Nasa / Space

Hawking warns that aliens may not be nice

Stephen Hawking has created an uproar by warning that aliens may not be nice. NASA is moving forward with plans to seek life on planets and moons -- in particular, Europa, Jupiter's sixth moon.

In a new Discovery Channel series entitled Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist posits the idea that humans should probably not be in a hurry to televise our existence to the universe at large. Hawking suggests that, if we do manage to make contact with advanced alien life forms, it is entirely possible that they will be much more technologically advanced than humans. That sounds great, right? Maybe we can learn something from them. According to Hawking, this scenario is highly unlikely. Instead, Hawking warns that advanced, intelligent alien life is more likely to want to conquer humanity and take over Earth than to be our friends. Now he tells us.

From radio and television signals, to the Beatles' song "Across the Universe" (which NASA purposefully transmitted into deep space in 2008), humans are constantly beaming signals into space, in all directions. If aliens are picking up our signals, they likely already think we're an awfully noisy bunch. If said aliens do have wicked intentions of eating humans for dinner or turning us all into slaves, not only are we loudly announcing our existence, we are also telling them a lot about ourselves and our planet, making the annihilation of the human species quite easy for a highly advanced alien society.

Europa

Amidst all the negative press that Hawking's comments on the series have created for aliens, NASA is moving forward with plans to seek life on planets and moons -- in particular, Europa, Jupiter's sixth moon. Europa is covered with ice, and astronomers now think that a sea of water, and possibly living organisms, lies under the ice layers.

But most astronomers realistically expect that when humans finally do find life out in the galaxy, it will most likely be simple organisms, similar to bacteria and amoebas. We aren't hearing much in the way of carrying on over how single cell organisms are out for world domination. And why not? Science fiction has shown us time and again how seemingly simple alien life forms can pose a potential risk to humanity and Earth as a whole. One Doctor Who episode (starring David Tennant) even has water as the alien threat. Europa seems kind of risky now.

In all fairness, few scientists are giving Hawking's comments much attention. Even Hawking concludes that the chance of aggressive aliens showing up for dinner, at least any time soon, is pretty small. Statistically, Earth is likely not the only planet with life, and humans are likely not the most intelligent life in the universe (I often think we aren't the most intelligent life on Earth). Hawking explains that we obviously live rather far away from other highly advanced planetary societies, and that alien aggressors would take just as long to get to us as it would take for us to get to them. For now at least, humans are apparently the most dangerous thing flying around the galaxy.

Check out this three-minute clip from the Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking episode about aliens. Also take a look at the TechRepublic photo gallery, NASA seeks life on planets and moons.

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281 comments
Peekalum
Peekalum

There is a lot of talk about aliens being nice because they have become "civilized" and are now "caring". Everyone should keep in mind that the aliens, like human kind, are the top predators on their home planet. And amongst the aliens, there are some that are at the top of the heap, just like we have our haves and have nots. As top predators on earth, mankind also eats everything that was alive and uses all inanimate resources. As a side note, I would bet that if "Aliens" (from the movie Aliens) were found to be tasty, mankind would find a way to farm them and market them and they would be on the TV cooking shows. In turn, the aliens may say, "Wow, these tasty critters don't have any fur or scales or tough skins and their teeth and nails are not even sharp. They are ready to eat! And the fat ones taste even better!" Now back to the main topic. History has shown that a technologically advanced civilization will dominate a less advanced civilization and there is no reason to believe that meeting aliens will be any different. Even if the first contact is minimal, like trade in the middle ages along the silk road, some army, politicians, religion, and/or business will make a concentrated effort to affect the other civilization, usually under the guise of improving their life or well being so that a needed resource or food can be extracted with benefits to the group that made the best deal. Hiding will not help. Think about Admiral Perry steaming into a Japanese harbor. Any country that does not continue to expand technologically, will be overshadowed by one that will. For mankind to strive for and achieve deep space travel will help put us on a more even footing when we do meet the aliens that are out there. If there is conflict among the stars, I would like that we be in a position to pick a side as a worthy partner rather than being used as just a base or unwilling participant.

