×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Don't Talk To Aliens, Warns Stephen Hawking

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the even-if-they-have-candy dept.

Sci-Fi 1015

Megaport writes "Promoting his new series on the Discovery channel, Stephen Hawking has given an interview to the Times in which 'he has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all that it can to avoid any contact.' He says, '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.' Personally, I've always thought that the indigenous people of the world really had no chance to avoid contact here on such a small planet, but is hiding under our collective bed an option for humanity in the wider galaxy?"

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

1015 comments

Security through obscurity? (5, Funny)

jolyonr (560227) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973512)

Hiding will never work :)

Re:Security through obscurity? (5, Funny)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973530)

Hiding will never work :)

But it might buy us the time to develop technology to defend ourselves. Having them nuke us from orbit (it's the only way to be sure) would not be so good for humanity.

Re:Security through obscurity? (1, Insightful)

bhagwad (1426855) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973756)

It wouldn't be so good for them either. If they want to colonize the planet, destroying all life forms and making Earth radioactive would hardly be the best way to go about it.

Re:Security through obscurity? (4, Insightful)

boaworm (180781) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973564)

Given how large the universe is, we don't even have to hide. As it seems hard to travel faster than light, we should be pretty safe :-)

Re:Security through obscurity? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973624)

I hate that stupid, USELESS cliche.

ALL security is effectively through obscurity. Because it's impossible to prove any security method to be secure, any and all security measures are put in place with the hope that any adversary doesn't know how to defeat those measures.

Which IS security through obscurity.

Re:Security through obscurity? (1)

CapOblivious2010 (1731402) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973782)

Perhaps it's poorly phrased, but it's attempting to make a critical point, namely: are your security measures easily changeable? If so (think DES/etc keys) then you're in FAR better shape than with something that's not (think "internally developed" crypto algorithm)

Re:Security through obscurity? (5, Insightful)

pudge (3605) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973890)

ALL security is effectively through obscurity. Because it's impossible to prove any security method to be secure, any and all security measures are put in place with the hope that any adversary doesn't know how to defeat those measures.

Not true. Take the game of chess, for example. Everything in chess is right out in the open. There may be some misdirection involved, but nothing is actually hidden from the adversary. Yet you still have security measures in place.

You don't put armed guards outside a military outpost in the hope that the enemy won't know HOW to defeat them; you just hope they won't try, because it's too difficult or costly. And if they do try, you will defeat them mostly with brute force, not with anything hidden or secretive.

Re:Security through obscurity? (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973910)

So.. NOT telling people my password is a good idea? Damn, and I was following the advice of the OP. Damn you internets... you were supposed to be smart!

Re:Security through obscurity? (1)

chill (34294) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973836)

You must be too young to remember the late-70s sitcom "Mork & Mindy". Mork (Robin Williams) came from a planet so chickenshit they'd hide the entire planet to avoid confrontation.

Obviously Mr. Hawking was a big fan.

That and he exactly described the plot of Independence Day right off the bat. Maybe he is just a fan of actor-comedians?

Re:Security through obscurity? (2, Interesting)

prabha (538549) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973862)

Hiding will never work :)

So is announcing your password.

Re:Security through obscurity? (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973878)

Sure it will. All we need to do is park our planet next to another planet that is more attractive and easier to steal. Hmmm... sounds like a car analogy gone wrong.

His Master's Voice (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973526)

Interesting that I should wake up to find this article when I finished reading Stanislaw Lem's His Master's Voice last night before going to bed. It's one of the earliest books I've read that deals seriously with communications from space. I won't get into the details fo the book [wikipedia.org] but instead pose equally speculative assumptions about advanced life that contradict Hawking (a man much respected in my eyes).

As humans have "advanced" over the past two thousand years, it is apparent that killing each other is simply not productive. Well, this is apparent to me anyway. And I would argue that although the numbers have probably gone up for homicide on a world wide scale, there is far less nationalistic or religious conflict on the Earth today and the percentages of death related to that have dropped drastically since World War II. Were it not for this movement towards sanity and science, a lot of our technological advances would have been inhibited by 1) the effort it takes to exterminate your neighbor and 2) being killed by your neighbor. While military research brings advancements in other fields, the primary goal is stopping the enemy. Had scientists that invented napalm at Dow Chemical been given the same amount of resources to invent more efficient fuels and engines, I've no doubt they could have.

