, in order to return imagery from Alpha Centauri that might give us clues as to likely locations for colonization.

兩年前,霍金與投資人尤里.米爾納以及一支科學家團隊合作,打算設計一種能承受太空飛行的計算機芯片,在太陽帆的輔助下向三體星系發射。這個叫做“突破攝星”的項目簡直是“階梯計劃”的完美復原,目的是將這些探測器發往三體星系,就近拍攝該星系的圖像傳回地球,以便于人類評估該星系是否適合人類殖民。

Yes, Alpha Centauri is very, very far away, but the idea here is to propel these nanocraft using a 10 gigawatt light beam trained on their sails. Travelling at a fifth of the speed of light, the probes might be able to make the two-way trip within a few decades, the scientists hope.

當然,半人馬座阿爾法星雖然是離地球最近的恒星系,但畢竟路程還是太遙遠了。“突破攝星”計劃的原理是希望利用100億瓦的高能激光束,將這些納米飛船加速到光速的五分之一。科學家認為,以這樣的速度航行,納米飛船或許能在我們的有生之年打個來回,使我們一窺三體星系的真實圖景。

Hawking will never get to see that plan come to fruition. But who knows? Perhaps we will.

霍金或許永遠看不見“突破攝星”計劃的成果了。但是或許我們能看到那一天。(又或許老爺子的腦細胞會隨著“階梯計劃”一起上路,在漫長歲月的某一天,像云天明一樣,從三體星系給瀕臨絕境的人類文明指點一線生機。誰知道呢?)

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