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Why Stephen Hawking—and everyone else—is wrong about alien threats
George Dvorsky   May 2, 2010   Sentient Developments  

Stephen Hawking is arguing that humanity may be putting itself in mortal peril by actively trying to contact aliens (an approach that is referred to as Active SETI). I’ve got five reasons why he is wrong.

Hawking has said that, “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.”

He’s basically arguing that extraterrestrial intelligences (ETIs), once alerted to our presence, may swoop in and indiscriminately take what they need from us—and possibly destroy us in the process; David Brin paraphrased Hawking’s argument by saying, “All living creatures inherently use resources to the limits of their ability, inventing new aims, desires and ambitions to suit their next level of power. If they wanted to use our solar system, for some super project, our complaints would be like an ant colony protesting the laying of a parking lot.”

It’s best to keep quiet, goes the thinking, lest we attract any undesirable alien elements.

A number of others have since chimed in and offered their two cents, writers like Robin Hanson, Julian Savulescu, and Paul Davies, along with Brin and many more. But what amazes me is that everyone is getting it wrong.
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Here’s the deal, people:


1. If aliens wanted to find us, they would have done so already

First, the Fermi Paradox reminds us that the Galaxy could have been colonized many times over by now. We’re late for the show.

Second, let’s stop for a moment and think about the nature of a civilization that has the capacity for interstellar travel. We’re talking about a civ that has (1) survived a technological Singularity event, (2) is in the possession of molecular-assembling nanotechnology and radically advanced artificial intelligence, and (3) has made the transition from biological to digital substrate (space-faring civs will not be biological—and spare me your antiquated Ring World scenarios).

Now that I’ve painted this picture for you, and under the assumption that ETIs are proactively searching for potentially dangerous or exploitable civilizations, what could possibly prevent them from finding us? Assuming this is important to them, their communications and telescopic technologies would likely be off the scale. Bracewell probes would likely pepper the Galaxy. And Hubble bubble limitations aside, they could use various spectroscopic and other techniques to identify not just life bearing planets, but civilization bearing planets (i.e. looking for specific post-industrial chemical compounds in the atmosphere, such as elevated levels of carbon dioxide).

Moreover, whether we like it or not, we have been ‘shouting out to the cosmos’ for quite some time now. Ever since the first radio signal beamed its way out into space we have made our presence known to anyone caring to listen to us within a radius of about 80 light years.

The cat’s out of the bag, folks.

2. If ETIs wanted to destroy us, they would have done so by now

I’ve already written about this and I suggest you read my article, “If aliens wanted to they would have destroyed us by now.”

But I’ll give you one example. Keeping the extreme age of the Galaxy in mind, and knowing that every single solar system in the Galaxy could have been seeded many times over by now with various types of self-replicating probes, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that a civilization hell-bent on looking out for threats could have planted a dormant berserker probe in our solar system. Such a probe would be waiting to be activated by a radio signal, an indication that a potentially dangerous pre-Singularity intelligence now resides in the ‘hood.

In other words, we should have been destroyed the moment our first radio signal made its way through the solar system.

But because we’re still here, and because we’re on the verge of graduating to post-Singularity status, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be destroyed by an ETI. Either that or they’re waiting to see what kind of post-Singularity type emerges from human civilization. They may still choose to snuff us out the moment they’re not satisfied with whatever it is they see.

Regardless, our communication efforts, whether active or passive, will have no bearing on the outcome.

3. If aliens wanted our solar system’s resources, they would haven taken them by now

Again, given that we’re talking about a space-faring post-Singularity intelligence, it’s ridiculous to suggest that we have anything of material value for a civilization of this type. They only thing I can think of is the entire planet itself which they could convert into computronium (Jupiter brain)—but even that’s a stretch; we’re just a speck of dust.

If anything, they may want to tap into our sun’s energy output (e.g., they could build a Dyson Sphere or Matrioshka brain) or convert our gas giants into massive supercomputers.

It’s important to keep in mind that the only resource a post-Singularity machine intelligence could possibly want is one that furthers their ability to perform megascale levels of computation.

And it’s worth noting that, once again, our efforts to make contact will have no influence on this scenario. If they want our stuff they’ll just take it.

4. Human civilization has absolutely nothing to offer a post-Singularity intelligence

But what if it’s not our resources they want? Perhaps we have something of a technological or cultural nature that’s appealing.

Well, what could that possibly be? Hmm, think, think think….

What would a civilization that can crunch 10^42 operations per second want from us wily and resourceful humans….

Hmm, I’m thinking it’s iPads? Yeah, iPads. That must be it. Or possibly yogurt.

5. Extrapolating biological tendencies to a post-Singularity intelligence is asinine

There’s another argument out there that suggests we can’t know the behavior or motivational tendencies of ETI’s, therefore we need to tread very carefully. Fair enough. But where this argument goes too far is in the suggestion that advanced civs act in accordance to their biological ancestry.

For examples, humans may actually be nice relative to other civs who, instead of evolving from benign apes, evolved from nasty insects or predatory lizards.

I’m astounded by this argument. Developmental trends in human history have not been driven by atavistic psychological tendencies, but rather by such things as technological advancements, resource scarcity, economics, politics and many other factors. Yes, human psychology has undeniably played a role in our transition from jungle-dweller to civilizational species (traits like inquisitiveness and empathy), but those are low-level factors that ultimately take a back seat to the emergent realities of technological, demographic, economic and politico-societal development.

Moreover, advanced civilizations likely converge around specific survivalist fitness peaks that result in the homogenization of intelligence; there won’t be a lot of wiggle room in the space of all possible survivable post-Singularity modes. In other words, an insectoid post-Singularity SAI or singleton will almost certainly be identical to one derived from ape lineage.

Therefore, attempts to extrapolate ‘human nature’ or ‘ETI nature’ to the mind of its respective post-Singularity descendant is equally problematic. The psychology or goal structure of an SAI will be of a profoundly different quality than that of a biological mind that evolved through the processes of natural selection. While we may wish to impose certain values and tendencies onto an SAI, there’s no guarantee that a ‘mind’ of that capacity will retain even a semblance of it’s biological nature.

So there you have it.

Transmit messages into the cosmos. Or don’t. It doesn’t really matter because in all likelihood no one’s listening and no one really cares. And if I’m wrong, it still doesn’t matter—ETIs will find us and treat us according to their will.

George P. Dvorsky serves as Chair of the IEET Board of Directors and also heads our Rights of Non-Human Persons program. He is a Canadian futurist, science writer, and bioethicist. He is a contributing editor at io9 — where he writes about science, culture, and futurism — and producer of the Sentient Developments blog and podcast. He served for two terms at Humanity+ (formerly the World Transhumanist Association). George produces Sentient Developments blog and podcast.



COMMENTS

your counter argument is sub par.

i think that both of you all are right. i agree with stephen that they do exist but not that they are a harm or threat to us. maybe the reason thst they have communicated to us is because of the same reason as ours. they are curious. just as us, they are curious. they probably wonder about the way we function, interact or simply what we eat. those are also some of the things we wonder about them. creatures will go through great lengths to satisfy their curiosity. They probably never have and never will want something from us. and we need to start seeing that. we all live in the same galaxy, and us humans need to learn how to be unselfish. i also agree with george because what would they want an ipad? they probably have something 100 times better. maybe the yogurt because they probably dont have the bacteria we use for it from where they come from. maybe they are our salvaton to us from a black whole coming our way. you ask yourself why our salvation? well because of the same way we would love to study extinct animals, if we go extinct then how are they going to study us, and us study them.  we should just late destiny take its course and let the aliens contact us instead of us pursuing them. i know that they are aliens and people think theyre a “threat” to us but remember as they are aliens to us, we are aliens to them

Yes, I agree.  We would’ve been slaves or killed by now.