Simply put: why is it that we assume an "advanced" civilization means that it is militarily advanced and not ethically advanced? Those two categories are not mutually exclusive and I would argue that any alien race not ethically advanced before becoming militarily advanced will simply continue to focus on killing each other. I will also posit that intergalactic travel is near impossible without the ability to understand anthropology. Using this logic, I would wager that the nomadic roving death squads are no more likely than the aliens in Asimov's Childhood's End [wikipedia.org] that show up and help us technologically as well as ethically (we've still got quite a ways to go in some areas more than others).

It's hard to agree with Hawking's assumption of aliens as it's more apparent they would simply die out from lack of resources before ever finding their first victims. I suppose all I have to offer is science fiction references since that's all that's being discussed here.

Re:His Master's Voice (3, Insightful)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973550)

They may be neither militarily advanced nor ethically advanced. They may simply be looking for more resources to exploit. Why assume that they either have a concept of ethics, that their ethics might apply to us, or that taking resources would be unethical in their view?

Re:His Master's Voice (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973630)

Why assume that they either have a concept of ethics, that their ethics might apply to us, or that taking resources would be unethical in their view?

They don't need a "concept of ethics." But there's the basic problem that if they have no problem with taking resources from another civilization, what problem do they have with taking resources from each other? Unless they are invincible they will almost certainly begin by taking resources from each other. If both you and I need a resource and one of us becomes short on it, we engage in conflict unless there is a sense of "ethics" or some basic moral guidelines. They can call it whatever they want but it's just a basic beginning to conflict ... in the wrong places of our world, you can get yourself killed for an iPhone or wallet. Those are resources.

They may simply be looking for more resources to exploit.

So tell me, when you're "simply looking for more resources to exploit" where do you start? Looking at those around you who have the resources you need or building a spaceship capable of intergalactic travel and also locating out of the universe a planet that might have the same resources you need? If you find it hard answering that question, read up on resource consumption and distribution in ancient Rome.

And what makes Earth so automatically special about our resources? I mean, for carbon based life, maybe. But you have to assume if they've been going for that long then they are probably capable of turning worthless planets into gold. A lot of sci-fi novels posit that stars and black holes are going to be the harvested resource for "the down streamers" or any advanced alien race looking for resources to exploit.

Re:His Master's Voice (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973688)

But there's the basic problem that if they have no problem with taking resources from another civilization, what problem do they have with taking resources from each other? Unless they are invincible they will almost certainly begin by taking resources from each other. If both you and I need a resource and one of us becomes short on it, we engage in conflict unless there is a sense of "ethics" or some basic moral guidelines

You're applying how the average human acts to how you expect aliens to act. If we assume hostile invaders here to take our resources it is entirely possible that they've never even considered the idea of attacking someone of their own species and once their own planet started running low on resources they decided to all band together so that they could go somewhere else for resources.

Re:His Master's Voice (2, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973832)

Pretty unlikely. Once a mutation arose that caused some of the little green men to beat up the other little green men, the aggressive little green men would soon be the majority.

Re:His Master's Voice (2, Insightful)

insufflate10mg (1711356) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973922)

You're applying how the average human acts to how you expect aliens to act.

No he's applying how advanced intelligence works on Earth to how it would work anywhere else it would develop. Advanced intelligence, meaning humans compared to dogs). The foundation of his argument is that intelligence is intelligence (regardless of the organism it manifests itself in) and eventually resource-related economic principles combined with the essence of conflict will bend the curve in our favor. If you're going to counter his argument, adolescent "but alienz are different!" statements aren't going to work.

Re:His Master's Voice (1)

ilguido (1704434) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973726)

They don't need a "concept of ethics." But there's the basic problem that if they have no problem with taking resources from another civilization, what problem do they have with taking resources from each other? Unless they are invincible they will almost certainly begin by taking resources from each other. If both you and I need a resource and one of us becomes short on it, we engage in conflict unless there is a sense of "ethics" or some basic moral guidelines.

Phoenicians, Greeks, Vikings... all of them thought that raiding and plundering foreign peoples was rightful, nonetheless they all punished theft.

Re:His Master's Voice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973990)

Phoenicians, Greeks, Vikings... all of them thought that raiding and plundering foreign peoples was rightful, nonetheless they all punished theft.

