didn’t anyone ever tell you not to talk to aliens?

While we're trying to get aliens' attention with active SETI, we need to keep in mind that we talk to aliens at our own risk.

chicken little alien invaders
Alien invaders from Chicken Little, 2005

It’s not often that the mass media talks about aliens and having an official policy for interacting with intelligent species that might exist in our galaxy, save for a few frequently recycled stories about alien life. But when a legendary scientist like Steven Hawking mentions them, the world seems to listen. The physicist offered a few thoughts on alien life already and his position on active SETI hasn’t changed. In his opinion, Earthlings should keep their heads down not to unwittingly anger a powerful alien species, or point them to a potential goldmine so they could exterminate us and take over our world. Why? Because they would be out of vital resources and in desperate need of fresh fuels, minerals and organic materials. Or as Hawking puts it

We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we may not 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 [who are] looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.

With this scenario, we’re heading into the territory of extraterrestrial sustainability and positing that there’s a species able to survive a total collapse of its resources through advanced technology. However, we’d have to question how many individuals would survive and the extent of their reach. There are billions of worlds which could provide them with plenty of resources and Earth might not necessarily be on their radar. Even if they had full blown warp drives (which is not an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination), getting to a planet which they knew nothing about at a time when we wouldn’t really be able to do anything to stop them will involve what could only be described as an astonishingly unlikely coincidence. In the first month of this blog, I tried to point out that we’re not totally defenseless against an invading alien armada already and in the future, we may be even better able to fend off an alien invasion unless bureaucrats shut down the relevant military projects.

I would agree that it’s highly unlikely that aliens will descend to Earth offering wisdom and free hugs, and it would be far more probable that the extraterrestrials we’ll meet will be armed, even if they do fly by our planet with no intentions other than to satisfy their curiosity. After all, we would probably do the same thing if we were in their shoes just in case the unexpected happens and we’ll need to defend ourselves. But again, we need to think of the numbers. We’re talking about trillions of miles and billions of years. For two intelligent species that live in the same time frame and have technological capabilities that let them even think about exploring space and look for others like them to meet would take a pretty interesting coincidence. It’s not impossible, but it isn’t something we should fear on a daily basis. Though it may be a good idea to keep it on our list of priorities and keep up the military’s cosmic ambitions, as well as encourage the development of space faring battleships to push the technical envelope for future space travel endeavors. But no rush, we can take our time.

Wait a second, you might ask, what about the broadcasts beaming from our planet for the last century? Aren’t we just screaming into a sphere of space 200 light years across? And what about all our messages to other star systems? Wouldn’t the aliens living nearby already know about us? They might, but let’s remember that the farther away the signals from our planet get, the less intense they are. Extraterrestrials able to detect them could only live so far away and even when they do pick up our signals, they’d need to decode them, attempt to understand our language, and learn something about us before they do anything rash. If they were to launch a massive invasion, they would have to be betting that by the time their spacecraft reach us, we wouldn’t be able to drive them back after decades of technological advancement, or that we aren’t already able to destroy pretty much anything they can throw at us. We can’t assume that aliens will match us equally in all technologies and we may have weapons they haven’t even imagined yet. Though to be fair, so could they. And faced with all this uncertainty, the aliens might decide to do absolutely nothing at all, perpetuating Fermi’s Paradox…

# astrobiology // alien contact / alien intelligence / alien invasion / military


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