I agree completely with Stephen Hawking. Very weak argument! Think elements not material. Come on.

Don’t you at least want to make your claims relative to how far away those aliens are?  Do you really mean to make all these claims even if the nearest one is 5 billion lightyears away?

Your argument makes quite a few assumptions based on… what, exactly?  The universe is a big place.  There’s a difference between finding a flashlight turned off in a dark room and one turned on.

This argument is weak. It assumes that aliens have been looking for us longer than we have been looking for them. Unless you sir are one of these aliens, then how do you know “they” are seeking us. Aliens, as Mr. Hawking mentions, might want nothing to do with us. Maybe aliens view us just as hawking said. We might play Columbus one more time in the universe; stealing and using lands that were once inhabited by other “peoples” for our own survival. Humans are a virus - as explained by Agent Smith in The Matrix. It’s a little far-fetched but we do just as Agent Smith said. We use, move on, use, move, and so on. If aliens don’t want to harvest us - which is always possible - maybe they’re afraid of us. Have you ever considered that?

lol @ the title of this article. Thanks for setting us all straight, George.

Anyway, I think you’re reading to much into Dr. Hawking’s statement. He merely stated that contact with aliens could be perilous, not that aliens wanted anything from us. The Native Americans were mostly killed inadvertently by disease, not the white man’s greed.

Why do you rule out (partially) biological space-faring aliens? I’d say that’s a bit narrow-minded, but considering the title of this piece… you get my drift?

I think…. both of you are wrong! To assume you know how alien(s) would react to us is dumb considering you know nothing about them and have no actual evidence if they exsist.

The “If they wanted it they would of done it by now” means you have some insight to what they feel or are thinking. I doubt that and feel this is one of those moments where we will have to wait and see for sure for the outcome of meeting a more advanced civ.

Until then I will watch the movie “Predator” over and over and then make my conclusion on how aliens would react to us cause that movie is awesome and being able to have cool weapons is just to pro to pass up!!

“We’re talking about a civ that has (1) survived a technological Singularity event, (2) is in the possession of molecular-assembling nanotechnology and radically advanced artificial intelligence, and (3) has made the transition from biological to digital substrate”

That’s a lot of assumptions. If we were having this conversation 100 years ago & knew nothing of these technologies you speak of, would we get different aliens? Furthermore if we have this discussion 100 years from now with a greater understanding of technological concepts created in our own brain, would we get a different result as well?

- Just my 2 cents

i always wonder about the whole alien theory and stuff. an like the whole big bang theory and “god”

how come we ended up on this planet of all planets of all solar systems O_o seriously. the big bang theory makes no sense. where did those atoms come from? and no one god could do this all himself.

Hi George, can I respond to your points?
1. Read Professor Peter Sturrock’s, of Stanford University, book “The UFO Enigma”. In 1997, physical scientists and scientists who are UFO researchers examined “physical evidence” and recommended the subject should be studied. Follow the deep reference section. The study has some quite remarkable cases. I would also recommend Prof. Michael Swords analysis of Project Sign, the first military study of the subject. Also look in particular at the Belgium (1989/1990) cases. Freely available on the Net if you look carefully. Quite stunning. The General who tasked his F-16 fighters still gives lectures on the “ET” nature of the objects.

2 and 3. Destruction is speculative but resources on our life/mineral rich planet is likely surely? Kind of agree that they are watching and waiting though. We are reasonably well armed now so I would guess they are definitely wary!

4. Culturally/scientifically I agree, probably not much we can offer. Being a million years older approx. and here already, how about some sort of “interference” perhaps for their own reasons? Any guesses?

5. I agree, difficult to guess what their minds are like, so different, but I kind of go back to 3. The planet is rich and with huge element resources. Why wouldn’t they use them for whatever overall projects they would be engaged in?

IMO: 1, 2, 3 are wrong (low probability of really bad event may still be worth considering) - 4: wrong premise, aliens would want us for our resources - and 5 is a statement of our ignorance, and doesn’t imply that shouting at the stars is OK.

Everyone is kind of forgetting that we may exist because of their influences on us. We’re their Sims, their ant farm, their little experimental colony that they come and modify every now and again.

It can’t be that they’re growing us for food (even though we are growing fatter as a race), since we’re constantly learning to live longer, and eventually, we’ll all taste of silicone, titanium and too-old stringy meat.

Our history doesn’t really go that far backwards and then there’s a massive time gap, then old monkey bones. It seems to me that there was a large jump from Neanderthal to us in a short period of time, with not much intermediate proof of how we turned into us.

Of course they know about us, but they don’t use the same arcane methods of communication that we do.  Not long ago, our only long distance comms was a stamped letter.

I’d like to think that they want to maintain their distance as we’ll just show up with a ‘want list’ and we’ll be yet another galactic welfare case that they’ll have to deal with.  Look how Haiti turned out—yup, billions spent and it’s still a shit-hole.

I think we need more time in the oven to develop into something worth being friends with before we’re ‘discovered’.

Where did I leave my anal probe?

Hi George.
I am a little curious as to why Nick Bostrom isn’t a little curious in these anomalous phenomena. Nick talks about “The Great Filter” as attempt to explain the apparent nonexistence of ET nearby, but there is good data in, if you look for instance at Professor Sturrock’s work above and follow the references carefully.

Why not just follow the BEST data and see where it leads?

The Fermi Paradox really needs to be updated - he didn’t have access to the best data available. Fermi, for his fame, was followed because it was assumed by other scientists that his comments were based on such best data. Perhaps Fermi’s “Where is everybody?” should be “They are probably here, let’s look a little closer”.
A little bit like Niels Bohr as THE authority on quantum mechanics. One can choose an interpretation in quantum mechanics, not necessarily Bohr’s Copenhagen interpretation but don’t take any one as neccesarily “reality”. There is something else perhaps underlying, tied to the nature of space itself.

I don`t agree at all, on the contrary i agree 100% with poster max. George Dvorsky`s counter arguments is pure sub par.

@George Dvorsky

I respectfully disagree with you, native Americans, didn’t know anything about the intentions or technology of Spain or Britain back during the discovery of the new world (1492).

Is naive to assume the possibility of an alien civilization doing the same to us?,  not really. Yes it looks like a story that Hollywood would love to do (again), but the fact is that we don’t know if it is going to happen or if it is going to happen or when, but is high possibility, since we have seen this the story of humanity.

Hawking is just warning us, about a possibility that is not far from reality. We are naive to think that the only possibility is to find micro organism or some class of mammals, but if we are alive as a civilization, why not to expect similar civilizations to exists in other planets.

Maybe civilizations more or less advanced than ours. I’m strong believer that in my lifetime mankind will make direct or indirect contact with another civilization.

Some scientist are now bashing hawking for warning us about this possibility, is not about being afraid is about being prepared for the best or the worst.

I would destroy a developed civilization for yogurt. maybe aliens dont have alien cows.

If you walk into a forest, don’t make your presence known because there might be tigers. Sure, not all of the creatures in the forest are tigers, but that doesn’t change the fact that there still may be danger.

Your argument of “If they wanted ________, they would have by now” is invalid.  Many humans want to explore the galaxy and find other civilizations as much as any other civilization would like to, and your argument, applied to humans, would state, “If humans wanted to find another civilization, they would have by now.”  Any other civilization out there could be as far, or further back technologically as earth.  You are assuming that other life forms are way past us in the intergalactic race

I think you’re missing the point…

You’re assuming that these aliens already about us - and if that were the fact, then you would indeed be correct. 

However, note that it takes light thousands of years to get to some of our nearest neighbours - it’s very likely that they’re not aware of us - yet.