"Protecting" gold and other valuables with unarmed monks is like asking for it, and therefore stealing it is an rightful punishment for their stupidity.

Vikings protect their stuff and deserve to keep them.

Re:His Master's Voice (4, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973968)

But there's the basic problem that if they have no problem with taking resources from another civilization, what problem do they have with taking resources from each other?

You are making the fundamental assumption that any random group of aliens would view us as "people". Given, as an example, the number of species we recognize as "people" currently, that's quite a stretch.

Re:His Master's Voice (4, Insightful)

hansraj (458504) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973654)

I know that projecting human values to any alien life form is heavily criticized, and you can't say with absolute certainty that any (technically advanced) alien life would share our ethics. Nevertheless I don't think it is unreasonable to assume that they would.

It is safe to assume that any technically advanced life form would be a social life form and would rely on groups as opposed to mere individuals for making leaps in technical progress. And that necessitates evolution of characteristics like empathy, altruism and so on. It is not a stretch to assume that they would project their thoughts on to others the same way we do.

Of course we can't be 100% sure, but it is still a reasonable thought.

Re:His Master's Voice (3, Interesting)

gclef (96311) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973814)

I dunno. Others have speculated recently (and I happen to agree with them) that the likely space-faring races won't be biological, but mechanical/electrical. An AI that can manufacture it's own replacement parts & direct robots to repair itself could become effectively immortal...which makes the time for the trip between stars less of an issue.

So, there might only be one...and it might need resources. (In this case, though, it'd likely be more interested in the asteroid belt than us.)

Re:His Master's Voice (5, Insightful)

gaspyy (514539) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973826)

Not necessarily.

Aliens could have a hive-like society, similar to ants or bees, where the individual is nothing. Surely you remember Ender's Game and its idea that the conflict was ultimately caused by the difference in society - the aliens could not comprehend an advanced society made of individuals alone. A hive-based society may discard empathy as inefficient. As a side-note, I think this is the direction of the reimagined "V" series - I think the aliens are "bug-like" rather that "lizard-like".

Re:His Master's Voice (2, Insightful)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973940)

It's equally plausible that they might only apply these moral, ethical, and altruistic ideals to their own as humans have done for generations and continue to do so. Many nations today still think nothing of viewing those who are not their own as less then themselves, be it for nationalistic or religious reasons. I think Hawking's idea isn't without merit. We simply can't assume they're here for good any more than we can assume they're here for ill. But to be safe, assume the worse. I can buy that. Besides, in all those sci-fi movies it's the guy who goes up to shake the alien's hand that dies first! :p

Re:His Master's Voice (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973978)

It is safe to assume that any technically advanced life form would be a social life form and would rely on groups as opposed to mere individuals for making leaps in technical progress.

That's a very big assumption. What if the technical advancement arises in hive-like organism? So there's only one "individual".

Are you aware of the "thoughts" and local enviroment of your individual neurons? (yes, you might point out that "hives of neurons" that we are still display so called "morality" towards other "hives of neurons"...but the crucial thing is that we can't merge; different "hives" can't directly communicate; heck, for us the only way to ensure survival of "part" (in a way) of the hive is a frequent and friendly contact with other hives)

Re:His Master's Voice (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973592)

Not to be a jerk about it or anything, but Arthur C Clarke wrote Childhood's End. It's the first line of the wikipedia article you linked, so I guess I don't need a citation...:)

Re:His Master's Voice (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973612)

Natural selection? All those that don't develop the tendancy to fight others would be wiped out by those that did, leaving only those that do.

Re:His Master's Voice (1)

u17 (1730558) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973648)

You have come to the conclusion that killing isn't productive based on biased evidence. So far, resources here on Earth have been practically unlimited for us humans, such as living space, food, and energy sources. I think you will agree with me that once there are not enough resources to go around, killing becomes *very* productive. I think what Hawking is trying to point out, is that aliens wouldn't be travelling across space pointlessly. If they spend a lot of time and energy to actually travel to our parts, a likely reason for doing so might be that they want to find resources they need for survival. If they need something that only planets such as Earth can provide, then they wouldn't hesitate to reap what they can, even if it means doing so at the expense of the human race. If the aliens so advanced, they will probably not find great value in yet another species of intelligent monkeys that happen to live there.

