THE aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.
He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.” He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
Implicitly, Hawking is arguing programs like SETI, now celebrating its 50th year of operation, are putting us at risk of invasion.
I was floored. And I was even more shocked when I realized that this opinion was a common one among my scientific peers. With all due respect, I completely disagree. If an alien’s ship managed to come all the way from another star system to within range of Earth, we would already know an incredible amount about them. What follows is what I would say to them. (And you should feel free to opine in the comments.)We know that, like us, you grew to prominence on your planet, evolving over hundreds of millions of years to become the most successful species on your world. We know — like us — you gained mastery over your environment, learning to utilize resources and tools to construct a myriad of things that would have never existed without your intervention.
And, unlike us, you have managed to build a ship to sustain you during an interstellar voyage, far away from any natural power sources (like stars). This is a fantastic achievement, and we are a long way off from anything approaching this! Your technology is far, far advanced from ours. It’s very likely that your astronomy skills — particularly for finding planets you’re interested in coming to for their natural resources — are superb, and vastly superior to our own.
Then, of course, there’s the possibility either Lovecraft or Stanislaw Lem was right, and aliens will really be alien. It might be the case any extraterrestrials we encounter are so divergent from our own composition and motivations that we and our planet will simply have nothing to offer them. To assume our planet is worth the trouble of every thinking thing in the universe to conquer is to reaffirm geocentrism under a different guise.
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