And, like your example of an ant to a parking lot, it’s pretty likely that an alien species (who could travel to our solar system) may see our little rock as a wealth of resources ripe for the taking.  It’s also likely that they would see us as so unevolved that there’s no reason to leave us with it (liken to a dog and a car, what would a dog do with a car?  nothing, it’s cute, but the dog has no idea WHAT it really has)

Anyway, it reminds me of a story: *ahem*

There once was a bird who didn’t want to fly south for the winter.  All his friends laughed at him as they flew south, but our bird friend thought to himself - it’s still pretty warm, those guys are in for a long journy and i’ll have all this food to myself once they’ve left.
But soon the weather turned, and it started to get colder. 
Finally our little bird friend got cold and decided that it was foolhearty to stay for the winter and he began his trip south.

Sadly he’d waited so long that it had gotten so cold that when he started to fly, his wings froze and he fell to the ground.

Terrified, our little bird friend landed in a farmers field.  Anxious for any heat he could find he squirmed around the ground until he found a fresh load of cow poo.  The bird, so cold by now, climbed into the poo pile for it’s warmth.
The poo was indeed fresh and warm, this melted his wings and soon enough our bird friend was thawed out and warm enough to continue his flight. 
The bird was so releived that he started to sing.
The singing alerted a farm cat who was prowling close by - and the farm cat closed in.  In one swoop, the farm cat ate the bird.

The moral of this story is:
1) if you have something good, keep your mouth shut, you never know what kind of attention you’re attracting.
2) the person who bails you out of shit isn’t always your friend.

I like to think along the line made famous by Ray Kurzweil. I refer to the geometric progression of technology. I doubt if anyone alive could even imagine the discoveries that will be made in the next 50 years, let alone 100 or 1000 years hence.

With at least 2 x 10^18 suns out there and some number of planets orbiting each of them, it seems inconceivable that we would be the only place where the right chemicals received the right prompts to begin the eventual evolution of life. This would apply, but to a lesser degree to intelligent life also. The huge distances in space between suns is currently insurmountable but how long will that be true? It may no longer be an obstacle for civilizations that evolved say 10 billion years ago.

There is also the possibility of energy based beings or ___ based. Who can say what course the evolution of life might take in a totally different environment from ours?

I understand hawking is a genius and everything, but his audacity to say we should never make contact with other species (if they exist) is gross. What are we suppose to do? Live out for millennia and stay secret with our boring old selves? He thinks of the negatives of finding and contacting an alien species but imagine the wealth and positives that would ensue if we actually did. He is a man who wanted to answer the staggering question of if we’re alone in the universe. Now he pretty much says, “Turn off the microphone and stop listening.” Gross.

yoghurts great!

For those of you who missed it, I debated the “alien threat” on the Larry King Show with Michio Kaku, Seth Shostak, and actor Dan Aykroyd (he pushed UFOs). See Part 2 of the debate here, and Part 3 here.

The format—four smart egotists being interviewed by a fifth—made for some very short sound bites.  I tried to get across my fundamental point in all this, which is that nobody knows a damned thing about aliens.

That seems pretty obvious.  Indeed, it is the ONLY “obvious fact” about extraterrestrials.  But, alas, that doesn’t keep almost everybody from weighing in with their “of course” explanations for how advanced sapient races would naturally behave, why they haven’t been seen or contacted, or what they would do if encountered.  I know a lot of very bright people who have opined in this field, all of them sighing and rolling their eyes that anyone with a lick of brains would ever think anything different about it than they do.

Hence, Stephen Hawking and Stephen Jay Gould and Jared Diamond and Freeman Dyson… four of the very smartest human beings who ever lived… have all recommended that we not shout into the cosmos to draw attention to ourselves, because it might be dangerous (I agree so far) but then go on the fantasize some incredibly simplistic scenarios for what aliens might do.  In Hawking’s new show, for example, he posits that super advanced civilizations might come to utilize our solar system’s resources, use them up and move on.

At one level, Hawking’s fear is not entirely off target.  I’ve pointed out elsewhere: “All living creatures inherently use resources to the limits of their ability, inventing new aims, desires and ambitions to suit their next level of power. If they wanted to use our solar system, for some super project, our complaints would be like an ant colony protesting the laying of a parking lot.”

True, in the most recent generation of the Modern West, some signs of self-restraint and satiability have started to appear.  We relish this new trait and wishfully imagine that we’ll do even better in our Star Trek future, and that aliens might do the same, progressing in the direction that we dream for ourselves—toward universal altruism.  On the other hand it ain’t necessarily so. This projection of our present culture’s tentative trend onto ALL start travelling races could be viewed as incredibly arrogant cultural myopia, even chauvinism!  In fact, “altruism” is rare in nature, compared to Darwinistic predation and opportunism.  Those who declare that “of course” aliens would have “outgrown all that” are engaged in bizarre wish-projection, without any basis at all but their hopes.

On the other hand, Hawking’s scenario isn’t just about aliens rapaciously using up solar systems.  It is about us foolishly attracting aliens who then do such things.  And this makes no sense.  The Earth has been prime real estate ever since it got an oxygen atmosphere, a billion years ago.  If ET wanted a nice planet to colonize, or a system to loot, they could have come during any of that time.  A foolish METI “yoohoo!” message from us isn’t going to make them come for resource rapine.

(In fact, Hawking’s scenario has some plausibility as an explanation of the Great Silence / Fermi Paradox, but only in a side-shuffle of logic.  If such a wave of greedy exploitation DID pass through our region of the galaxy, long ago, and it just happened to miss Earth, then that might explain our current loneliness… the paucity of other new races around us.  Because that prairie fire knocked down every other promising race or planet in the region.  I talk about this scenario—and many others—elsewhere.)

No, Hawking’s reason not to shout does not make sense. On the other hand, there are dozens of possible reasons why a Yoohoo Message could be dangerous.  I could go into lots of them…

... and I won’t!  Not here.  Because I am NOT trying to argue that METI will cause invasion or directed havoc.  Personally, I think the odds are low.  No, I am trying to get people to stop leaping to unjustified assumptions and conclusions and to stop saying things are so, just because you made a glib-sounding assertion. (Isn’t that habit doing enough harm, in Culture War?)

Paul Davies and George Dvorsky and Michio Kaku and many other smart guys have asserted “if they wanted to harm us, they would have done so by now.”

Say What? Blithe, dismissive nonsense.  Just like the idiotic cliche that “I Love Lucy” has already made Earth a blaring beacon in the sky, so why bother restraining ourselves now?  These positions are arrant nonsense and deeply illogical. (If we’re already blatantly visible out there, then what is METI trying to accomplish, by making Earth deliberately SEVEN ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE brighter?)

I do not have time to get into this vast topic in detail.  I have spent decades on it, exploring countless ramifications like—

Might a lurker probe already be here?
http://ieti.org/articles/brin.htm

Or why we might be alone:
http://www.davidbrin.com/xenology1.htm

Or, (for the real scholar) the much deeper and more scholarly ‘classic’ review of the field—The Great Silence—which appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Royal Astronomical Society, fall 1983, v.24, pp 283-309,

But the crux is this. Stop assuming that asserting something makes it so!

It doesn’t.  It’s time for conversation about this, bringing together our best minds.  Nobody is right who blithely rolls off cliches about this.