Re:His Master's Voice (1)

Atryn (528846) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973930)

...aliens wouldn't be travelling across space pointlessly. If they spend a lot of time and energy to actually travel to our parts, a likely reason for doing so might be that they want to find resources they need for survival.

Traveling here may or may not be "a lot of time and energy" in their terms, depending on their level of advancement. However, communication would still likely be cheaper than travel. In fact, one could argue that it is likely *much* cheaper. To the point that communication/collaboration to solve problems of sustainability with other species is *much* more productive than travel/conflict...

Practically unlimited resources? (1)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973980)

So far, resources here on Earth have been practically unlimited for us humans, such as living space, food, and energy sources.

Ehm... yeah, sure. The fact that wars have been fought (and are being fought) over each of those items you mention, says otherwise. Let's face it: we're all on a big spaceship here (Earth). It's big and can take a lot of abuse, but in terms of resources, it's like a closed shell - hardly 'unlimited'. And there are lots of us - more every day.

Re:His Master's Voice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973668)

Childhood's End is Arthur C. Clarke's.

Re:His Master's Voice (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973730)

All this assumes that alien civilisation is even remotelly similar to ours and hence has similar notions of ethics. But the "good" ethics we take for granted is largely a byproduct of our evolutionary path, which produced fairly intelligent and independently thinking individuals who nonetheless depend on other members of their species to maximize success.

But let us take a look at another possibility - a civilisation modelled after social insects here on Earth. This intellect isn't likely to share much of our goals, exterminating all its neighbours being possibly a good thing (I'd even guess it percieves the world as two distinct categories: 1) 'that which is known = that which is me = good = God' (to use popular human concept) 2) 'unknown = that which is not me = bad = Satan'; there's not much common ground for understanding with such an entity...)

Re:His Master's Voice (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973828)


As humans have "advanced" over the past two thousand years, it is apparent that killing each other is simply not productive. Well, this is apparent to me anyway

quite true. However, that's probably because we've discovered that keeping people alive and apparently happy while you use them as resource-generators. ie, look to politicians, we have a system where they appear to listen to us, and then (after the election) do what they like. Or bankers, apparently keen to "help" us afford those mortgages but secretly simply grabbing as much of our money as they can while not giving a damn.

So if aliens did turn up, they probably wouldn't be psychopathic warriors, or enlightened hippies, but are most likely to want to use us. Its not like they'd have used up all their resources before finding us, its that any expanding race would simply need more and more resources to support their lifestyles.

The biggest deal is that we need to be able to do something about them if they did turn out to be unpleasant to us,and we don't have the technology to do anything about them currently. Best, most pragmatic, course of action until we do have interstellar travel and similar technologies to an alien race capable of visiting us, is to quietly sit tight.

Re:His Master's Voice (1)

pudge (3605) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973904)

Simply put: why is it that we assume an "advanced" civilization means that it is militarily advanced and not ethically advanced?

On Earth, we can survive through trade and so on with other nations, and through learning to get along.

If they have massive weapons and a strong need for our raw materials in order to survive, they MAY decide to trade with us ... or they may have needs beyond our ability to trade and just take what we have, killing us in the process.

Re:His Master's Voice (1)

flajann (658201) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973958)

They would not bother to come to Earth to "replenish resources" as they would be able to do this much closer to home. And the ethics argument is very human-centric. Would they even have anything we'd recognize as "ethics?" What if they are more insectoid in nature? Like our ants? Hive-mind?

Re:His Master's Voice (1)

broknstrngz (1616893) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973982)

Humans only remember ethics when dealing with humans. That's never stopped them from destroying other lifeforms. I'm not a PETA fanboy, but I'm pretty sure this can work the same in the aliens vs humans case. Let's just hope that, if they ever find us, they'll be advanced enough for us not to represent a target. If they're just a little more advanced than we are, we're prolly screwed.

Steven Hawking = Roland Emmerich? (1)

TheStonepedo (885845) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973534)

It sounds like this physicist thinks the film Independence Day may come true. What could we possibly have in our young solar system that would make it worth the bother for a nomadic civilization of harvesting aliens to visit?