Duke E Love
Duke E Love

They are going to eat us and pick their teeth (or what ever) with our bones.

jcommunications
jcommunications

There's no reason to believe that just because another species is more intelligent and technologically advanced than us that they would be more peaceful. We as a species are more intelligent and technologically advanced than chickens,but are we really more civilized? You don't see chickens selling crack to each other, starting wars over oil, when's the last time you heard about a chicken coming home from work in a bad mood and beating up his hen? Doesn't happen.

Steve.Irvine
Steve.Irvine

First let me say that having read ALL 196 posts I find encouraging that there are so many views and opinions, but also upsetting that there are quite a few that resort to name calling and rude comments etc. Anyway, I would like to make a few comments... 1) For those of you who keep saying that Scientists can't prove Aliens exist therefore they don't exist, or that the existance of God can't be proved therefore he doesn't exist... The absence of proof is not the proof of absence. There are many things that were not known or understood in the past that have since come into the realms of human knowledge and understanding. Time is the key, it all takes time and the dedication of human endeavour. 2. There is no Black and white... Grey is the dominant colour... There is no Good and Evil, just degrees of behaviour and varying moral & ethical codes. One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. 3. Aliens are likely to be complex and have all the various ranges of behaviour and code of conduct that we have; we may just not understand them from our own frame of reference. 4. We are all doomed in any case... First the Martians will arrive and start a bloody coup, failing as they catch a cold, then before we get a chance to catch our breath, a ship will crash carrying an embrionic parasitic life form that will gradually consume us, and then before it reaches a creshendo a predatory race of hunters will turn up to exterminate them and us. On the back of this disasterous state of affairs a cybernetic race will arrive to assimilate all and sundry. Before their work is complete the Shadows will arrive and bombard us all into oblivion from orbit... after that we won't care who else turns up to have a go! :)

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

but I do believe that any aliens out there are stuck with the same problem we have, how to travel the great distances even in our own galaxy, let alone the universe. Even at the speed of light the time to travel to even close stars is huge, and Einstein says it cannot be done, light speed travel that is. So here we are stuck on earth, there they are stuck on whatever they call their planet and we will never discover how nice or mean they really are. Kinda sad. :(

Ron K.
Ron K.

Considering the way that we treat each other, I don't know that I would.

Cerebral*Origami
Cerebral*Origami

If an alien race were capable of interstellar travel they could meet all resource needs far easier in their local space than travelling to Earth and dragging up raw material from a gravity well and transporting them all the way back home. Slavery is inefficient compared to robotics. Food incompatible and can be grown/created far more easily at home. Exotic materials may be a trade item (think exotic hardwoods or rare mineral formations perhaps even animal skins (hopefully not ours!(We have lousy skins anyway). So we could end up like the African natives selling ivory for trinkets. (Far easier to let the natives fan out throughout a hostile/unknown world and gather your trade items and bring them to trading centers.) This is assuming they share the desire for the exotic. Personally I believe military conquest (for the purpose of occupation) to be unlikely. Any race still war like at that tech-level will most likely have wiped itself out. Also there is no benefit for the reasons already given. Acquisition: So they can say Earth is theirs. Again no direct use to them so at the most we might have to fly their version of a flag so they can add another stick pin in their Empire's map. Religious conquest: This could be bad as they may use force or threat of animation to get the Earth's population to convert. Xenophobia: They'll wipe us out and move on. Tourism (type 1): We'd be quarantined and observed by casual tourist or scientific researcher. I think this is the most likely. They would want to preserve our world and culture in order to preserve our uniqueness. Tourism (type 2): Aliens everywhere with cameras posing with the native people, plants, animals, buildings, buying T-shirts and souvenirs. If we have any interaction, our culture WILL change. It will not be destroyed any more than you can destroy a river by splashing it. Our culture is a constantly changing dynamic thing. One other possibility: assuming they do have a well developed sense of compassion they may take over the ruling of our planet to save it and us from ourselves.

jvezina
jvezina

Hawking is right. (And Steven Greer is wrong). Any species capable of dominating their own planet enough to master space travel is a threat. They did not come to dominate their planet by being nice. It's simply Darwinian evolution that the fittest will survive. Having said that, it doesn't mean that they will be hostile. It just means they will be capable of being aggressively hostile.