PS… re my suggestion that SETI shift from one expensive telescope to 10,000 net-linked backyard receivers… the SETI League is a real outfit that tries to do this. They believe the “WOW” signal would be detectable by a few thousand dollars worth of electronics attached to a 12-ft satellite dish. They’re all about getting thousands of amateurs into the SETI field. While the sensitivity could never match the Allen array, the Allen array cannot hope to cover the entire sky, full time, over the entire radio spectrum. Only a large number of receivers give us any chance of detecting signals beamed our way.  (By the way, on Larry King I should have pointed out a side benefit… that such a system would also help catch Dan Ayckroyd’s UFO saucer guys!) http://www.setileague.org/

This is laughable

I think by arguing about something we can’t possibly understand is just one human quality that makes us an unappealing planet to visit.  I mean… honestly.  This guy is talking about digital substrates and whatnot?  Guys.  Come on!  Do you honestly believe that on a planet lightyears away evolution took the same path as it did on earth?  No! Of course not.  whatever is out there had billions of years to take different twists and turns in their own form of evolution.  Aside from that, their morals (if they have any semblance of what we call morals) would be unrecognizable to what we have on earth.  Or maybe not.  Either way, I’m guessing they took one look at the human race’s self-destructive tendencies and said, “no way, jack.  there is no way we are letting this race of children infect the rest of the galaxy.”  So there.

we are in a conflict with our own species. we allow our own people to starve, kill each other and allow a secret elite, who know they are above judgement, because they know better, to decide our future. Why are we scared of an alien involvement, because what we should be afraid of is who the hell gave those elite the right to speak, and decide for us.

For the record, I am not advocating an Active SETI (METI) approach. While it is highly likely that no one is listening, we should invoke the precautionary principle in this matter. There’s a non-zero chance that it may come back to haunt us. Moreover, we have nothing to gain by shouting out into an empty cosmos.

Now, this said, we still have to trudge carefully and, as David Brin noted, have an open conversation about this. And by conversation I mean exactly that: all sides of the issue need to be heard and considered—even those arguments we may currently consider “blithe” and “dismissive.”

We may eventually conclude, for example, that silence is the more reckless approach. It’s not that we might want help from ETIs; rather, we may desperately come to need it.

Human civilization will face a series of existential risks later this century. Consequently, it may be wise to at least think about setting-up a powerful distress beacon and ask for extraterrestrial help. It would be a desperation move, but we should at least consider it.

Sorry that I can’t address each comment individually, hopefully this will address some concerns.

In summary:
“I for one welcome our evil alien overloards”
frank lally

I think it’s naive to think that Aliens would be interested in befriending us, not harm us, or would have done something by now.  Our planet is not evolved in terms of people not being able to get along, destroying planetary resources, constant war, famine, hatred etc., the list is endless.  From my perspective it’s like saying everyone on planet earth is a good person and therefore USA would never be invaded.  I am sure that while there maybe planets in the Universe that are peaceful, out of all the millions of planets that are probably inhabited by beings that are probably not all humanoid, there are beings out there that are warlike and at any given time could and would do us harm.  It’s just a matter of time. You don’t know what a malevolent race of aliens view as a valuable resource on Earth and as we are not the most advanced technologically or spiritually, it’s only a matter of time, as our planet slips further into global warming and disarray.

so we are supposed to believe you over hawking. why are you trying? wait its the internet! duh

I tend to agree with the author.  In a way Stephen Hawking reminds me of George W. Bush with the paranoid BS about Iraqi WMD.

1) There are a finite number of stars in this galaxy.  It is my belief that ever advanced alien civilization has replicator technology and would therefore dispatch probes to every star system in the galaxy in order to explore them.  There have been UFO sightings for as long as we have had recorded history so I think it stands to reason that at least some alien civilizations know where we are.

2)  They know where we are and yet we are still here.

3) Aliens have replicators and do not need this planet for it’s natural resources.  The universe has a near infinite number of resources compared to this one planet or solar system.

4)  The only thing I could see aliens being interested in here are the unique biological lifeforms not present anywhere else.  However as I said earlier, we are still here, aliens no where we are and have not proceeded to wipe us out.


I can’t believe I am actually reading articles from the most preeminent scientists of today arguing against meeting other alien civilizations.  When did fear of terrorism so completely absorb such a large portion of the population, who is left with any actual courage and curiosity?

The key difference in this particular argument by George is one word: Singularity.  Once you are free from the blind selection pressures of evolution and can intelligently understand the way the universe works, as well as control the physical rules governing it with enough precision to provide all the resources necessary, what would you need with us?

I don’t like your use of extrapolating in point five. I think it should be “Ascribing biological tendencies…”

I’m thinking Hawking may have been more refering to the sociological and even mental repercussions.  Some native races just ended up giving up in the face of higher tech that looked like magic.
Elements/minerals aren’t likely to be involved. space is lousy with those.  Unique biologicals is most likely.
This is assuming interstellar trade is economically feasable with any existing technology.
Also, I’m with the ‘unwarranted assumptions’ crowd on much of your arguments.

1. If aliens wanted to find us, they would have done so already

Well, who is to say they would have? They may well be looking out into space as are we, and they may even be more advanced than us, yet the vast distances involved does not necessarily mean they have found us yet. We will just have to wait a little longer.

2. If ETIs wanted to destroy us, they would have done so by now
3. If aliens wanted our solar system’s resources, they would haven taken them by now

Points 2 and 3 rely upon point 1 being established.

4. Human civilization has absolutely nothing to offer a post-Singularity intelligence

Extrapolating that any advanced civilization has achieved singularity is pure speculation. A civilization may be advanced enough for space travel without this level of attainment. So speculating for any other type of civilization that may find us in the future would mostly likely mean either plunder or trade, either way this implies that they would want something : Earth women have been suggested?

5. Extrapolating biological tendencies to a post-Singularity intelligence is asinine

I agree with this point, yet this again assumes point 4 is correct.

I think you are shooting from the hip here, although it is difficult to postulate the possibilities from any impartial position. It could all very well be “life Jim, but not as we know it”, big blobby things that have no hands or feet or need of space exploration, or gaseous clouds that could find us perhaps but may never be able to communicate, or maybe a highly advanced civilization that relies on a sun for its energies and to survive and cannot possibly hope of space travel, and yet even more species that may have evolved past this need?

I do not think Hawking has changed his position at all for a long time, and in the same way as his view regarding time travellers has always been the same, he sticks with it. His note of caution is still wise, even though it may be “old school”. If a civilization is anything like us, or close to our levels of ingenuity and space capabilities yet more advanced, then I think we would be wise to ensure that we can protect ourselves. Perhaps they are watching and waiting for this latest policy of reduction in nuclear stockpiles to play out?

Or perhaps they are here already warming the place up nicely till it suits, you know those pesky lizard cold blooded types I mean?

It is all merely speculation!

I didn’t agree with Stephen Hawking’s statements at first.  I thought he had it the other way around.  However, when I watched the documentary again, it made me realize that he makes a good point too.  Humans should entertain the thought that, just like here one earth where there is good and evil characters, there may also be good and evil extraterrestrials.  It’s great that everyone (Vatican, pilots, a few politicians, astro-physicists, other scientists, other countries, etc.) is now open to talk about the possibility of intelligent, extra-terrestrial life.

this is pathetic you are taking brief passing musings at the value of the rest of his works on physics. genuinely pathetic.

I have to agree with the majority of commenters on here. We cannot say for certain that a planet housing life 5billion light years away has the technology to come find us. Nor can we dispute that they -don’t- have that technology.

We can’t say for certain that they are creatures much like ourselves in the sense that we can make metal fly through the sky even when it weighs tons. Nor can we say they -don’t- have the ability to do so.

We can’t say for certain that these creatures are anything more than organisms the size of a pinhead. Nor can we say that these creatures are the size of elephants, or larger.