Re:Steven Hawking = Roland Emmerich? (3, Interesting)

Your.Master (1088569) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973582)

In the unlikely event that it turns out that sentient life is far more probable on planets with the conditions that also support human life (rather than there being a wide variety of conditions, mostly incompatible with human life), then the aliens have found a habitable world, pre-terraformed.

On the other hand, if our needs are orthogonal to their needs, maybe we're a masterfully convenient technologically backward slave race, intelligent enough to do their dangerous harvesting tasks without consuming any resources that they themselves need.

Or maybe the aliens are just pricks.

Re:Steven Hawking = Roland Emmerich? (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973738)

Think less the aliens from Independance Day (did they ever get a name?), and more the BETA or Mimics. If I wanted to farm resources from other solar systems, why go there myself when I could just send engineered organisms to do the work for me?

So Independence Day had it right (1)

magsol (1406749) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973538)

We've got Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith. We'll be fine.

Re:So Independence Day had it right (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973712)

Lets hope that unlike in the movie, they're not using IPv8 while we're still struggling just to move to IPv6, leaving us totally unable to open up a simple TCP/IP connection to their mothership.

Re:So Independence Day had it right (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973950)

it probably won't be that, but rather Apple's proprietary tech that prevents downloading.

Buzz (4, Interesting)

That_Dan_Guy (589967) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973546)

I think he's saying this to generate debate and thought about aliens. It's too late to hide. The radio waves are already on their way. But if he's saying this on a TV show he's trying to generate buzz for it and get people thinking about it. It also leads to the conclusion we need to build SDF-1, thereby getting humans into space.

Hawking isn't called a genius for no reason. There is another subtle arguement there that we need to get of this planet to start looking for those resources too.

Etc etc.

Re:Radio Waves (1)

GillyGuthrie (1515855) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973796)

The radio waves are already on their way.

Although we have sent radio transmissions into space, don't they peter out before they get too far away? Maybe it's not too late to stop Hawking's interstellar resource-hunters from finding us.

Re:Radio Waves (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973964)

just reverse polarity and the radio transmissions will be sucked back to their source.

Probabilities (1)

unbug (1188963) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973558)

What is the probability of aliens conquering Earth? What is the probability of an all-out nuclear war, an incurable virus getting loose from some lab or other similar niceties happening? Why should then anyone in their right mind actually be concerned about the former?

Re:Probabilities (1)

magsol (1406749) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973584)

Because, under the assumption that aliens do exist (as Stephen Hawking believes), there is the distinct possibility of extraterrestrial contact being hostile. Admittedly, it's the whole "contact" part that's probably less likely than nuclear war or freak accident on this planet, but not as much as you might think if aliens do exist.

I've been saying this all along....! (5, Interesting)

flajann (658201) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973574)

I've been saying what Hawking is saying all along. It is sheer folly to think that an advance race went through all the trouble to cross many, many light-years of intergalactic space just to say "Hi".

The enormity of the effort they would have to mount given the physics of space travel would be rather significant, and at great cost to themselves. The time it would take would depend on how close to the speed of light they can reach. And the physics of THAT means they would have to have the technology to convert matter into energy somehow. Or, it would take them many thousands of years to get here. Either way, it's NOT going to be a friendly housecall, no matter how you shake it.

The public has in its collective imagination all these SF stories that assumes some way has been found to avert the realities of the physics that we now understand. But I am not confident at all that a way can be found to make interstellar space travel "cheap and affordable", per se. Wormholes, if they even exist, require energies way beyond our imagination, way beyond any civilization would be able to harness, energies at galactic scales or worse, and even at that there is no clear understanding if they would actually be useful for travel.

We indeed understand a lot today about physics and cosmology, and nothing I've seen to this time would even hint at the merest possibility of anything that could possibly make interstellar travel "cheap and affordable" my mere civilizations throughout the cosmos

So, I deem it extremely unlikely that Humanity's fantasies about space travel will ever likely be true.

And thus, on that basis, I would firmly agree with Hawking.

Re:I've been saying this all along....! (3, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973804)

I have also been saying this all along but I disagree with you on this point:

The enormity of the effort they would have to mount given the physics of space travel would be rather significant, and at great cost to themselves.

Who's to say that they just don't think differently than we do? Just because we have a mental block about a particular bit of physics does not mean that they do too. I find it hard to believe that if they think like we do but have solved the physics problem of near light-speed travel that they wouldn't be able to handle their own natural resources for their population.

