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Stephen Hawking thinks that extra-terrestrial contact might be a bad thing for planet Earth.
Following NASA’s breakthrough announcement about the discovery of incredibly promising exoplanets which might be home to intelligent forms of extra-terrestrial life, one might have expected the renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking to have met the news with happiness. After all, Hawking is heavily involved in the Breakthrough Listen project which is one of the most dynamic and progressive projects searching the universe for intelligent life. However, Hawking has a much gloomier view of the possibility of interaction with extra-terrestrials than one might expect.
Speaking to the Discovery Channel in 2010, Hawking said that it was likely that advanced aliens would probably be a nomadic race who would travel the universe conquering and colonize whatever planets they encountered. “If so, it makes sense for them to exploit each new planet for material to build more spaceships so they could move on. Who knows what the limits would be?” he asked.
Hawking doubled down on these pessimistic statements at a Breakthrough Listen event. He said:
“We don’t know much about aliens, but we know about humans. If you look at history, contact between humans and less intelligent organisms have often been disastrous from their point of view, and encounters between civilizations with advanced versus primitive technologies have gone badly for the less advanced. A civilization reading one of our messages could be billions of years ahead of us. If so, they will be vastly more powerful, and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”
However, according to Jill Tarter, the former director of the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) this type of thinking is overly cynical. She said that “If aliens were to come here, it would be simply to explore. Considering the age of the universe, we probably wouldn’t be their first extra-terrestrial encounter, either.” However, she did concede that this was no guarantee that the aliens would respond positively to us. Essentially, she said, there is absolutely no way to know what an advanced alien race would do in response to human civilization.