Dear Aliens, please ignore Dr. Stephen Hawking. You are very welcome here anytime.

Stephen Hawking, the brilliant physicist who brings so much insight to physics, cosmology, and the study of the universe in general, seems to have been spent a bit too much time watching “Independence Day” or ABC’s new TV show “V”  before filming a recent segment on his new Discover Channel series.

In one of his most widely quoted statements in years Hawking noted (very correctly and obviously) that the math of the universe suggests there is almost certainly other life out there and probably other intelligent life, but then bizarrely adds this:

“Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they could reach,” Hawking said. “If so, it makes sense for them to exploit each new planet for material to build more spaceships so they could move on. Who knows what the limits would be?”

He goes on to speculate that contacting aliens may well be a big mistake as the collision of our culture and theirs could be similar to when Columbus came to the Americas, with an outcome unfavorable to the indiginous populations.


I think I’ll give Hawking the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s been dipping into a legal marijuana prescription for some ailment (or more likely just hyping the alien connection for the show)  but this kind of dumb statement from smart people reminds me of the singularity folks who fret far too much that superintelligences will be malevolent.

There is very little reason to assume this and a lot of reasons to assume the opposite for the reasons I go into below.

Also important is the fact that aliens with the technological capability to visit our lonely little planet at the edge of the galaxy are very likely to have technology so powerful that we’d pose essentially zero threat to them, so friendship is a much better survival strategy than fighting and hoping for the preposterously stupid scenario of  the film  “Indendence Day” where a computer glitch, exploited via an Apple laptop Computer (!) , destroys a massive fleet of massive alien ships.

For example go back to the battle of Trafalgar where the British defeated France in a battle that would cement England’s global hedgemony well into the next century.    Then consider how a *single* WWII aircraft carrier  (representing only a +140 year military technological improvements vs the 1000s of years likely from the Aliens) could have crushed and destroyed both fleets in minutes without sustaining damage or casualties.    Whoever possessed that single ship could likely have dominated the globe for a century.

But.. I digress because I don’t think Aliens are likely to be mean, let alone threaten our existence.    In fact my greatest fear about Aliens is that we’ll be so profoundly uninteresting to them – still in our very early stages of intellectual development – that they will  …. just …. leave.

Why nice Aliens?  First, if we view human intellectual development  from an evolutionary, individual, or societal standpoint we see that progress generally means *better treatment* of others, not worse.     Note for example how the  common practices of child labor and  slavery are out of vogue, not increasing in popularity.     Although slavery is still practiced by dispicable folks it is an aberration, illegal, and generally fought by the powers that be rather than embraced as it was centuries ago.

In terms of evolutionary development I think most of us would rather find ourselves confronted by even the most vicious and uncaring Wall Street CEO than a hungry tiger shark or lion.    Evolution has “softened” our approach to hunting and gathering in ways that are less violent.    Even if the Aliens Hawking fears come with the intention of exploiting our resources, this is likely to happen much more as a peaceful economic transaction than a violent act of piracy.   For example they might trade something of huge value to us like cold fusion propulsion technology for something they can’t synthesize themselves.    However it also seems unlikely that they’d have any need of the resources we hold dear because they will probably be able to synthesize all their needs from basic raw materials available in uninhabited planets and stars in a galaxy nearer them.    Given even a hundred years of nanotechnology progress leads to innovations that are hard for us to imagine, and these Alien dudes are likely to be thousands of years beyond out technology, again making my case that they are likely to simply ignore us as uninteresting simple life rather than threaten us.     We don’t pay much attention to the worms, ants, spiders, and beetles in our yard even though they do have some very interesting capabilities.

….. more later …..

[ Singularity before Aliens / Edge of the galaxy problem / age = wisdom / more logic = less violence]

11 thoughts on “Dear Aliens, please ignore Dr. Stephen Hawking. You are very welcome here anytime.

  1. Joe to aliens out and about we are either food, cheap labor or our planet has the resources they need.

    There is no way you can assume any encounter will be peaceful. I doubt very much they will be a benevolent as you hope. Just the mere fact that they would probably introduce bacteria and/or viruses that could wipe us out should be warning enough.