Re:I've been saying this all along....! (2, Interesting)

flajann (658201) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973822)

But, by the same token, I don't think we have much to worry about, anyway. I would think that while life may be plentiful throughout the cosmos, intelligent life that has mastered technology to the point of being space-faring would actually be exceedingly rare. Even in our own planet's 4.5-billion year history, it's barely been a hundred years since the Wright Bros. first flight at Kitty Hawk back in 1903. Yuri Gagarin made it into space in the year I was born in -- 1961. Not even quite 50 years that we've been space-faring at all, and a joke to speak of, as we've never had a human beyond the orbit of the the moon.

Just landing a man on Mars is an enormous effort for our civilization. Mars!!!! One planet over from us! And I'm confident we'll do that someday. And I'm almost equally as confident it'll be done by a country other than the United States. But I digress.

Now one datapoint -- the Human Civilization -- is hardly enough to bake a theory on, but you can at least see what challenges lie in the wake of becoming space-faring, let alone the chances of evolving an intelligent species that would even care. Humans have been around for 2 million years and only in my lifetime -- quite literally -- have we just put a foot in space.

My wild-ass guess is that perhaps there may be 5-10 other civilizations in our galaxy capable of space travel at all, and none of them have probably sent any of themselves past their own stellar systems. The physics for them will be the same as the physics for us. So we should just relax and not worry about a V-type or Independence-Day style alien invasion.

But I hear we'd make great pets anyway.

Re:I've been saying this all along....! (1)

giorgist (1208992) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973906)

Load of _______ .

What is so special that earth has that they wont find billions of on the way here ?

Water ... why bother coming down to our gravity well, when they can just mine asteroids. Anything else ?

Unless off course they want our brains ... and they probably take our straws as well.

Re:I've been saying this all along....! (1)

10101001 10101001 (732688) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973944)

The enormity of the effort they would have to mount given the physics of space travel would be rather significant, and at great cost to themselves. The time it would take would depend on how close to the speed of light they can reach. And the physics of THAT means they would have to have the technology to convert matter into energy somehow. Or, it would take them many thousands of years to get here.

You know, this is more or less precisely the reason I'd disagree with your argument. If they have mastered space travel and could either harness insane (by human standards) amounts of energy or making thousands of years trips, I'd imagine that Earth and humanity in general would hardly even register on their radar as either a target or even something of interest to study. Put in perspective, it'd be like humanity's fascination with anthills in far off-continents. To that end, I'd look at humanity's history so far. It's only in recent history that humanity has shown a clear interest in studying anthills and not merely intentionally plodding over them or ignoring them (the latter of which might result in accidentally plodding over them)

Either way, it's NOT going to be a friendly housecall, no matter how you shake it.

I'd imagine the real issue is it wouldn't be a housecall at all. If aliens were to interact with humanity, it might well just be their ship zooming close enough to our solar system to cause some indirect harm to Earth (pulling a Kuiper belt object into Earth's orbit, for example). An actual housecall seems a lot less probable, statistically, than our anthill being wiped out accidentally by a more adolescent space fairing society.

Re: I've been saying this all along....! (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973972)

I've been saying what Hawking is saying all along.

Me too.

This probably explains the Fermi Paradox: them that advertise get eaten fastest.

Re:I've been saying this all along....! (1)

Spatial (1235392) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973986)

It is sheer folly to think that an advance race went through all the trouble to cross many, many light-years of intergalactic space just to say "Hi".

We would.

About 100 years too late ... (1)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973588)

We needed this advice back when we started high power radio transmissions... we've got plenty of advertising of our presence out there now.

They're not coming for us. (4, Insightful)

Oceanplexian (807998) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973594)

I think we vastly overestimate how important we are.

An alien race isn't going to travel light-years to have a cup of tea any more than we would travel to a remote corner of the earth to make peace with the native bacteria.

Wall-E? (1)

Ixtl (1022043) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973596)

"I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet." Sounds like Stephen has seen Wall-E too many times. Does he have a five-year-old? Anyway, I doubt we'll be conquered by a race of vacuous, immobile, milkshake-slurping space balloons who aren't interested in anything past their viewscreens.