john barker
john barker

but they may be nice if you are that far advance we will be study and and maybe educated to better things why would they harm us we be like pets to them john barker

adornoe
adornoe

He may be good at the theoretical math of the cosmos, but when it comes to the psychological analysis of any alien entities, he's not any better than a fifth grader who has just seen an episode of Star Wars or Battle Star Galactica. Why would an alien entity, with the very high intelligence and technology that it would take to navigate through interstellar space, need to come to our little nothingness of a planet to get its resources and/or "food"? Any entity with that kind of intelligence and technology would've also figured out a way to get what it needs from the vast richness of the universe, and they wouldn't have had to bother coming to our little planet. With so much universe out there and with so many stars and so many other likely other planets and so much more richness out there, our little planet would have very little to offer other than just another "civilization", with our civilization being very far behind technologically to that visiting entity. Mr Hawkins has (and I'm sorry to put it so blatantly insensitive) too much time on his hands, and he needs to stop watching so much science-fiction on TV or movies. He's just too plain simplistic on this part of the issue of the cosmos and should stick to the "simpler" math of the cosmos.

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

Here's a chicken yard (free range, open field, all that jazz): Sunrise Begin Rooster-process: Rooster grabs hen, holds down by throat, has its way with said hen; Stop only when the NEXT hen walks past within throat-grabbing distance. Go to top, repeat until Sunset. -0-0-0 Sounds like Wall St really. Perhaps we're learning more to be like hens.

jhoward
jhoward

Roosters are very territorial and aggressive. The hens are no slouches either if they catch the wrong person in their nest grabbing for eggs. Oh and by the way - the roosters do beat up the hens on occasion like a pimp keeping his girls in line and for seemingly nothing other than he can. Personally I think Mr. Smith said it best in the Matrix when he compared humans to a virus.

lucien86
lucien86

Humans butcher and eat about 10 - 100 billion chickens a year. Do you know how many humans chickens butcher and eat a year? its none, zero. We might be the blood soaked savages but I'd rather do that than take the slow tour through someone elses intestines. :) Just imagine though - what if these aliens evolved from a bird type species?, I can see a lot of bright shiny steel and sharp things in our futures too. Delicious.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Let's hear it for chickens. I count four hens as being among my best friends for the eggs they give and I enjoy. I definitely support chickens.

Cerebral*Origami
Cerebral*Origami

Everything will be consumed in gray goo and then freeze. :)

mbrandon
mbrandon

That this ... "If an alien race were capable of interstellar travel they could meet all resource needs far easier in their local space than travelling to Earth and dragging up raw material from a gravity well and transporting them all the way back home" ... *was* a big part of Hawking's point. So if they bothered to come here, it was because we *DO* have something they need; maybe they have used all the resources in their system up - so they wouldn't be interested in taking anything back.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

altering our course in unpredictable fashion. Prime directive and all that... [i]One other possibility: assuming they do have a well developed sense of compassion they may take over the ruling of our planet to save it and us from ourselves.[/i]

santeewelding
santeewelding

You are in communication with (them) now. This allows you to post with such authority and certitude.

Rob C
Rob C

What if those PETS had nuclear weapons AND - - Believed there was a God looking out for them. - Even worse, some of the Pets believed in different Gods, and would use those Nuclear weapons, if they felt that their threatening neighbor was developing their own Nuclear capability. A nuclear war, might just start from such a tactical nuclear strike. If you were shipwrecked on an Island, and climbed a central hill to see cannibals worshiping pagan gods, would you get in touch with them ? No way, unless you had the technology to get rid of them. Now imagine that you are an alien, and you peep from behind the Moon, and see what dangerous weapons we have. And you monitor our television, and see that half of us STILL worship a variety of Gods. (And we have violently battled over them.) What would you do ?

Cerebral*Origami
Cerebral*Origami

Many people identify Hawkins as the contemporary version of Einstein. So having him on the show whether it is something in his field or not is a way to boost viewer numbers.

Ordinary Joe
Ordinary Joe

Yes and no. People can be advanced and friendly, logical and civilised for their day job and family life, but still go out at the weekend and hunt for fun. So aliens may well have all they need and more. They can get their resources elsewhere, but come to earth for their entertainment, get close to nature and have that primordial adrenalin rush of contest (albeit a tad one-sided) between alien and beast. Kind of like we do with the lesser animals. 'As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods - they kill us for their sport.'

