Humans’ time may have run out and artificial intelligence could be about to take our place on Earth, according to James Lovelock.
The leading environmental thinker, who became famous for Gaia theory and is soon to turn 100, said that the Earth was in dire trouble and could soon experience intense climate-related disasters.
But he still believes himself to be an optimist and thinks that new kinds of life, in the form of AI, will be ready to take over from humans.
Mr Lovelock said that he felt the Earth was something like himself: it is very old, but still has some time left. “I’m looking forward to quite a few years to go in this beautiful region and so is the planet, but you can’t bank on it,” he told the Today programme.
But he said that should not be taken to mean we are not in dangerous territory: “Just as I am. I can’t go and do the things I would have done when I was a lot younger.”
He pointed to strange weather patterns like those that contributed to the wildfires sweeping across California at the moment, and the fact that such incidents seem to be happening more often. But the kinds of major disasters that could be the consequence of runaway climate change have not yet arrived, he said.
Still, he said that if such disasters come it might only be a consequence of the fact that humans have “had our time”. Asked whether he meant that our days might be over, he made clear that he meant that humanity’s time could be up.
But we could be replaced by artificially intelligent life that could live on the changed planet for many, many years to come, he said.
“I think we’re on the verge of seeing new forms of life,” he said. “We’ve got all the AI stuff going on. But that’s trivial, it’s simple, but I don’t see it being too long before forms of life, based on the idea of AI and so on, take over and run the planet for heaven knows how long.”