Re:Wall-E? (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973842)

I doubt we'll be conquered by a race of vacuous, immobile, milkshake-slurping space balloons

I'm betting on intelligent fungus that can survive dormant in space until it falls to earth. Then it attaches to our heads and grows into our brains so it can control us. In the future, we will all look like Don King with green hair.

Don't panic (2, Insightful)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973604)

The way things are going, in a few more centuries either we'll have wiped ourselves out, or Earth will be a massive polluted desert...

Er, what..? (1)

bhunachchicken (834243) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973608)

"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"

Are you sure they were talking to Stephen Hawking and not Roland Emmerich? Because I swear this is the plot of Independence Day...

logistics (1)

phrostie (121428) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973616)

i understand his arguement, but i would think it would come down to logistics.
they would have to use up all the resources not only on their home world, but their stellar system as well.

even then, they would be more likely to use an uninhabited planet like mars than have to deal with rogue aborigines(us)

the chances of anything coming from mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973622)

are a million to one he said

Based on....? (1, Insightful)

thedbp (443047) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973636)

Hmmmm .... Sounds like someone is making wild, baseless assumptions, and projecting humankind's shortcomings onto a hypothetical extraterrestrial species ...

Trust me, if we see aliens on Earth, it'll be representatives of our former race who represent those that WEREN'T stranded on this hunk of rock called Earth... And if they kill us, it'll be a mercy killing after seeing how far we'd fallen from our once great status as gaurdians of peace and brotherhood throughout the galaxy.

See? I can make baseless claims too.

Re:Based on....? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973844)

i think the logic behind evil aliens is that any species capable of colonizing its entire planet and then some has to be a super-predator, like man. nothing eats man and gets away with it. for a species to survive like that it has to have great deal of strength and violence. cows and giraffes will never conquer the universe, they will get eaten by men and tigers first

Pathetic Earthlings... (3, Insightful)

cherokee158 (701472) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973674)

"Pathetic earthlings. Hurling your bodies out into the void, without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here. If you had known anything about the true nature of the universe, anything at all, you would've hidden from it in terror." --Ming the Merciless

Re:Pathetic Earthlings... (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973902)

but Flash, we only have 4 minutes to think of a witty reply before you're allowed to post again.

Don't Anthropomorphize (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973678)

Judging aliens by our standards and in the context of our experiences may be the gravest error. Since we are talking scifi, let us mention Ender's Game, where the 'bad' aliens thought humans were of no consequence because of their racial context. To coin a phrase, "Welcome, but check your weapons at the door, please".

There are less dangerous planets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973718)

If I were an alien out looking for resources, I would imagine that Earth is far too primitive to have an industrial base that could help at all. Not only that, but the aliens would probably only be able to muster a handful of ships with a population numbering in the millions at the most, while Earth has billions of natives. The natives also have about 10,000 nuclear weapons, and though they may not pose a lethal threat, could knock out the alien ships with one or two lucky hits, which would inflict unrecoverable losses on the aliens, as they would necessarily lack the industrial base to make more anytime soon, being light years away from the nearest anchorage. Add all this together, and if I were an alien, I'd figure Earth was more trouble than it's worth to take over, and pick some other uninhabited planet with abundant natural resources to take over instead.

No point in raiding Earth (5, Informative)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973720)

There are pleanty of other resources out there, why come all they way here to get them?

It would be like filling your car full of fuel, driving to the airport (past several orchards, forests, landfills, and supermarkets), filling up a 767, flying to Tahiti in it, then raiding a village for its produce.

It just wouldn't be worth it. Not saying they wouldn't be interested, just that the expense and effort to take our stuff would not even be close to break even.

The only reason I could see for them to actually come here are for biologicals. Perhaps petroleum which is also biological actually. Basically us, the plants, all of the bugs, the germs. And that is only useful to them if the biomass is is similar and compatible to theirs.

Quite frankly they could probably produce their own Earth sized biomass with less energy than it would take for them to to transport such infrastructure here.

Re:No point in raiding Earth (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973960)

Really, there are only two reasons they would come here as opposed to any other rocky planetoid in the universe:

1. Tourism.

2. Slave labor.

Don't feed the humans (1)

canada_dry (830702) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973728)

Given the vastness of the universe it's hard to believe that earth holds some resource that can't be found anywhere else - plus the size of the earth in relative galactic terms probably wouldn't make much of a beep on the alien overload's metal detector. And, if aliens do make it here, it's a good bet that we're too dumb and fragile to be used as their slaves. My bet is that all us humans will simply be shipped off to alien zoos across the universe as curiosities and exotic pets. Those left behind will be part of a larger indigenous exhibit for our touring overlords.