Just because there is life out there—The universe as a whole is just too large to argue otherwise—doesn’t mean that they have the ability to fly through space at speeds faster than light. Perhaps they are a newer planet, just getting their bearings on. Perhaps they are a much older civilization than our own and simply are not interested. But honestly, just because it hasn’t happened, doesn’t mean that it won’t. Hawkings simply states that we shouldn’t try to contact because of the possibility of a hostile planet.

With that, I disagree. Humans, as a whole, would do a lot to survive. Would that make us hostile if an alien life form came to Earth and tried to make contact? Maybe if their way of communicating looks threatening. Its all in the way things are done and whether or not an understanding can happen. We will still find hostility, yes, it is inevitable but don’t assume that because it hasn’t happened, it won’t.

The thing about aliens is….they’re alien.
The Fermi paradox is disturbing and the first logical and most simple conclusion is that Interstellar Travel is actually impossible.
NO way to go FTL, Bussard Ramjets can’t actually be built and any travel at all will take thousands of years at a very small fraction of C.
So..of the ones that could do it, few, if any bother.
I don’t want to believe that’s true…but it’s a faith based belief only.

Even if the entire AI-Singularity scenario is possible (which it isn’t) it would absolutely ensure that the super-AI aliens would stay home, for the very simple reason that their thoughts would run a billion times faster than ours.  Your first reaction to this idea is that it will take them a billion times longer to go to the stars, but it gets worse.  On the GHz scale a second expands to three decades, totally freezing all phenomena of our everyday life, and making bodily habitation impossible.  Any species taking that path would essentially will themselves out of existence.

ET will not only stay home, but they will never come out of their computers!

I agree with George, these beings have been around for a possible multi- billion years before mankind appeared on the scene.Anything they want they can just take and their quantum technologies allow them to do it in complete secrecy if they wish.They give us a glimpse of their existence every now and then to awaken us to the fact that we know so little of what’s out there.They have been doing this according to many ancient cave drawings and other archeological finds (such as cuneiform scrolls and tumbler molds), since the dawn of mankind .To them we are a mere blip in space and time,for their experiences must be vast and their knowledge wide in comparison to us new kids on the block.All this to me seems instinctual as if it were totally natural.

Problem with people on this board is they all think like humans! NO one knows how an alien being would think,or even pretend to know what motives they may or may not have. Assuming they might have inter-dimensional travel which would put them on a whole different level ,perspective wise as well as technologically .My point is no one is in personal contact with one alien race, or the possible many different races that may exist as reported by some. Who here thinks that all alien races would have the same mental reasoning or technologies of other more advanced races?In an example for space travel, if a space craft leaves their galaxy at C and 10 years later the newest craft can go five or ten times as fast, which ship would arrive in the next galaxy 60 LY away? At some point, time becomes somewhat irrelevant. As all of humanities knowledge will also be.

Why is it that a ET would come to our planet? Do they want resources? It is very likely to have many other planets like ours in the universe, with the very same characteristics, but without intelligent life that explore those resources.
Any intelligent life in any planet will go after the natural resources, making it harder and harder to find more (mines for minerals are being dig dipper and dipper due to the natural fact that those minerals that were available easily were already harvested).

On the other side, why would us, in the future, would be willing to go to a planet that has plate tectonics, atmosphere (erosion) and intelligent life (all things that mess up the natural resources)? Would be better for us go after small planets, where minerals are easy to collect?

We can go, in the future, after planets with life, but very likely for research with stealth probes instead of large full scale motherships.

On the other side, if one believes that the Universe had a start (Big Bang), you can imagine that the first intelligent civilization (there was a first, no matter how unlikely were for one civilization to be the first) looked to the Universe and said: with so many galaxies that has so many stars, there must be other civilizations out there!!! But they were wrong…

What do we know for sure about “intelligent life likelihood”? It is guesses (I would not even call it educated guesses as everybody guessing has no previous proof of success).

The Universe can have other life forms? Possible
The Universe can have right now other intelligent life? Possible
Is human race the first intelligent life form in the Universe? Possible too…

::Posted by GodlessPeace on 05/05 at 10:52 AM
::
::Problem with people on this board is they all think like humans! NO ::one knows how an alien being would think,or even pretend to know ::what motives they may or may not have.
—————————————————————————————————————————————

Now, THERE’S a thought.  If the Multiverse exists and is technologically reasonably ‘easy’ and economical to access, why would a race ever bother to leave its solar system?

Very limited view of Extraterrestrials. The probability is that several extraterrestrial civilizations already exist and they are probably organized into some kind of federation. The federation, chances are, has experience dealing with civilizations like ours. They will probably propose to us some kind of membership but not before we eliminate wars and nuclear bombs. It is very probable that the federation already has bases in the moon and already has contact with the US government. The reason Obama is not going to the moon is that the federation already have bases there and for sure they do not want us around. I think the federation is also slowly feeding us technology to improve our lives and the federation will push for some kind of global government to make it easy to negotiate with us as a whole.

I thought that computers will reach the Singularity and become God, but alas, it already happened, and he called himself Jehovah and is about to regenerate the system to get rid of pesky atheistic scientists 😊

GodlessPeace and Geo Cummings are correct IMO. Threat from hostile space aliens is statistically insignificant.

“I thought that computers will reach the Singularity and become God, but alas, it already happened, and he called himself Jehovah and is about to regenerate the system to get rid of pesky atheistic scientists”. TL, this would make a great screenplay—you’d better write it before someone beats you to the punch :(

I find it very interesting how religions place blinders on newer ideas. The question I have is: What are all the religious people going to do *IF* some advanced alien race lands here and they jump out of their saucers (or whatever it is they are traveling in), and say “Oh, By the way..we are GOD, sorry it took so long for us to return as we promised so many years ago but you have to understand, the universe is big…REALLY BIG!”......lol

There is no doubt there has to be other beings out there that are far more advanced then humans here on this planet. It would be complete ignorance to actually think that we are the only intellegent beings in existance in this massive 13.7 billion year old universe…..

Based on these comments, I’m thinking that maybe the title of this post should be changed to:
“Why Stephen Hawking:and everyone else, including me:is wrong about alien threats”

There are so many assumptions being made about alien visitors, and the worst one is that they would be like us. The fact is that we have no idea what these aliens would be like. They could be a peaceful society of explorers or they could be warlike scavenger, we don’t know.
What we do know is that mankind is a paranoid little animal that assumes it is the most intelligent species on the planet, just because we have some big fancy technologies. Yet we are most likely the only animal on the planet that goes about destroying its own habitat, to our own self-destruction. We poison ourselves with chemicals in the name of greed and power, and we live lives of delusion, believing we are the best thing since sliced bread. We have cut ourselves of from nature, and the more techno-advanced we become the less healthier we are. One great big solar flare is all it takes to show us how weak we are as a species. So lets stop worrying about aliens and their intentions and get back to the real problem. Re-aligning ourselves with the true creator, that is our planet Earth.

@Rick if only your ideas concerning the federation were true!! (to be on the safe side, I stuck my old star trek cossie in the wash, it helps to make a good impression).

Yet hang on If Aliens were already among us, then would they not try to hide it? Promote the idea that they would not even bother with this little planet, that they pose no threat whatsoever and that they don’t want anything from us?

George??

I read the argument; we at present can only estimate the size of the universe. The numbers of planets are incalculable, for us anyway. You have cluster galaxies, super clusters, and probably a thousand other mysteries we have yet to discover. To postulate on alien thinking, no matter how advanced, is to believe that your own thinking is worth comparison and that your facts are really factors in understanding alien thoughts and intentions and we can’t even figure out what is on our mates mind half the time. It is best you have some faith in creation…therefore all the evidence you need to believe you will find looking backwards and not through some existential hypothesis that is catamount to some intellectual cerebral sound bite that cannot ever be proven in your lifetime. The human capacity to understand the universe does not even make the scale relevance. It is almost like trying to teach a newborn quantum physics. Nevertheless, sometimes we fall in love with our own intellect thus we espouse opinions as fact and fact as philosophy. With all due respect it is “much ado about nothing.”

