20/01/2016 6:10 AM AEDT | Updated 20/01/2016 6:16 AM AEDT

Hawking Warns We're Facing A Disaster In Next Thousand Or Ten Thousand Years

But it doesn't have to be the end of humankind.

The progress of science and technology is creating "new ways things can go wrong" for humanity, according to British theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking.

The University of Cambridge professor points to nuclear war, global warming and genetically-engineered viruses as increasingly significant threats humankind will face in the future.

"Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next thousand or ten thousand years," he told the BBC.

Fortunately, the future doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. 

"By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race," he said.

Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images
Famous scientist Stephen Hawking warns that science and technology will create new threats against humanity.

Hawking says that we will not establish colonies away from Earth for at least the next 100 years, making this period especially critical, according to The Guardian.

"We are not going to stop making progress, or reverse it, so we have to recognize the dangers and control them," Hawking added. "I'm an optimist, and I believe we can."

Hawking made his comments in advance of this year's Reith Lectures at the BBC, which he will deliver on Jan. 26 and Feb. 2. Those talks will focus on black holes.

Last February, Hawking cautioned against the threat of aggression, stating that: “It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, to get more food, territory or a partner with whom to reproduce, but now it threatens to destroy us all.” Hawking is also one of 1,000 individuals to recently sign an open letter warning against the danger of building autonomous weapons.

Also on HuffPost:

Photo gallery Stephen Hawkings Most Provocative Quotes See Gallery