I'm not worried. (4, Funny)

sizzzzlerz (714878) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973744)

I've got my towel.

Re:I'm not worried. (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973900)

I am guessing you are using one of those fake Guides that have been showing up all over the place lately? The one that reads "Don't Panic!" on the cover? The one reading "Mostly harmless." where the original says "Scheduled for invasion."? Listen, those things are just a part of Their propaganda effort. You recognize the real Guide by the big red flashing letters reading "PANIC! NOW!" on the cover.

Used up all resources? (1)

openfrog (897716) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973746)

I would think that they would have to leave due to something like the end of life of their sun, not the depletion of limited resources. It seems to me that an advanced civilization would have understood the concept of sustainability...

Re:Used up all resources? (1)

zm (257549) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973966)

... and somehow they found building huge interstellar ships with life sustaining capability cheaper than hauling the depleted resources from an uninhabited nearby system...

We found Earth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973766)

Now I'm picturing any extraterrestrial species as grumpy as everyone on Battlestar Galactica was if their trip had listed a few thousand years more.

And I'm thinking Hawking has a good point.

See what happens when aliens breed with jackasses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973774)

Some of you will recall that on July 8, 1947, witnesses claim that an unidentified flying object (UFO) with five aliens aboard crashed onto a sheep and mule ranch just outside Roswell , New Mexico .

This is a well known incident that many say has long been covered up by the U.S. Air Force and other federal agencies and organizations.

However, what you may NOT know is that in the month of April 1948, nine months after that historic day, the following people were born:

  • Albert A. Gore, Jr.
  • Hillary Rodham
  • John F. Kerry
  • William J. Clinton
  • Howard Dean
  • Nancy Pelosi
  • Dianne Feinstein
  • Charles E. Schumer
  • Barbara Boxer

See what happens when aliens breed with sheep and jackasses?

via Tom McMahon's blog [tommcmahon.net]

No need to worry! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973778)

We are of peace. Always!

Uh-oh (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973840)

Why did he start talking now? What does he know that we do not? He surely was aware of that possibility for years. Have They, for a moment, lost control over him? Or could he wrestle his mind from Their control long enough to warn us? These are the signs, my friends - the final days are ahead! Stock up on ammo, food and fuel, in case you have been so negligent to not have done so already. The hills, head for the hills!

But we have Powerbooks, right? (4, Funny)

droopus (33472) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973892)

Jeez, come on the technology for defeating them came out in 1997! Didn't any of you see Independence Day? We already know from this fine documentary that all we need is a Wall Street G3 and we can easily penetrate their puny firewalls. Sure they have intergalactic travel capabilities, and ships that can hover over entire cities (without char-broiling them with hover-exhaust, mind you...) but WE have 14.4 modems, Mac OS and the Fresh Prince of BelAir.

What's to worry about?

Re:But we have Powerbooks, right? (2, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973970)

There's a small problem with your plan. Of the two PowerBook Wall Street G3 avaiable on eBay [ebay.com], the first one is complete; however , it does not work, and the seller has no idea what the problems are. It could have multiple issues. And the second one is also complete; however it does not work and the seller also has no idea what the problems are. It could have multiple issues. Obviously the keyboard is bad.

We're doomed!

Dooooooooooomed!!!!!*

* extra !'s added for emphasis.

Earth Resources? (3, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973920)

Ummm.. if they have intergalactic travel capability, they would be able to get any resource they needed from a much nearer source. After all, every resource we use here on earth is available in vastly larger quantities elsewhere in the Universe than on our tiny little rock. Every resource here came from somewhere else, remember?

The argument that they would come here looking for resources is simply asinine.

Wait, what? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973928)

I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet.

If they used up all the resources from their home planet, how could they build their massive ships?

Migrant Fleet (1)

agw (6387) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973946)

Sounds a bit like the Migrant Fleet from the Mass Effect universe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Races_in_Mass_Effect#Quarians).

Of course! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973962)

Hawking's creepy robot voice freaks *me* out, and I'm not even from another planet!

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...