“Re-aligning ourselves with the true creator, that is our planet Earth. “

Thank you, Frederick Thornton, for your nice pagan wishes.

Aliens might be like giant amoebas with intelligence incomparable to human intelligence. Perhaps Hawkings cooked up this alarum for publicity; to indirectly sell a new book of his, or maybe some other ulterior deal.

opinions are not qualified as arguments for or against anything. how do you know what “they” would have done by now?

Columbus Aliens preserved the Native American ethnias (you only have to look at current South American inhabitants).  British Aliens did not; they just kept a few of them in reservations.

“Thank you, Frederick Thornton, for your nice pagan wishes. “

Your welcome Veronica, but is it necessary to put me in a box labeled ‘pagan’. Not that I am offended, I do have friends that are pagan. Me, I was born Christian converted to Islam, and have now grown beyond all boxes (dogma)regarding my spirituality.

I was born of the stuff that is Earth and when I die all that I am physically shall go back to the Earth, and that is true for anyone regardless of the box they put themselves into.

That is of course if I don’t get abducted by aliens and am taken to another world where I shall be imprisoned in a zoo for their edification and entertainment.

“opinions are not qualified as arguments for or against anything. how do you know what “they” would have done by now?” Fine, Andrew, tell that to Hawking if you can get a ticket to be in the front row for his 2011 appearance on Oprah. The reason I’m exercised on this is having heard so many conspiracy theories; everything from Jack Ruby to controlled WTC demolition. Oh, and Halliburton—naturally. Let’s hope space aliens aren’t hired by Halliburton to come to Earth on a mission to turn Hawking into a pot roast.

I really wish most people were as lucid as George Dvorsky is.
Now that I know there is at least one other rational person in the world, I’m really curious what George thinks of John Smart’s conclusion about post-singular aliens.

Thornton: “Re-aligning ourselves with the true creator, that is our planet Earth. “

Me: “Thank you, Frederick Thornton, for your nice pagan wishes. “


Thornton: “I was born of the stuff that is Earth and when I die all that I am physically shall go back to the Earth, and that is true for anyone regardless of the box they put themselves into.—That is of course if I don’t get abducted by aliens and am taken to another world where I shall be imprisoned in a zoo for their edification and entertainment. “

In which case, that new planet you find yourself on will be your new creator.

I’ve written a rather unique take on this entire affair, over at ScientificBlogging.com.

You can read it directly by using the above URL.

The URL didn’t show-up. Here it is - ScientificBlogging.com

There is not a shred of evidence that intelligent biological life resides outside our own planet, nevermind what form it should take… so let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here.  Most ET believers make the mistake of assuming that we cannot be the most intelligent life form in the universe, but that is the reality of our current understanding.  We have been sending radio signals into space spanning nearly 100 light years with no reply.  We can detect static noise from the big bang but we have not detected anything else.  Yes I suppose the universe is huge but she ain’t timeless;It had a beginning some 16 billion years ago.  That sounds like an eternity but not when we take into account the age of our own planet and how long it took us humans to evolve!  Think about that.  Factor the time it would take for a planet to form with the right elements for life, how long it would take that life to reach our level of intelligence, then consider the lifespan of the sun(s) and generals hazards in their solar systems for life to evolve in that relatively short 16 billion year window.  If we’re being honest with ourselves we can estimate that, should an intelligent civilization beyond our own exist, it might at best be a few million years older than ourselves, and when we observe ourselves a few millions years ago the difference was not as radical as this article suggest aliens might be relative to us.

One more thing in closing.  When Hawkins says it didn’t turn out well for the indians he was wrong and I’m living proof being half and half.  I could get my indian card if I wanted but I choose not to, and I love my country.  So whatever.

I would like to thank you George for demonstrating the need to have Philosophy 101 (Logic) made into a required class for all students.

Unfortunately, there are at least as many holes in your arguments and assumptions as there are with Stephen Hawkings (et al).  Overall, there is a lot more to the Stephen Hawkings (et al) arguments than there is to yours.

Right off the bat, the Fermi Paradox is known to be full of assumptions that have no basis in fact.  Until we resolve abiogenesis, any numbers applied to the Fermi Paradox are no better than a random number thought up by my 5 year old.  And even if there are tons of alien species out there, they may not notice us…for all the claims of the radio noise we put out, there is no reason to suspect that anything is looking for the radio noise.  In the greater scheme of the universe, the little noise we’ve put out (which we aren’t doing too much of anymore) is a minor blip in time.  We are orbiting around an insignificant star at the edge of the galaxy…just about the last place for anything else to be looking for us.

Your 2nd statement is dependent upon the first statement (which is already full of holes in logic).  But the 2nd statement has its own set of holes…just because something could destroy us doesn’t mean they want to.  How many things can the US destroy?  Yet we don’t until there is a reason to destroy it.  Not a particularly hard to imagine that other creatures in the universe could have similar thoughts…

Your 3rd statement is just a rehash of your 2nd statement and maintains the same dependencies and holes.

Your 4th statement means very little.  You assume that there is nothing that is wanted…perhaps a ready supply of water (we don’t see that in the rest of the solar system…who knows how common this is in the galaxy at large) that is easy to pull out is attractive.  There could be any number of other things interesting…perhaps we make good pets…

Your 5th statement has nothing to back it.  You can apply the same logic to your own notion.  What is so magical about post-Singularlity?  Hasn’t there been many assertions about our own species at whatever magical point that we would become civilized and treat each other better…hasn’t happened yet, has it?

@ Unbound

Your first comment: Of course the Fermi Paradox is full of assumptions.  That’s all we have.  If we limit ourselves to KNOWN FACTS we can’t have this interesting ‘what if’ discussion because there are ZERO known facts.  Duh.

PLEASE note the difference between a fact based discussion and a fun ‘what if’ discussion and conduct yourself accordingly.

Your comment about a ‘ready supply of water’ is uninformed.  The Oort Cloud is lousy with probably more water than exists mass in the solar system.

I don’t know where you come up with my ‘post singularity’ comment as I didn’t make one.

George C:

Unbound was posting to the George that wrote the article, not you. George Dvorsky.

Not everything is about you…

@ marshall

interesting, my exwife had the same mistaken theory about everything not being about me. ;-D

Ok. I retract any thought he was talking to me, but I offer the Big George that response to save him the trouble.
It’s still accurate.

@ George C.


I’ll just say that I agree with Unbound’s assessment of Dvorsky’s article and leave it at that, except to add that my own article points out additional and often overlooked problems with making assumptions about the technological level of intelligent civilizations and identifies potential threats from elsewhere that could be more likely but have also been overlooked, even more so.

I think the whole issue about viewing alien as a threat to us should be taken very lightly because it depends on where they’re from and who they are, regardless of how advanced they are. Some are friendly and some aren’t. So I wouldn’t go far enough to say that all are hostile to us.

Very disappointing comments, clearly, unlike George Dvorsky, you all have NO competency in this subject matter…

“Hoyle’s fallacy” anyone?

But a junkyard tornado speculation could postulate ETs that have evolved as no threat at all; What concerns me in this context is SF extremists, not monsters from outer space. Like Steve McQueen in the film ‘The Blob’, Hawking’s alarum is really only comical.

btw, Edward wrote at this blog on 5/2/10, “Anyway, I think you’re reading too much into Dr. Hawking’s statement. He merely stated that contact with aliens could be perilous, not that aliens wanted anything from us”. Yet Hawking did a TV show & book, correct? so the issue IMO is Hawking not just making ‘a statement’ but also sensationalizing the silly deal.

