They ‘may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria’
Many of us would never expect a great mind like Stephen Hawking to warn humanity not to let curiosity get the best of us, but that’s his stance when it comes to the search for alien life. Because, according to the renowned astrophysicist, any alien civilization that is advanced enough to contact us is almost surely “vastly more powerful” than our own world, which could spell trouble should we ever stumble upon any with either sinister intentions or just plain indifference to our survival.
Hawking impresses the latter scenario through the use of a very humbling simile. He says any aliens discovering our civilzation “may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”
Ouch. Maybe it’s time we started treating bacteria a little bit better to build up some karmic credit.
In the unlikely event that you haven’t gotten the picture he paints, he then likens the invasion of an advanced alien race to how Columbus exploited the Native Americans upon his “discovery” of the New World.
Should they desire to antagonize, the team working with Hawking has suggested that the aliens wouldn’t may not even need to touch down on Earth, instead harnessing celestial power from great distances:
Somewhat ironically, these comments were made in the context of creating awareness for his current project, Breakthrough Listen, in which scientists scan millions of stars looking for hints of life among them. One of the earlier subjects of this investigation is KIC 8462852, an astral body that has been referred to as a possible alien megastructure.
He says in a recent video, Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places, "As I grow older I am more convinced than ever that we are not alone. One day we might receive a signal from a planet ... but we should be wary of answering back."
If that’s the case, do we really want indulge our curiosity by seeking these guys out?
You can watch the video in the hopes of crafting your own answer to that question, or you could just tune in to see the CGI-created SS Hawking, which guides the genius as he takes viewers on a virtual tour of five important cosmic destinations:
Stephen Hawking's Favorite Places
In the virtual journey, he introduces us to Gliese 832c, a planet 16 light years away that he believes is one of the most likely hosts of alien life.
Whether or not we want to explore any further is a question we’ll have plenty of time to wrestle with before it’s possible.