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Author Topic:   Avoiding Aliens
Stagamancer
Member (Idle past 3199 days)
Posts: 174
From: Oregon
Joined: 12-28-2008


Message 1 of 62 (557466)
04-26-2010 2:14 AM


According to the Times, Stephen Hawking has suggested in a new BBC documentary series that if there is sentient life out there, we should try to avoid it. His main argument is this:

quote:
[Hawking] suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “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.”

He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “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.”


While the prospect of meeting a sentient alien species is exciting (even if very far fetched), I think he does make a good point. Just looking at our own history, the groups of people who ventured furthest across the globe also tended to be the ones with the greatest capacity for mass brutality and oppression. Who's to say an alien species with the technology to visit us wouldn't try to enslave or simply destroy us "savages"? I have a feeling the truly dangerous thing about an alien encounter is that enough people would flip their lids and we'd end up either destroying ourselves or instigating a war that would end in our destruction.

My main question to you is: Do the potential benefits from contacting alien species outweigh the risks, or has Dr Hawking been watching too much V?


We have many intuitions in our life and the point is that many of these intuitions are wrong. The question is, are we going to test those intuitions?
-Dan Ariely

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Message 2 of 62 (557479)
04-26-2010 6:22 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Avoiding Aliens thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
Jumped Up Chimpanzee
Member (Idle past 3225 days)
Posts: 572
From: UK
Joined: 10-22-2009


Message 3 of 62 (557481)
04-26-2010 7:12 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stagamancer
04-26-2010 2:14 AM


My main question to you is: Do the potential benefits from contacting alien species outweigh the risks, or has Dr Hawking been watching too much V?

He's definitely been watching too much V! I've often thought that Hawking, although obviously very clever in his academic field, talks a lot of unoriginal, wishy-washy drivel.

It just doesn't seem to make sense to me that a species that is so advanced that it can roam the universe should need to lead a nomadic lifestyle, plundering resources from other planets. You'd think that they'd have learnt to re-cycle first. If not, let's send them a few bottle banks.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Stagamancer, posted 04-26-2010 2:14 AM Stagamancer has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
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cavediver
Member (Idle past 1926 days)
Posts: 4129
From: UK
Joined: 06-16-2005


Message 4 of 62 (557483)
04-26-2010 7:56 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee
04-26-2010 7:12 AM


It just doesn't seem to make sense to me that a species that is so advanced that it can roam the universe should need to lead a nomadic lifestyle, plundering resources from other planets. You'd think that they'd have learnt to re-cycle first.

Well, that's a bullet-proof rebuttal

Do you think that as soon as we gain the ability to traverse say local inter-stellar distances, our entire nature will change and it will all be STNG love and harmony?

I've often thought that Hawking, although obviously very clever in his academic field, talks a lot of unoriginal, wishy-washy drivel.

Any examples spring to mind?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee, posted 04-26-2010 7:12 AM Jumped Up Chimpanzee has responded

Replies to this message:
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nwr
Member
Posts: 5586
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 5 of 62 (557487)
04-26-2010 8:32 AM


I agree with Hawking on this.

I wonder why he is coming out with it now, rather than say 20 years ago. But then maybe nobody asked him 20 years ago.

I do agree with the point that such an alien nation could be expected to be advanced. Perhaps that would be comparable to an advanced nation such USA which invaded Iraq on a whim in 2003 and caused much damage and death.

There is no reason that an advanced alien civilization would not see us as something like ants to be crushed.


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Flyer75
Member (Idle past 706 days)
Posts: 242
From: Dayton, OH
Joined: 02-15-2010


Message 6 of 62 (557491)
04-26-2010 8:47 AM


Heck, the visitors from "V" are technologically superior to us but still feel the need to feed on earthlings!

I'm with Hawkings....keep em away!


    
Huntard
Member (Idle past 578 days)
Posts: 2870
From: Limburg, The Netherlands
Joined: 09-02-2008


Message 7 of 62 (557492)
04-26-2010 8:51 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stagamancer
04-26-2010 2:14 AM


Stagamancer writes:

Do the potential benefits from contacting alien species outweigh the risks, or has Dr Hawking been watching too much V?


