I am a huge Stephen Hawking fan. I have read two of his books and am always interested in what he has to say. But goodness, lately he has been all doom and gloom. I found an article, which is a little long, but still fascinating, that talks about an interview he gave to el pais. In the interview with el pais he once again stands by his mindset that meeting aliens would turn out very bad for us stating:
If aliens visit us, the outcome could be much like when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach. To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational. The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.
I know that Mr. Hawking is quite intelligent and I will concede that he is probably smarter than me, probably! All jokes aside I cannot for the life of me understand why he thinks this. There are many different avenues to travel down to discuss this. So to start let’s say that there are probably intelligent aliens out there, and I mean more than one civilization. So with that I would say that there is at least a chance that some of those will be nice and some will be mean. I think that is a fair assessment, just to get things started off.
As with most things I normally discuss there are about an infinite number of scenarios that could come to fruition, so it is almost impossible to really nail down anything. The main problem is that we only have one example to look at, one intelligent species to study. To extrapolate that we are not even 100% sure how our own evolution played out, much is still speculation but the pieces are filling in, albeit slowly. So I think the real thing when discussing this topic is how an intelligent alien species on another planet would evolve, as this would play a huge role in their society as well as their behavior.
In our own evolution many theorists suggest that aggression goes hand in hand with intelligence, as stated in the article above. Not too long ago I read The Meaning of Human Existence (title is a little misleading) which discusses different theories about our social and physical evolution. I recommend checking it out if you have a chance, it’s a quick read. There are reasons for the intelligence-aggression theory that make sense on Earth, but would these same scenarios hold true on another planet? That is almost impossible to say. What I think would probably hold true would be the ability for intelligent species to band together, work together, or create a collation, again as the article states. I think that would need to be universal, as I think it would be almost impossible for a single member of an intelligent species to survive on its own and pass on that gene through mating, so that trait would continue. It seems more plausible that by working together a species would be able to survive almost any problem by sharing resources and such. Which would be impossible for the loner, making it more difficult for them to survive and pass on their genes, thus creating more loners. So somewhere along the way I would imagine this same thing would happen on an alien planet.
There is also the idea that aliens would be big, really big. I am not sold on this and do not follow the logic behind that one either. Although, they may not need food like we do to grow and maintain their bodies, but there again I am not sure what advantage there would be to being this large? Perhaps their size would be useful to ward off predators, but I think this has more to do with the planet itself than social evolution. I think gravity would play a larger role in this than anything else.
In that aspect, working together, I think they could be similar to us, but from there moving forward, it is really anyone’s guess. They would eventually build a society, I would assume, and become technologically advanced. To me I would think that along the way they would struggle with many of the same problems that we have. But, and this is where I am making my own prediction, if the civilization was able to survive to become technologically advanced I think that every intelligent civilization will reach a point where the species as a whole either tears itself apart for any number of reasons, or they finally come together as a whole and work together to reach a common goal for the good of the species.
What I mean is, and I hate to use this word, a sort of Social Singularity where the civilization puts aside all their petty differences, war, politics, religion, what have you, and works together. I think that they would need everyone on board to achieve total greatness. Imagine an entire species devoted to a single idea, much like a colony of ants. Amazing what they can accomplish, now put some intelligence in there and just imagine. I think if this is the case aliens would not be hostile as they would have no reason to be. Also, I would imagine that we would have nothing they want. If they have worked together to figure out how to travel across the universe, what could we have on our planet that they want or could not find on any other planet in the universe. The answer of resources is silly, because I think on any if not most rocky planets in the universe there would be any amount of resources they could take, albeit without a fight. Not to mention the plethora of asteroids available as well.
So following that logic, why then would they come to enslave or pick a fight with us, to expand their empire? Again if they have overcome great struggles and social problems on their home world, I seriously doubt they would be interested in these rudimentary ideas, like we are. Expanding an empire means the accumulation of more stuff, gold, man power, what have you. If they had seemingly infinite technology, I would imagine it would take some pretty advanced tech to get here, why would then need more stuff or be so shallow of a species to conquer a primitive world like our own. Doesn’t really make sense to me. If you look at our own social evolution the age of empires ended at the end of WWI possibly even WWII. There is no longer a goal for kings and queens to gobble up land and people to rule, I think we are past that as a species, at least for the most part.
I will say that my whole argument hinges on this Social Singularity that I mentioned above. I defiantly think there could be species out there that made it regardless of this singularity, but I think they could be the exception rather than the rule. These are the aliens we should watch out for in my opinion. I would think that a species that is all over the place following so many different objectives and goals would be less likely to make it. So a species with terrorists, those trying to make money, accumulate more stuff, following personal goals, I would think would be less likely to achieve super technological advancement. To me it seems too hard for intelligent beings to reach that level, too many resources stretched too thin along with too many personal goals. I think an intelligent species such as ourselves could go a long way with our current social structure, but eventually maybe 100 years or longer we will reach a point, a precipice, where we will have a choice to make. I think that choice will determine our place in the universe, and more importantly our fate.
The only other thing I could think of is that they would want our planet, and for a variety of reasons that does not make sense either. There would be an infinite number of things that could kill them here, not to mention a hostile species, us, that would not want to leave. Plus again if they had the technology to travel to our planet I would assume they would have something that they could relatively easy terraform a planet for their liking, or at the very least build a habitable colony on a planet with no inhabitants.
So needless to say I am not in agreement with Hawking. I would love to talk to him more about this but I am just a nobody and he is arguable the most famous physicist on the planet.