@ Steven:

Actually, it’s George who exhibits little competency on the subject as he makes false assumption on every point:

1. (If aliens wanted to find us, they would have done so already) Really? Says who? That would depend on where they are from and when they developed interstellar travel. Perhaps none have yet or have simply gone elsewhere. There is no “already” factor here because we have no framework to place it in.

2. (If ETIs wanted to destroy us, they would have done so by now) Another gross assumption, based on the previous. The only way that this holds water is if you factor in UFO sightings as being extraterrestrial and there’s no hard evidence for that.

3. (If aliens wanted our solar system’s resources, they would haven taken them by now) Again, another statement based on the assumption of interstellar races that are poised to act if they so wish. Completely unfounded.

4. (Human civilization has absolutely nothing to offer a post-Singularity intelligence) Now he’s applying our technological development to that of a race of unknown origin, for which there is no evidence that it even exists. The idea of the Singularity is an artificial construct for which there is no human agreement, let alone any evidence that such a model would be followed by aliens.

5. (Extrapolating biological tendencies to a post-Singularity intelligence is asinine) And so is extrapolating the biases of just one portion (and a minority at that) of the human race to those of extraterrestrial origin.

George’s article is written from the biased viewpoint of someone who believes in the Singularity and transhumanism, not from the viewpoint of someone who is simply looking at the issue holistically and has a background in reviewing the possibilities for extraterrestrial life.

I only say this since you were clearly laboring under the false assumption that George was some authority on this topic. He may be an authority on transhumanism, but on this topic he’s out of his league.

All the science says there’s no aliens anywhere in the visible cosmos, so until they show up or SETI finds something, can we just find something new to say on the topic, that hasn’t already been said to tiresome excess?

And yes, I do mean ALL the science, especially the part showing how miniscule were the chances of our Earth forming, and of the human race arising and then becoming modern.  So miniscule are any one of those chances, let alone their product,  that there aren’t enough planets within 10 billion light years to outweigh them.

Gee!  What a scary bleak universe this is, that we’d be all alone.

Get over it.  Find a shrink to deal with your own lonliness issues, so you can quit projecting them onto the universe.

@ Interstellar Bill:

Please define “visible cosmos”...

“can we just find something new to say on the topic, that hasn’t already been said to tiresome excess?” Point well taken. I sum up my position by writing of how Hawking has a good head for business: which is not unfair; is it? or excessively negative? By starting this, Hawking was inviting discourse on the topic from all angles, wasn’t he? Good for him—that is for sure.

@postfuturist:

Actually he wasn’t so much inviting discourse as he was just boldly stating something that he had already stated more than a decade go on his PBS TV series.

What Hawking has a good head for is making comments that are couched in humor or pop culture references, and then just rolling away. Meanwhile, what he’s said is often wrong…

That would be about 10 billion light years.
In all that volume not a single Galaxy is going Dark.

If the probability of an ET nearby is high enough for SETI to succeed, then there should be many galaxies emitting mostly at room temperature but with a tiny leakage of starlight.  (i.e., Dark).

@Interstellar Bill:

OK, if that’s how you’re defining the visible universe then I would have to say that your comment about “all of science” saying there’s no aliens out there would be wrong. The fast response is that no one agrees on the actual probability of it. However, I agree with you that they haven’t shown up here - at least there’s no compelling evidence of it.

That being the case, I’m afraid that there is nothing new to say about the topic except that I liked the piece that’s posted on this site by the Russian researcher about the threats from SETI downloading an alien AI. That was pretty original and nothing I ever thought of before however I see problems in that how would aliens know how to infect our computers? They would have to have access to information about how the systems run in order to write a program to infect them unless they developed an approach along the proprietary model that I know of. If that is the case, it would be interesting to see if it could be defeated along the same lines…

Hello?  Avatar.  Nobody has considered the fact that if we ever encountered aliens, the government of whatever country involved would automatically kill them, imprison them, dissect them, certainly lie to them on every possible level and attempt to fleece them, overcome them and would want to enslave them but “human rights” organizations would have to step in, then.
What’s that great movie—District Nine or something like that?
Any aliens with the mentality of four-year-olds would see that we have absolutely nothing to recommend us.  All this arrogance about the wonderful things we have that they might want is proof-positive that we see ourselves through rose-colored glasses.  Not to mention Hawkings latest bait—that we should abandon the planet before it’s too late.  Aliens could possibly be taking note that there will soon be nothing of value on the planet due to the worthlessness of the inhabitants.

@S. Toledo:

You’re making a lot of assumptions while at the same time echoing what many people have already said has happened. For the record, I have seen no evidence of spacefaring aliens visiting our planet. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t. At the same time, our planet hasn’t been “invaded” at all on the level that Hawking describes. That being the case, all bets are on the table.

There are things that we have that aliens might want - abundant natural resources, which is what Hawking was talking about. They might also want to use humans as slave labor or conscripted soldiers. These are just some of the obvious possibilities.

Wow, lots of commenters who don’t know what they are talking about. First, please no God talk, as it doesn’t fit in alien discussion anyways. And for the people that go by the movies Predator, Alien, or even Matrix, you are not even close to what Dvorsky is talking about here. We are talking about astrophysic and astrobiology and statistic probabilities here. So throw out your basic notion of what aliens are like and try to agree that they might be totally different than us and way more advanced than us.

What we need to realize that Dvorsky’s points makes a lot of sense compared to hawkins when you factor in probability. Sure, Hawkin’s scenario might be true (no prediction is 100% impossible anyways) but what good is it if it’s only like 2% or 5% probable. Like come on, what is the chance such an alien race will really need Earth’s resources (and actually do come)?!

@Bagelx:

You’re doing the same thing that you’re accusing everyone else of - basing your argument on assumptions. Dvorsky’s argument isn’t anymore likely than Hawking’s because they both, as do you, assume that there are advanced alien races exploring outer space and what their motives would be.

There are any number of reasons that an alien race would need resources like what we have here. Whether they could actually reach us here or even discover our existence, is an entirely different matter.

Oh, and the man’s name is Hawkings, not Hawkins…

One probability is exact: the probability is 100 percent that Hawking is doing this for royalties, as well as to be sensationalistic.

@postfuturistic:

Not quite. As I pointed out earlier, Hawking has made this statement before and seems to believe it. The fact that it was contained in his current TV special is what made it timely, and the fact that instead of a mere quip at the end of a segment, this time the entire segment was about aliens and how he feels about them.

In the quantum reality, all possibilities exist at the same moment, therefore all possibilities that you all can posit about alien races is also true. Therefore the real question is. How do we contact those aliens that have altruistic qualities and not be heard by the aggressive evil aliens?
In most spiritual philosophical teachings, it says to “be” that it is that you wish to attract. And if you wish to believe that that is true, then you must ask yourself. Are YOU satisfying the question and BEING that it is that you wish to attract?

“Hawking has made this statement before and seems to believe it.”

Well, as I pointed out earlier, Hawking has mixed motivations for what he does—he is no ingenue.

@postfuturist:


“Well, as I pointed out earlier, Hawking has mixed motivations for what he does—he is no ingenue.”

Oh, yeah. I dealt with that in the sentence that followed the one you quoted. The fact is that he’s in a struggle to establish what his legacy will be because his stature as the greatest mind in the world is severely in jeopardy. In fact next year, it will be lost.

Well, there you go.

Maybe ETs faked Hawking out? it is a very low probability, but since such ETs would have a high intelligence it is remotely possible they set Hawking up..

