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Stephen Hawking warns us about aliens

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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/scie...icle7107207.ece

Hawking does have a point. Intelligent life could be very hostile and advanced enough to wipe us out before we knew what hit us. On the other hand, they could be reasonable and want to trade and learn from us.

However, it's an interesting thought to think about. Until we are capable of defending ourselves from such a threat, hiding in our little corner of the universe might be the best thing to do.

Thoughts?

Edited by Sabre
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The sheer physics involved in such travel would require a very prosperous, productive, and rational society. That's not to say that such beings would have to be nonaggressive, but they would have to have a recognition of property rights and it certainly puts the probability in favor of a free capitalistic society not burdened by tribalism and war.

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The sheer physics involved in such travel would require a very prosperous, productive, and rational society.

Well Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia still conquered and killed with advanced technologies (for their time) that they came up with themselves, stole from other nations or forced someone else into making.

Edited by Sabre
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Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved...

...Another breakthrough is the discovery that life on Earth has proven able to colonise its most extreme environments. If life can survive and evolve there, scientists reason, then perhaps nowhere is out of bounds.

This is a common fallacy in the scientific community. Yes, life can survive in many environments, but the question is what environment is necessary for life to originate? Until scientists can discover how life originates, it is impossible to predict how abundant it is in the universe.

He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”

Isn't this non sequitur? Why would the aliens be suffering resource shortages in a universe that is, by Hawking's own admission, abundant with billions of planets. Our own solar system has seven other planets and hundreds of planetary objects. If the aliens were so desperate for resources, why would they bother conquering Earth when they can mine the other planets and planetary objects in our system at a much lower cost?

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You know-there's something almost counterfactual about this.

We simply do not know. We can speculate, but the speculation will be as wild from one person to another, because there is not a single bit of evidence we can use to form a hypothesis. We just have to guess, or commit anthropomorphism. To actually base any policy on an "idea" posited in this type of environment is lunacy.

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Isn't this non sequitur? Why would the aliens be suffering resource shortages in a universe that is, by Hawking's own admission, abundant with billions of planets. Our own solar system has seven other planets and hundreds of planetary objects. If the aliens were so desperate for resources, why would they bother conquering Earth when they can mine the other planets and planetary objects in our system at a much lower cost?

They could need genes, or just feel like destroying us before we become a threat to them or they could just be insane. You never know what you're getting with a n unimaginable group of beings with the capabilities of traveling faster than the speed of light.

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I agree that we should be cautious of any unknown civilization. My problem with Hawking's thesis is that it seems he is suggesting that all advanced civilizations including our own will eventually become "nomads" that conquer less advanced civilizations for their resources as if it is just another stage of evolution. I suspect that he is simply projecting his anti-man/environmentalist view onto alien races.

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Stupidity about global warming aside I didn't find his assessment to be overly malevolent or anti-man.

When technology advances it is most often based on a longing or need.

Necessity being invention's baby mama and all that.

So when one speculates what a society or culture so advanced might want or need it isn't unreasonable to think they might want or need things we would rather keep for ourselves... including ourselves.

How many rights respecting societies are there on earth? Not many.

Why would we think there would be a higher percentage of them in the skies?

Perhaps we would be as an entire planet of tribal aboriginals to them, not deemed advanced, intelligent or rights respecting enough ourselves to merit individual rights.

It is speculation he is making, he admits as much. And not unreasonable speculation at that.

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The sheer physics involved in such travel would require a very prosperous, productive, and rational society. That's not to say that such beings would have to be nonaggressive, but they would have to have a recognition of property rights and it certainly puts the probability in favor of a free capitalistic society not burdened by tribalism and war.

Like Europe in the 1500's?

Oh...wait...

There is no connection between a flawed epistemology and ability to develop technology. Aliens, if they get here first, may be just like us with regards to rationality. In which case... pardon the phrase, but God help us...

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Let's take a rational look:

Right now lifting one pound into low Earth orbit is very expensive. Much more expensive, by far, than shipping one pound around the world in the 1500s. Once in low Earth orbit (LEO), it takes relatively little expense in fuel to boost that pound anywhere in the Solar System. it doesn't take much to boost it to the nearest star, either, if you don't mind waiting millennia for the cargo to arrive. If you want it to arrive within 4.5 years, which menas boosting it instantly to 99.999999% of light speed, and then decelarating it instantly at the other end, you're talking about a major expense again.

Therefore interplanetary piracy, never mind interstellar, is worth a great deal more many times over than the plunder.

Of course we don't know all there is to know, but we're not ignorant, etiher. We know how to lower launch costs to a small fraction of what theya re today, at the expense of large capital invesmtents. It would be possible, using space elevators, mining the asteroids, the moon and other planets int he system, using solar sails, electromagnetic tracks, and other things, to launch an interstellar ship at aabout 1/3 light speed to anywhere in the universe you care to aim it. At such speeds a ship would take over 13 years to reach the nearest star. So any invading aliens in Proxima Centauri would be better off developng industry on their own.

I'd worry about real estate. Earth is an atypical planet compared to the rest of the Solar System and an outright freak of nature compared to what we kno fo extrasolar planets. Any aliens from an Earthlike world looking for new lands to inhabit might invade and conquer Earth, and perhaps wipe us out, just to own the land we now ocuppy.

as for hypersace, antigravity, and other double-talk drives (with apologies to Larry Niven), they make a good story, but we're as likely to have them in real life as we are to find unicorn feathers (yes, I'm aware of what I just said).

