Yes, there are aliens. No, we shouldn't contact them. Thus did world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking crush the hearts of Trekkies and SETI-advocates everywhere. The Times of London got the quotes, with Jonathan Leake reporting that Hawking said the sheer number of galaxies, stars, and planets in the universe "make thinking about aliens perfectly rational."
What's hard to know, though, is "what aliens might actually be like," says Hawking. Most aliens are probably not complex, but those that are intelligent could pose a danger to humanity, he says. In defiance of efforts to communicate with extraterrestrial beings, Hawking says that if intelligent life is out there, we shouldn't try to contact it:
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 colonise whatever planets they can reach.
Blogosphere reaction has been mixed. "Why would a race of superintelligent jellyfish or blue whales even take notice of us, let alone want to conquer us?" asks Tim Cavanaugh at Reason. Tufts professor of international politics Daniel Drezner wonders: "In space, does anybody understand the security dilemma?" Or, more importantly,
Carried to its logical extreme, isn't Hawking making an argument for rapidly exhausting our natural resources? If Hawking is correct, then the sooner we run out of whatever might be valuable to aliens, the less interest we are to them. Of course, this does beg the question of which resources aliens would consider to be valuable. If aliens crave either sea water or bulls**t, then the human race as we know it is seriously screwed.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.