Friday, April 30, 2010

Seth responds to Stephen Hawking


Stephen Hawking and Malevolent Aliens

On a recent TV show, famed physicist Stephen Hawking said that we should go easy in our attempts to interact with aliens, because – after all – any contacts would surely be with more advanced beings than ourselves, and if they came to Earth (or sent their robotic emissaries), the results could be bad news.

Hawking’s statement is certainly congruent with what we know of our own history. When the Spaniards landed in the New World, they decimated the local culture. Even when intentions were thoroughly benign, such as when Captain Cook flitted about the islands of the South Pacific in the late 18th century, the result was a dramatic change in lifestyle for the natives.

Clearly, the historic precedent for a visit by another culture is riddled with disaster.

Still, we needn’t fear that any aliens we hear with our SETI experiments will scramble their spacecraft and head for our planet. And that’s because they won’t know we’ve tuned them in. Putting it bluntly, SETI poses neither danger nor cause for worry.

However, suppose we send messages to the stars, either by answering a detected signal, or simply broadcasting inquiries to space? Is there danger in that? Might the aliens – whose mindset we cannot accurately guess – be likely to wreak havoc and destruction on our planet?

That seems a priori fairly unlikely. After all, the receiving civilization would be far more advanced than ours (at least from a technical standpoint), and random destruction hardly sounds like something they would find useful. But no matter what your opinion of the alien mind-set may be, worrying about broadcasting our presence is silly – after all, we’ve been transmitting signals for more than a half-century. Our TV, our radars … even the light from our cities. The truth is out there.

Such “leakage” signals would be hard to find, of course. But any society that could possibly be a threat – any society that could come here on an alien wilding expedition – would have telescopes and antennas far larger than our own. They could find the signals that we’ve been sending willy-nilly into the cosmos since the Second World War. So it hardly pays to worry about them. That horse has left the barn.

So here’s the bottom line, as I see it. The suggestion that we should keep mum … not just now, but forever … is, to put it mildly, unwarranted.

- Seth Shostak

14 comments:

├ůsmund said...

A nice post, Seth! Another perspective: if we theoretically would find a new untouched human civilisation deep in a rainforest today, with our modern 'scientifi' mindset, we would probably behave different than what captain cook did, wouldn't we? Social antropology as a more harmless solution..

Sam Wilgus said...

In response to Stephen Hawking’s view of hostile aliens:

If Humans reached an age of space travel, it would only be completely successful with the full cooperation of the major nations of the world. Vast amounts of resources and research would be needed, so therefore humanity must first attain some level of world peace. If such a culturally diverse species could do that, then there also must be some degree of morality and tolerance of differences. That being said, if Humans DID reach intergalactic space travel and DID encounter other forms of intelligence life of a lower technology level, we would not exploit them as our own history shows, for by then humanity will realize the power of tolerance and understanding. Communication would be the top priority. In fact, I believe that even communication or interaction in general would be based on the alien technology level, so as to avoid cultural contamination.

So, this can too be applied to how aliens could develop as well. Civilizations must make the same cultural-social leaps to reach long range space travel *, so we can partly assume they also they also took the same leaps of morality and tolerance, and would seek communication.

Of course, this is a very narrow minded view of how aliens would operate. Those types of priorities are most likely solely human.

In the matter of needing to conquer other worlds for resources, Steven Hawking’s own math says the number of planets with livable climates is huge; however the number of those planets with intelligent life is much smaller. This leads me to believe that a space faring civilization would encounter numerous more planets for resources than planets with intelligent life; so if it did come upon our planet, most likely it would have already visited many other livable planets and could forsake one planet for the sake of our sentience.

Most likely a sentient race that reaches FTL capabilities would also have the foresight to see how important and rare another sentient race is, and would observe it in depth before taking ANY action.

* The critical point in civilization: when the civilization must unite or destroy itself or stagnate and dissolve to nature over time.

Samwilgus@ymail.com

viagra online said...

just another ridiculous discussion, there's no chance for the human kind to meet with aliens after all.

Angry Kat said...

Stephen Hawkings is a brilliant man and scientist and even if I do not agree with some of his thoughts, I agree with him on the idea of hostile aliens. I mean I see aliens like a bunch of wild rottweilers from the outer space that will come to Earth sooner or later to eat all of us and pee on our feet!

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