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Stephen Hawking says alien contact a bad idea

April 26th, 2010
Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking

In a new series on the Discovery Channel, Hawking explains “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans”.

My own thoughts are that it would be extremely hard to predict what intelligent aliens’ intentions might be, therefore it is safest to not have contact with them at all. That means, as Hawking also pointed out, not advertising our presence in the universe. In my opinion, sending out information out into space to meet these hopefully altruistic, nice aliens, as in the Pioneer 10 plaque, is naive and stupid beyond description. How do we know these aliens are going to be nice or even neutral? How do we know they wouldn’t wipe us out on contact? There is no way to know, therefore wisest to assume the worst. In the Army, they have a concept called “radio blackout”, where everyone turns off radio transmissions so that an enemy cannot find your position by triangulation. Could it be that other alien civilizations come to this same conclusion – that they can’t trust anyone else out there, and therefore enforce a permanent, planet-wide radio blackout? That would be one explanation of why we haven’t detected alien radio transmissions.

I also agree with Hawking’s point that just by statistical reasoning, any alien civilization more advanced than us, especially those with the ability of distant space travel, would be advanced to an extreme compared to us – likely by millions of years. I like to be an optimistic person, but resistance/defense would be absolutely hopeless. We would not be able to outsmart or defeat them with any weapons system, tactics or ideas we might have. Jeff Goldblum is not going to save us by uploading a virus. But the fact that we haven’t been destroyed already may mean no alien civilization out there is likely planning on it.

Alien
Do aliens have a
human-like form?

When I say “alien civilization”, the actual surviving lineage from a given planet may be a second or more generation life form or a system of AI-driven robots, that may have killed off or enslaved the original intelligent beings of the planet. In fact, even if the original aliens were still in control, they’d likely send robots on any deep space missions, rather than themselves. Of course we are doing this already, with Mars rovers, etc..

Would they know we are here? I suspect advanced alien civilizations would develop science and computer modeling to the point where they accurately can determine where in the universe life is most likely to develop.

Another point where I would side with Stephen Hawking is that animals on other planets would have surprisingly similar bodily arrangements/features as earth animals. I would go so far as to predict intelligent aliens would have a general human-like form, maybe not too unlike the “grays” type that has evolved in the popular imagination. My reasoning is the principle of convergent evolution – that is, that adaptions to very similar environmental/niche conditions produce similar adaptions.

That being said, life may be possible in other strange realms within the universe – that is, other combinations of conditions where life is possible and even likely. Could some form of life exist inside of stars or black holes? If life did exist in sets of conditions that were nothing like an earth-like planet, these principles of convergent evolution may not apply, and the form, behavior and chemical makeup of these life forms could be radically different.

I’ve noticed most theoretical physicists don’t theorize about evolution and life very well, but I have to say, Stephen Hawking does pretty good!

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