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Yup. Best quote from the movie. :D

maecuff
maecuff

The love you take is equal to the love you make.

Steve.Irvine
Steve.Irvine

Just before total oblivion I will ascend to a higher plane of existance and will be beyond mortal harm... I will understand everything... even how potato peelers work

Cerebral*Origami
Cerebral*Origami

Any raw materials exist everywhere else. The only thing unique on this planet is the life forms and cultures.

Cerebral*Origami
Cerebral*Origami

1) They value diversity for its own sake. 2) They are interested in studing formative civilizations at our current tech. level. 3) They can control ALL the races, trade organization, religeous groups and simple sight-seers. 4) The belive we will survive our current insanity OR believe we should be allowed to destroy ourselves and a viable ecology as a "natural result". Humans have a romantic belief in the "noble savage" and tend to see each culture as unique and static. Cultures are in constant flux. Interactions with a more advanced culture will always result in a change in both, with the greatest change happening in the less powerful/advanced/populus culture.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Maybe aliens have gods. Both aliens and gods lie outside the realm of currently 'provable'. Peeking out from behind the moon and being shipwrecked are two different things. And, as most of the rest here have done, you have applied your understanding as universal. Aliens are (probably) not likely to think and understand as we do, coming from another planet in perhaps another galaxy in perhaps even another universe.

ArnoldZiffle
ArnoldZiffle

Actually a fifth grade imagination would probably be as enlightened as anyone else. I haven't seen the episode being discussed however I would say that anyone's imagination would be sorely lacking when it came to the reality of an intelligent alien species.

cjshelby
cjshelby

"Hawkins" is an old High School buddy of mine :). Check out his book "A Brief History of Time". He puts some of that "Men in Black" "Universe in a Marble" stuff into layman's terms.

adornoe
adornoe

at least as far as the "space aliens" side of the cosmos argument is concerned. In fact, if ever someone does a TV show, or documentary on space aliens, they should include Hawkins in it, alongside some elementary school kids. I'd bet that the kids would come up with the same kind of imagination and inventiveness as Hawkins. But, hey, I still have some respect for Hawkins regarding his intellect on the physics and math of the cosmos. But he stinks with his imagination and analysis and expectations from space aliens.

Snuffy09
Snuffy09

but what would the fun be in that?

santeewelding
santeewelding

Also 'cus [b]adornoe[/b] has no lock on this. I get to butt in, too; any damned time with any damned comment I wish, [b]adornoe[/b] be damned. You could have let him be, Snuffy, dangling and twisting on his own. Just butting in.

Snuffy09
Snuffy09

cuz sometimes people like you need a reality check

adornoe
adornoe

and still end up contributing nothing. Nothing is more retarded than that.

Snuffy09
Snuffy09

Arguing online is like the Special Olympics...Even if you win, you're still retarded Good day

