World's Fair

While driving to the Astrobiology 2010 Conference last week, I and a graduate student from my lab briefly discussed Stephen Hawking’s recent declaration that humans should try to avoid contact with what would surely be hostile aliens. It seemed odd to be attending a conference where a primary aim is finding extraterrestrial life while the news media and the blogosphere was reverberating with Hawking’s hawkish alien opinions. What really made the whole situation even more odd, however, was the almost total absence of any reaction to, or even general acknowledgement of Hawking’s remarks at the conference. Here were 500 scientists who are in some fashion or another actively involved in the truly exciting field of astrobiolgy, and it seemed that Stephen Hawking’s somewhat paranoid remarks simply didn’t register as anything important. It was as if Mel Gibson warned against hostile aliens. He’s not an astrobiologist. He’s a celebrity, and celebrities get media attention when they say apparently controversial things. It was as if Paris Hilton had warned against disturbing the inhabitants of underground cities on Mars. I was listening for conversations about Hawking in the hallways, but didn’t hear any. I brought it up with several attendees. Everyone I spoke to acknowledged that they had heard about it, and then shrugged it off with something like “kind of funny, huh?” There were three different “open topic” sessions at the conference, where anyone could say anything they wanted for 5 minutes. I didn’t go to all 3, but at the 1.5 of them I did go to, no one was talking Hawking. I really liked that. Everyone was going about their business, reporting on new species of extreme life on Earth, or on attempts to understand how life originated, or on designing new hardware or assays for detecting life on other planets, or debating on where and why life might be found on Titan or Europa, et cetera, and no one seemed to be even remotely concerned about the impending invasion.

Comments

  1. #1 johnnymorales
    May 3, 2010

    You CANNOT boil what Hawkins said into the simplistic and idiotic phrase “impending invasion.”

    He said the best model for a likely alien race is humanity itself.

    And we are NO KIND COMPASSIONATE explorer species.

    We wreck devastation and extinction wherever we go.

    We extract the resources we need rarely with any thought of the impact on the future or ourselves.

    As for other species that demonstrate advanced intelligence – the response from humans is there are none.

    Chimps and dolphins, crows are dismissed as primitive animal intelligence so far below our own that they are not entitled to a single right we have deigned inalienable human rights.

    Nothing in the history of evolution shows a development path that results in a superior intelligence that is kinder and considerate of lessor species.

    Yet for some reason many have no problem believing a species that travels among the stars will be kind and considerate – traits we believe are natural developments as civilization becomes more evolved.

    Yet we humans show no signs of this. Despite over 10,000 years after the first settled civilizations, we can be and are as ruthless and barbaric, bloodthirsty and merciless as our primate ancestors and able to inflict suffering upon each other without a thought.

    Hawkins said that more likely an alien species would judge us using the same absolutist, harsh techniques we use to dismiss the less intelligent, but still intelligent species of our own planet in order to justify inflicting so much distruction upon them.

    Whales, chimps, crows, hey it’d be nice to save them, but if there are millions to be made so long critters. After all you’re just animals.

    And so to we could expect that sort of treatment from aliens.

    They would dismiss our “intelligence” as so inferior to their own that protecting us because we are a sentient species would not be necessary.

    We’d just be animals living in a place they might want to exploit.

    Should they decide to exploit Earth and should we stand in the way, we should expect no more consideration for our lives and civilizations than we give/gave to the species we’ve deemed inferior in all ways living in places we wanted to live in and exploit.

    Invasion hardly.

  2. #2 Fred
    May 3, 2010

    - They are Here!…Astronauts of Antiquity (in a parallel universe)…”Deep Thought” – The Large Hadron Collider Could Prove the Existence of a Parallel Universe – A Daily Galaxy 2009 Top Story…Origin of the Species, From an Alien View – Zecharia Sitchin…
    – CNN: UFO Disclosure Wanted by High Ranking Officials…US Government to admit UFO visitation is real in 2010… Pope’s star watcher to visit Nasa (12th February 2009) and talk aliens:
    http://cristiannegureanu.blogspot.com/2010/04/nasa-announces-wednesday-media.html

  3. #3 Katharine
    May 3, 2010

    Fred, you’re trusting someone who gets his stuff from All News Web, which is purely a site about UFO wackos?

    I bet you’d trust anyone.

  4. #4 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 3, 2010

    True, Hawking is no expert in this.

    Too, we don’t know enough to pin down a simple model that answer Fermi’s complicated question, as opposed to making simple parameter models for simple questions such as Drake’s equation.

    we can be and are as ruthless and barbaric, bloodthirsty and merciless as our primate ancestors

    That is not what the biologists say, IIRC. If there is any trait that defines Homo besides its specific denture (or, as some believe, that H. sapiens stopped being adapted for tree climbing and embraced bipedalism wholeheartedly), it is that H. sapiens is exceptionally socialized.

    [Actually, that is also what the non-sex dental morphology tells us about Homo as a lineage.]

    …, well, I guess that can make you afraid too.

  5. #5 Rax
    May 3, 2010

    I am a sentient alien on Earth and have not killed any humans yet!

  6. #6 prof.pedant
    May 11, 2010

    It was as if Paris Hilton had warned against disturbing the inhabitants of underground cities on Mars.

    She would, of course, be right about that. But my main concern if she did make such a warning would be ‘how did she find out about them?’. She is, after all, not on the ‘need to know’ list.

  7. #7 konteyner
    June 22, 2011

    “It was as if Paris Hilton had warned against disturbing the inhabitants of underground cities on Mars.”

    She would, of course, be right about that. But my main concern if she did make such a warning would be ‘how did she find out about them?’. She is, after all, not on the ‘need to know’ list.

  8. #8 su deposu
    July 8, 2011

    She would, of course, be right about that. But my main concern if she did make such a warning would be ‘how did she find out about them?’. She is, after all, not on the ‘need to know’ list.

  9. #9 su deposu
    July 13, 2011

    She would, of course, be right about that. But my main concern if she did make such a warning would be ‘how did she find out about them?’. She is, after all, not on the ‘need to know’ list.

  10. #10 medyum
    July 14, 2011

    Too, we don’t know enough to pin down a simple model that answer Fermi’s complicated question, as opposed to making simple parameter models for simple questions such as Drake’s equation.

    we can be and are as ruthless and barbaric, bloodthirsty and merciless as our primate ancestors
    That is not what the biologists say, IIRC. If there is any trait that defines Homo besides its specific denture (or, as some believe, that H. sapiens stopped being adapted for tree climbing and embraced bipedalism wholeheartedly), it is that H. sapiens is exceptionally socialized.
    …..thanks….very nice beautiful web site ….uhh yeah..

  11. #11 boyacı
    August 4, 2011

    didn’t really address the specifics much.

  12. #12 traverten eskitme
    August 15, 2011

    Wow, you must be smart! (to which I always reply, “if I was really smart, I’d be rich, too

  13. #13 logo tasarımı
    September 2, 2011

    “Wow, you must be smart!” ?? do not agree!..

  14. #14 sepetli vinc
    October 4, 2011

    we can be and are as ruthless and barbaric, bloodthirsty and merciless as our primate ancestors.

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    http://www.pasta-tarifi.com
    August 29, 2012

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