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Opening Arguments

Stay away, ET

My apologies for what will be sporadic posting over the next few days. We're going live with a new front-end system this week, and that's taking up most of our time. As long as you're here, check out this paranoid excursion into outer space: "Bid to talk to aliens could doom us all: How the quest to find ET could be insanely risky":

Not all scientists are sanguine about this, however. One has even called it ‘insanely risky, given the dearth of information we have about the nature of Extra-terrestrial Intelligence’.

John Billingham, a senior figure at SETI and Nasa, even called for a global moratorium on such programmes because of the potential risk to humanity’s future.

Is this paranoia? Hardly, if you remember the lessons of our history.

For when an advanced people meet a less technologically sophisticated people, the results for the latter are generally catastrophic.

Look at the American Indians, or even worse, the Tasmanian aborigines, who were obliterated after the arrival of European settlers in the early 1800s.

The worst-case scenario of an alien attack on Earth is a staple of science fiction from H.G. Wells’s War Of The Worlds to Tom Cruise’s latest blockbuster, Edge Of Tomorrow.

We have no idea how super-intelligent aliens might regard us, but what if they see us as we do cows: a useful source of protein?

Or as mosquitoes: pests infesting a lovely and habitable planet, and best got rid of?

What goes around, comes around? Of course it is absolutely true that if aliens get here before we get there, they will be the superior race. You an optimist or a pessimist?


Larry Morris
Tue, 06/17/2014 - 10:33am

I still think Stephen Hawking has the correct answer to the question.  


If we find alien life, what makes us think It will be friendly ?  If Galactic civilizations evolve anything at all like our planetary species has evolved, we may be in for some deadly surprises.

 "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t 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, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach … If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans."

Stephen Hawking,

April 26, 2010

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 9:15pm

Alas, I'm an optimist. It's not that I think our visitors will be ET benign human helpers -- it will be an advanced race that might not be all that concerned about our history and aspirations. But instead of Hawking, I prefer the "Star Trek" scenario of "a peaceful scientific mission"or the "Independence Day" one of "we will kick you alien ass." (Yeah, I'm a nerd, OK?) The human race has always adapted and always will, unless, of course, climate change wipes us out before ET gets here. Heh. Remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" -- meh!