adornoe
adornoe

in other areas, even if its within the same general area of knowledge. Thus, Hawkins observations or opinions are just as informed as those of a "fifth grader", or if you like "a sixth grader". Intellectual envy Not at all. I don't envy Hawkins nor his accomplishments. I do, however, admire his accomplishments in the fields of physics of the cosmos and mathematical theories of the cosmos. Get the difference? Envy is not the same as admiration. What's the fascination with 5th graders? In a lot of school districts, if not all, fifth grade is the cut-off level for elementary school before those kids have to move on to middle-school. Thus, I equate a lot of lack of education with that of someone who seemingly has not made it past the fifth grade. However, I have known a lot of smart and "educated" fifth graders who would put a lot of people who attained higher education to shame. Was it because you did not get past the 6th grade? That is a huge demonstration of ignorance on your part. But, even if I didn't make it past the sixth grade, I'm pretty sure that I would still be a lot more knowledgeable than what you have shown so far. By the way, the gaining of knowledge doesn't have to stop when a person reaches the highest level of "official schooling" that he desired. Thus, even a person who didn't get beyond the fifth or sixth grade could be more knowledgeable than someone with a college degree. I think you have some envy issues with Hawking. That's a pretty stupid statement, especially considering my statements in my prior posts in this discussion. Have you read them? Like I said, Hawkins may be one the smartest people in the math and physics of the universe, but when it comes to the analysis of the intentions of space aliens, he was pretty stupid and sounded no more educated in that are than a kid with a fifth grade education who just saw the latest SYFY movie on TV about space aliens. Given that his entire life has revolved around space, time, and what a simpleton such as myself can only call "critical thinking", I would say that his opinions have significant credibility. Like I said before, I too give him credibility in "his" field, but on the field of space aliens and their intentions, Hawkins sounds pretty stupid. SO significant that for someone like you to criticize it is just a joke made by a man who has the intellectual equivalent of penis envy. Hawkins accomplishment are significant, but only as far as his field of study and research. In the area of space aliens, he still sounded pretty stupid. And you are just as stupid if you can't understand the distinction which I'm making. So, what about that "penis envy". Is is your "intellectual conclusion" that just because someone is well-respected in his field, that if someone else disagrees with him, that, it must be "penis envy"? That's statement of yours not just stupid but completely brainless and moronic. PS - I've double-spaced to make it easier for you to quote me. If you would've checked most of my other posts, you would've noticed that I don't need your help in order to copy and paste, and you would also have noticed that I'm pretty thorough in my responses and I don't miss a single phrase from your posts if I need to quote them in order to reply to them. It takes a better mind than yours to educate me on how I should read or quote from posts. Try down-talking to someone at a lower level than you, like someone in the third grade, maybe? ;)

drew.mcbee
drew.mcbee

What's the fascination with 5th graders? Was it because you did not get past the 6th grade? ;) I think you have some envy issues with Hawking. Given that his entire life has revolved around space, time, and what a simpleton such as myself can only call "critical thinking", I would say that his opinions have significant credibility. SO significant that for someone like you to criticize it is just a joke made by a man who has the intellectual equivalent of penis envy. PS - I've double-spaced to make it easier for you to quote me.

adornoe
adornoe

So you look down on Stephen Hawking, who's a simple-minded fifth grader, Your problem is that you have trouble comprehending what you read. Like I've mentioned before, I have the utmost respect for Hawkins on his theoretical math and theories of the cosmos. Where I differ with him is on his theories about the dangers of space aliens and what we could expect from them. and I'm silly and juvenile... Nothing you have said so far is going to change my judgments about you. I'm quite happy in this company actually! You are light years away from being in the same company as Hawkins. However, when it comes to Hawkins' views and expectations from space aliens, you would be in the same low level of thinking. You have to take any speculation about aliens with a pinch of salt, I think, Mr Sobersides. I haven't even considered giving your speculations the slightest of credibility, therefore, even a pinch of salt would be a waste of resources. And learn some social skills too, perchance I have all the social skills I need. It's just that when I encounter nonsense, I react accordingly and as the situation demands. ;)

Ordinary Joe
Ordinary Joe

So you look down on Stephen Hawking, who's a simple-minded fifth grader, and I'm silly and juvenile... I'm quite happy in this company actually! You have to take any speculation about aliens with a pinch of salt, I think, Mr Sobersides. And learn some social skills too, perchance

santeewelding
santeewelding

Way, way past my bedtime. I'll get back to you. There is more, I think, than meets your eye. Much, much more. We'll see if you are up to it. I don't think you are.

Rob C
Rob C

I have not got personal. I have not 'nit picked' I have not swore. My mind is open to debate any of the points I raised. Your mind is not. Don't 'nit pick'. Instead tell me which of my points were uninformed.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Dismissed all that you had said, I would not have responded at all. To begin with, you are missing a period between, "said", and, "tell", the end and, the beginning of which, constitute complete, separate thoughts. Until you are capable of that, I do dismiss you as would I some incapable spammer of a foreign sort. Get your goddamned ducks in a row -- completely and totally -- before I countenance a reply to your incompetence.

Rob C
Rob C

I meant to type 'it is' But don't dismiss all I have said, tell me which bits are uninformed ?

santeewelding
santeewelding

Is "as", I am sure you meant to say. The rest of what you said, is uninformed: deplorably so.

Rob C
Rob C

There should be a Religious Indicator that alerts us to postings from Religious people. Because is is well known, that when they participate in scientific discussions, they dismiss the parts that clash with their faith.