    As a good Navy Seal friend told me once, just because you are aware of danger doesn’t mean you have to be afraid of it.

    I am all for exploration, alien encounters, planet exploration, colonization, etc…it is our way…we are explorers and always look to conquer new frontiers. We just need to do it with open eyes and an open mind.

  2. Actually, I agree to some extent with the Glennster here (and with Doktor Hawking). Cute aliens–little green men, ET, etc–are a Hollywood invention (following pulp-sci-fi of 50s…and Star trek). It’s unlikely earthlings will encounter any aliens–at least for a few centuries–but there’s no guarantee they will be little green men, or even conscious–they might be viruses, bacteria, or insectoids of some sort. Were they large and humanoid with actual spacecraft, they might be …Klingons! Or worse. Which is to say, if they’re capable of interstellar travel, they’ll probably quickly harvest earth for food and resources, and then liquidate with some monster laser.

  3. Wow, I’m … surprised again … by how few people seem to see how illogical it is to assume aliens will be hostile. There’s a big irony here because that assumption could be what does us in – it’s almost ridiculous to assume we’ll have a viable defense against a culture that could make it to our far flung part of the galaxy and more importantly would choose to come here in the first place.

    Horatiox I certainly agree it’s likely to be 100s of years – if ever – that we get a visit. The main reason is our remote location. If you were surfing the universe for other intelligent life you’d head for denser concentrations of stars and planets.

    But the resource pirate idea seems kooky in my view. Ships coming here will very likely be self contained and sustainbble if they have organic life but I doubt ships would ever come with organics – much more likely visitors would be superintelligent hybrids or pure machines that either work with or *have evolved from* organic folks.

    Virtually nothing to fear, potentially everything to gain.

  4. So Glenn if you were in charge of the first encounter, and you basically didn’t have any info other than “the aliens are coming”, and you thought you could take them all out before they suspected anything….would you?

    • ROFL…no one said take them all out. You have been watching too many movies but the facts are any visitation needs to be quaranteened, etc.

      It’s funny how you assume that a more intelligent race won’t be hostile.

      Think of this way. What if we found a planet with life on it not as advanced as ours but they had precious resources that we need? What would happen?

      Joe the other element of resources isn’t that they would pirate but they would want to inhabit our planet for their own needs, etc.

      But Joe I am not surprised you think it is illogical to assume aliens will be hostile…you still think voting for Obama was a logical choice and no one in Congress is corrupt, etc…

      • Glenn the USA and other powerful countries *do* have the chance to nab resources from “weaker countries” and almost without exception we don’t do it. This is the history I’m talking about, where the more advanced / intelligent we become the *less* likely we are to steal stuff from others. It’s a rational response to look for “win win” vs “win lose” even if one has NO morality anyway.

  5. Joe its interesting you mention intelligence and for some reason you want to link benovolence with intelligence in fact historically the “leaders” that thought they were intellectually superior always took from the “less intelligent” whether it is their land, freedoms, etc…

    So historically your perception is a little flawed. All the biggest tyrants thought they were intellectually superior.

  6. Bad evil people can triumph over good and rule over intelligent populations by force. There is both good and bad in the actions of all living creatures, both intelligent or not so. Intelligence doesn’t always automatically mean good – there are some intelligent super criminals in this world that use their intelligence to hurt others. People that use technology to steal and to hurt other people because it is easier to to steal than to work for something.

  7. Hawkings didn’t propose that we fight Aliens should they visit. He said advertising our presence for the sake of making contact may be unwise. We can listen without attracting attention to ourselves. I think he may be correct. A species that is traveling so far from home needs fuel of some sort to keep moving. If we are vastly inferior in intelligence’s , They may view us with same regard we do cows or chickens.

  8. Earth = The Experiments of Life
    Earth is a location in the Galaxy where life has been brewing for many years. Many of the experiments have been tested evaluated and allowed to expire. Better than 95+ %. Periodically there is a need to refresh, clean, the environment. Humanity is not important and shows very little promise. Might be time again for another Mass extinction. The experimenters know whats going on on Earth.

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