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The sheer physics involved in such travel would require a very prosperous, productive, and rational society. That's not to say that such beings would have to be nonaggressive, but they would have to have a recognition of property rights and it certainly puts the probability in favor of a free capitalistic society not burdened by tribalism and war.

They could be carnivores looking for a meal. "To Serve Man" anyone?

Right. Why should it be assumed that we're talking about intelligent life? There may be space whales out there feeding on energy and matter in the forum of earth sized planets, right?

Edit: so you may want to turn off your wi-fi

Edited by freestyle
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Isn't this non sequitur? Why would the aliens be suffering resource shortages in a universe that is, by Hawking's own admission, abundant with billions of planets. Our own solar system has seven other planets and hundreds of planetary objects. If the aliens were so desperate for resources, why would they bother conquering Earth when they can mine the other planets and planetary objects in our system at a much lower cost?

I agree. Let me paint a picture:

Infinite resources farther than the eye can see and you, the alien, are going to step on an ant pile for no reason other than sadism after spending unimaginable amounts of energy to reach another star within your own lifetime.

.....right....

Its the same retarded Avatar logic:

Though the whole solar system is likely to have significant deposits of whatever mineral you will make profit off of -somehow- after hauling it back umpteen light years back to the home system...You chose to ignore countless lifeless planets and needlessly cause the natives to have a real bad day, while simultaneously making the whole trip unprofitable. YAY.

I have no idea why Hawking is so wrong with this. Even old Sci Fi writers like Azimov and Heinlein have a more accurate picture of an interstellar travel. If any species can even generate the astronomical (literally) amount of power to reach another star that's only half the story. If you are going 99% of light, everything you hit, not matter how small and/or motionless it might happen to be is going to hit you going 99% of light. Hit a cloud of anything, even hydrogen, and you likely won't survive the journey due to radiation poisoning. Oh, and by the way, radiation embrittlement of metal is going to be a serious problem: not much of your ship may make it to the other star intact.

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I think that a planet originated species where a generally malevolent ethics (and thus politics - in the long term) is present cannot become an interstellar traveller. The costs of leaving a planet's gravity well and traversing interstellar space are so extreme that a species divided and driven to self destructive acts - as must be any species where individual rights are not broadly respected - would never muster the required resources and put them to that use.

A unified tyranny cannot produce the required wealth and free or semi-free countries who have tyrannies to defend against (plus their own internal troubles if not fully free) cannot spare the resources.

Case in point: ourselves.

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There is just to many unknows to be able to accuratly conclude what an advanced alien race would be like. Think about all different movies and books that propuse so many different views. Startrek, starwars, contact, hitchhiker guide to galaxy, independence day, the day earth stood still orignal and remake. Its only interesting to see what example hawking decided to use. Alien resource plundering aliens. No doubt that his example choice is influenced by his enviromentalist values.

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  • 11 months later...

However, it's an interesting thought to think about. Until we are capable of defending ourselves from such a threat, hiding in our little corner of the universe might be the best thing to do.

Yes, but how can we possibly know when we are capable of defending ourselves? Without having seen the threat we have no idea how advanced their technology may be.

And perhaps there are aliens out there thinking the same of us. Consider the scenario of the human and the spider where we attack in order to defend. It is a possibility that the alien will be hostile but more likely only if it feels threatened.

Let us keep trying to contact other lifeforms. Chances are we won't contact any significantly intelligent life for a very, very long time. And who knows at what level our technology will be by then.

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I have a feeling if they are able to travel great distances through space (lest we forget how FAR we actually are from achieving that ourselves) and they have the mindset that they need to be in conflict with us that they most likely have technology that absolutely dwarfs ours and so if they have visited we probably weren't aware of their presence and their military technology would obliterate our own.

Edited by CapitalistSwine
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I think Neil DeGrasse Tyson put alien contact better. Think about what our 1% separation in DNA has done for the human race. The most intelligent ape can do what? A little bit of sign language? Most small children are capable of this. The best ape is not even on par with our toddlers. So, imagine some alien life form 1% removed in DNA in the same way we are removed from the great apes...Seems as though our greatest, most intelligent compatriots would be like the cute ape that can do sign language to them. Stephen Hawking would be like Coco The Monkey. So it isn't so much that they would enslave us as much as they probably wouldn't even be able to communicate with us.

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A war with a civilization from another star system is pretty absurd, at least so long as we are confined to our lil' ole planet. Major civilization stretching across hundreds or thousands of light-years? Yeah. One backwater planet? I think not.

After all, there are better places to go for resources that Earth. The Main Asteroid Belt, for example. The various moons of the outer solar system. The atmospheres of the gas giants. Mercury is basically a giant iron ball with a little dust on top, so if you want metals that is where you would probably want to go. Heck, even Mars would be better for mining and the like, as it has a shallower gravitational field than Earth. Indeed, the only thing we have that isn't more readily available elsewhere is an atmosphere and liquid water. But if you have energy (which the Sun or nuclear fusion or whatever energy source they used to get here would provide in abundance), there are more reasonable ways to get those. It has been estimated that the resources in the asteroid belt alone would be enough to support ten trillion human beings without any sort of resource crunch. Why bother with a planet, which is the most inefficient use of material anyone could possible imagine if one is trying to gain access to resources or use them for living space, when there are giant mountains of resources just floating around?

The only thing I would be worried about, honestly, is an accident of some kind. Perhaps they have drones that go ahead of them and build large antenna arrays and the like for them. Those drones may just release a self-replicating nanobot and it just goes about its business, building arrays, power stations, etc., and accidentally wipe out everything on Earth. Something like that seems infinitely more likely that "We are coming to steal your resources, and we will shoot you with laser guns" as seen in so many science fiction movies.

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