Hawking in Posthumous Book Says Superhumans Will Take Over

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The essays, published in the Sunday Times, were written in preparation for a book that will be published on Tuesday.

One of Stephen Hawking's last predictions before his death was that gene editing of future generations could lead to a new race of superhumans which could destroy the rest of humanity.

"We have now mapped DNA, which means we have read "the book of life", so we can start writing in corrections". Hawking says the first stages of this development will be beneficial, with fixes to diseases such as muscular dystrophy through technology such as CRISPR. "There is no time to wait for Darwinian evolution to make us more intelligent and better natured".

Referring to techniques such as DNA-editing system Crispr-Cas9, which allows scientists to edit defective genes, the author of the internationally bestselling A Brief History of Time said superhumans would pose problems for "unimproved humans" who will not be able to "compete".

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Hawking's suggestion has proven controversial among the science community.

"I am sure that during this century, people will discover how to modify both intelligence and instincts such as aggression", he wrote.

"Laws will probably be passed against engineering with humans". But some people won't be able to resist the temptation to improve human characteristics, such as memory, resistance to disease and length of life'.

The elites who receive this kind of genetic augmentation - which Hawking dubs "superhumans" - may emerge onto a collision course with natural humans, the professor suggests, and the contest could be one that comes to define the very future custodianship of the planet. "Presumably, they will die out, or become unimportant", Hawking pointed out. Instead there will be a race of self-designing beings who are improving at an ever-increasing rate'.

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