Stephen Hawking Says We Should Hope Intelligent Alien Life Doesn't Find Us

Thursday, 14 April 2016 - 11:09AM
Science News
Alien Life
Thursday, 14 April 2016 - 11:09AM
Stephen Hawking Says We Should Hope Intelligent Alien Life Doesn't Find Us
Stephen Hawking just announced his intention to work with billionaire Yuri Milner, Mark Zuckerberg, and other prominent scientists on the $100 million initiative Breakthrough Starshot, which aims to build tiny, light-powered nanocrafts that could help us find extraterrestrial life. But according to Hawking himself, although extraterrestrial intelligence is almost definitely out there somewhere, the probability of finding it is still fairly low:

Opening quote
"The probability is low…probably," Hawking told reporters at the Breakthrough Starshot unveiling (via LiveScience). "But the discoveries of the Kepler mission suggest that there are millions of habitable planets in our galaxy alone. And there are at least 100 billion galaxies in the visible universe. So it seems likely that there are others out there."
Closing quote

So while Breakthrough Starshot may aid in the search for alien life, that's not its prime directive. Instead, Hawking envisions this project ultimately making humanity a multi-planetary species, and possibly even saving the human race:

Opening quote
"It is unwise to keep all our eggs in one fragile basket," Hawking told Popular Science. "Life on Earth faces dangers from astronomical events like asteroids or supernovas, and other dangers from ourselves. If we are to survive as a species, we must ultimately spread to the stars."
Closing quote

And even if we do manage to find extraterrestrial life, Hawking is not particularly optimistic that it would be a positive development. When asked what our next move should be if we find intelligent alien life, he said:

Opening quote
"We should hope that they don't find us."
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Ann Druyan, science author and co-writer of Carl Sagan's Cosmos, had a more optimistic perspective on the discovery of alien life:

Opening quote
"Extraterrestrials are beautiful until proven ugly, because of the great feat and demonstration of maturity that's required to learn how to be a space-bearing civilization. It puzzles me that we always imagine the punitive extraterrestrials to be technically so far ahead of us, and yet every bit as stunted, emotionally and spiritually, as we are at this moment."
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Hawking agreed with her, or at least with her position on the emotional and intellectual maturity of humanity. When asked what intelligent alien life might look like, Hawking responded:

Opening quote
"Judging by the election campaign, definitely not like us."
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