Stephen Hawking, who has a documentary starting on Sunday, April 25th on the Discovery Channel, called ‘Stephen Hawking’s Universe’, has a bit of advice if one comes across an intelligent alien.
Don’t talk to it. In fact, better to run.
The Times of London elaborates.
“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.”
“He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is ‘a little too risky’. He said: ‘If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.'”
Stephen Hawking, a theoretical physicist who has spent the last few decades of his life dealing with the ravages of motor neurone disease and who uses a computer to communicate with the outside world, is considered one of the best minds of our era, at one with Einstein and Newton. One must therefore hesitate when the temptation to dispute him arises.
However it seems to this writer, ‘Independence Day’, ‘V’, and ‘War of the Worlds’, aside, aliens likely wouldn’t need worlds where other life forms exist to get at resources. There are plenty of dead worlds, moons, gas giants, and so on where resources exist for the taking. Indeed, aliens capable of interstellar travel likely have access to nanotechnology and unlimited sources of energy that would make the idea of having to swoop down and steal from someone else rather ludicrous.
An alien race that has moved out into space may not be inclined toward aggressive war to begin with, though one also suspects that such a race would be capable of finishing a fight if someone else started. An alien race would have to develop a culture that eschews most resorts to force to compel others to bend to their will. Otherwise such a race is likely to have destroyed itself one it acquires weapons powerful enough to accomplish such destruction.
On the other hand, an alien race could not develop in the opposite direction, excessively passive, for otherwise it would not feel the need to expand out into the universe. That kind of alien species would become the sort of civilization that some environmentalists would like to see happen, steady state, recycling, content to stay at home.
In any case aliens who might encounter our planet would likely find our species something interesting to study. They would approach us more like anthropologists than conquistadors, benign, but in a hands off sort of way. Following the principle that knowledge of being observed changes the behavior of the observed, we would likely never know we were being studied.
Source: Don’t talk to aliens, warns Stephen Hawking, Jonathan Leake, Times of London, April 25th, 2010