@postfuturist:

What the hell are you even talking about? It’s certainly not part of the dialog here. Hawking getting set up? I hope those drugs you’re taking aren’t addictive…

Mr. Barnes, I am poking fun at Hawking’s expense; his TV deal reminds me of Oliver Stone’s fabricated conspiracy-theory film, ‘JFK’. Or anything by Michael Moore. To give you an idea of how anyone can play that game, below is the proposed content of a hypothetical TV special, ‘Double Bluff’:
ETs do exist and are aware of our existence; they not only monitor us, they read and control human minds. They set Hawking up by planting in his mind the idea they exist. Since no proof of extraterrestrials exists, Hawking is discredited, so giving ETs more time to prepare undetected their destruction of humanity.

Lighten up, Marshall.

@postfuturist:

Well one thing is sure, all the rest of your posts here have been just as much of a joke…

I’m no philosopher (neither are you) but here’s a bit of simple logic:
a) Say all the rest of my posts here have in fact “been just as much of a joke”; does that mean one can infer that you think Hawking’s ET fetish is a joke as well? And if so, is his fetish more of a joke than my posts?
b) Might one say Hawking is no less disingenuous in the case of his speculation on ETs than Michael Moore is in his own speculation contained in the film ‘Fahrenheit 911’?
or, say, Oliver Stone in ‘JFK’?

...just for two examples.

okay, I’m going to say this once.

Abundant resources? The Abundant resources argument for aliens wanting earth is a joke.

Assuming aliens exist, THERE IS NOT ONE SINGLE RESOURCE AVAILABLE ON THIS PLANET THAT IS NOT OVERWHELMINGLY AVAILABLE IN THE ASTEROID BELT, THE GAS GIANTS, AND THE OORT CLOUD.

Got that?  The amount of “resources” on this planet amounts to a tiny percent of the resources available in the solar system, at gravity levels that would make exploitation and processing a thousand times more energy efficient than hauling it out of our gravity well.

So, tell me again why any INTELLIGENT aliens would expend thousands of times the effort to get our measly 1% of 1% of resources, with so much just laying around for the taking?

This is physics people. Pure hard cold bottom line physics. We’d never even know they were mining the asteroids and outer planets.

And “Use up” Earth’s resources?  we’re hardly deeper into the crust of this planet than a Mosquito can bite into our skin. We’ve barely even begun to explore it’s oceans, or even to have visited it’s entire above water surface.

Simply put, the whole “ID4” theory of “aliens will want our resources”  strikes me rather like a hillbilly sitting on a pile of tinfoil with a gun muttering “they aint gonna git my treasures” while surrounded by mountains of pure gold.

@Valkyrie ice

You offer a solid counterpoint to those who argue that aliens would travel all the way to our planet for it’s resources, but who among us is saying that?  I don’t think anyone is.  Life would almost certainly be the primary motivation for any alien visit (unless they stumbled upon planet earth by mistake); once here there would be logical reasons to take advantage of the resources this earth has to offer during their “stay”.  I put stay in quotation marks because I’m not sure they would pack up and leave.  Are you?

@postfuturist:

“I’m no philosopher (neither are you)”

Actually I’ve been called a philosopher though I don’t refer to myself that way.

” but here’s a bit of simple logic:
a) Say all the rest of my posts here have in fact “been just as much of a joke”; does that mean one can infer that you think Hawking’s ET fetish is a joke as well?”

Of course not. I consider Hawking a peer and his comments don’t indicate a fetish. Your reference to them as such further differentiates yourself from the level of his discussion and this one.

“And if so, is his fetish more of a joke than my posts?”

See above.

“b) Might one say Hawking is no less disingenuous in the case of his speculation on ETs than Michael Moore is in his own speculation contained in the film ‘Fahrenheit 911’?”

Yes, because it is an example of his sloppy thinking and not dishonesty or manipulation.

“or, say, Oliver Stone in ‘JFK’?”

Again see above…

“...just for two examples.”

Anyone that knows me knows I take a dim view of humor used in place of intelligent and thoughtful discourse. 

@Valkyrie ice

You’re assuming a lot. As for gas giants and the asteroid belt, you’re assuming that they would be prepared to deal with the difficulties of mining such hazardous objects. You’re assuming that they would have the equipment developed and the intention to do that. You’re assuming that they would be approaching from a direction that the Oort cloud would be between them and Earth. The fact is that you’re assuming an awful lot, including what resources they’d be looking for. I’m leaving everything on the table including their interest in using you for slave labor or perhaps even a rare dessert dish. But this is all if aliens exist and would come here and be hostile. All of that is hypothetical .

Anyone can have an opinion. Whether or not that opinion is a highly developed and factually substantiated one is another matter altogether, the physics of gravity wells not withstanding.

Okay.

Assuming that any alien race exists, and that they have the ability to travel between solar systems, it necessarily follows that they must have the ability to create vehicles or habitats that can sustain life in space.

It also follows that UNLESS they have figured out how to travel FTL, they must have found a means to insure that these vessels or habitats can survive relativistic travel between stars.

So, what is the one thing that they would ABSOLUTELY have to do to make that possible?

That’s right, create a nearly self sustaining system to recycle resources, as efficiently as possible, for as long as possible, to ensure that they can survive the long trips between stars through vast expanses of space where the only resources might be hydrogen atoms scattered thinly. And then be able to scavenge replacement resources using as little energy as possible from the most convenient sources available, which means spaceborne resources like clouds, comets, asteroids, and gas giants, all of which are FAR MORE COMMON than inhabited or potentially habitable worlds.

Why do I make this supposition? Because it’s what WE WOULD HAVE TO DO TO TRAVEL SPACE OURSELVES.

So what does that indicate? That any space faring civilization must overcome the EXACT SAME CHALLENGES WE WOULD HAVE TO, to become a “spacefaring civilization”.

So. I make my assumption that any alien species will have to meet the same criteria that humans would to travel space.

Which also includes the need to be able to use the resources of our solar system effectively.  i.e. being able to mine asteroids, the Oort cloud, etc. For us to be able to BE a “spacefaring race” we will need to have these skills, and be able to routinely travel “between planets” in the solar system prior to being able to create “starships” that are more than one way “probes” we will launch and forget because we’ll never see them again.

Believe what you will, but the hurdles to space travel are going to be the same regardless of cultural, biological, or any other differences we might have with aliens. And those hurdles, once overcome, make it ludicrous to suppose that aliens would need resources and materials (like biological slave labor instead of efficient robotic workers) that we ourselves would no longer need once we’ve become a spacefaring race.

“they must have the ability to create vehicles or habitats that can sustain life in space.”

“...create a nearly self-sustaining system to recycle resources, as efficiently as possible.”

Agree on both points.  That said, the question becomes what they would do once they have arrived on our planet?  Would they treat it like a truck stop, or would the earth’s life conditions entice them to stay? 

Let’s assume that our planet’s gravity and oxygen levels are perfect for alien life because they are biologically similar to us humans.  Would it not stand to reason they might discover something new on our planet?  Maybe something as simple as strawberries to us humans could be valued by the alien beings.  Yes they would be technologically superior to us but we could still teach them things they didn’t know (like foreign languages for example) even if they are WAY smarter than us.  I think that is a point a lot of people overlook when discussing alien beings.

Do you believe in UFOs? You may do after this..

>> http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/02/03/ufo-jerusalems-dome-rock-baffles-experts/

Aliens are and will always be a threat to us.lets be realistic,mankind as a whole we have been killing each other since i cant even tell you wen what makes you think the aliens roam around space looking for someone to help?the catch has to be worth it?just try to visit your newest neighbour and spend the whole day playing mr know it all showing him all the cool stuff you got which he aint got.ul see…we both know how the story goes

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