He's got a point. Though I'm afraid it's a bit too late in our case, we've been sending radiowaves into the universe at an ever increasing pace. And it's not likely that we're gonna stop any time soon. It might even be "too late" already, and something has picked up the signals and is now moving towards us.

{ABE}: Like a stand up comedian once once said: "There are two possibilities when it comes to alien cultures, either they are dumber than us, in which case I don't want anything to do with them, or they're smarter than us, in which case they will kill us".

Edited by Huntard, : Added {ABE} bit


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Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 981 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 8 of 62 (557497)
04-26-2010 9:43 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by nwr
04-26-2010 8:32 AM


Hi, NWR.

nwr writes:

I wonder why he is coming out with it now, rather than say 20 years ago. But then maybe nobody asked him 20 years ago.

Why would anybody have thought to ask Stephen Hawking? He's a physicist, not a social scientist. The way the man is honored, it seems blasphemous to say that he's not an expert, but, in this case, he's actually not an expert.

Personally, I'm stuck in the middle on this issue. Expecting that aliens will just be nasty, callous and/or even genocidal is frankly just an overdeveloped sense of pessimism derived from excessively pessimistic focus on the bad things we see in our own society.

On the one hand, we'd like to think that advanced aliens would have learned integrity, charity and responsibility from their superior experience in the realms of science and society; but, on the other hand, science and higher learning has not had as great an impact on the way our society does things as we would like to think it should.

However, even in the early 1800’s, the British Commonwealth outlawed the slave trade and slavery for no reason other than the morality of it, even though they still thought other races as their inferiors for a very long time afterward. My experience with pest control also tells me that people (even the most utilitarian of commercial farmers) are generally concerned about harming the ecosystem, and would use environmentally friendly methods if they could be proven to work.

You have to think that any civilization capable of mastering the social skills required to direct an extensively collectivistic enterprise like science and technology would also have some baseline respect for life. The only is how much value they would ascribe to other forms of life on a practical level based on that basic respect.

Perhaps the best way to get at that question would be to ask ourselves how we think we would treat an alien species that is less advanced than us. My opinion is that we would be very interested in meddling in their affairs, in persuading them that our societal and governmental systems are superior, in correcting anything in their society that we perceived as injustice, etc.; but I don’t really see us today as trying to conquer, subjugate and/or exterminate them, or trying to ravage their ecosystems.

So, in my opinion, it’s much more likely that any negative effects (and I do think we should expect there to be negative effects) from a more advanced race will be unintentional consequences of well-meaning aliens, rather than plundering by callous conquerors.


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


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Jumped Up Chimpanzee
Member (Idle past 3225 days)
Posts: 572
From: UK
Joined: 10-22-2009


Message 9 of 62 (557504)
04-26-2010 10:34 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by cavediver
04-26-2010 7:56 AM


JUC writes:
It just doesn't seem to make sense to me that a species that is so advanced that it can roam the universe should need to lead a nomadic lifestyle, plundering resources from other planets. You'd think that they'd have learnt to re-cycle first.

cavediver says:
Well, that's a bullet-proof rebuttal.

When the opening volley comes out of a pea-shooter, you don't need to fire back from a tank!

Do you think that as soon as we gain the ability to traverse say local inter-stellar distances, our entire nature will change and it will all be STNG love and harmony?

Well, we are already aware of problems we are causing to our own planet and it is within our ability to solve those problems. OK, we are a long way from achieving a fully sustainable life on Earth, but at least we've got the awareness and we might be able to make a significant achievement within decades. But we are nowhere near being able to roam even local inter-stella distances. How much easier to live a sustainable life than to roam desparately around the universe looking for the next meal? If you have the technology to roam inter-stella distances, surely you would have the technology that would enable you to live a very comfortable life on your home planet or even colonise and convert a dead planet to your precise requirements. Regardless of what your nature may be, it's a question of energy as much as anything else.

JUC writes:
I've often thought that Hawking, although obviously very clever in his academic field, talks a lot of unoriginal, wishy-washy drivel.

cavediver says:
Any examples spring to mind?

Specifically? No.


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cavediver
Member (Idle past 1926 days)
Posts: 4129
From: UK
Joined: 06-16-2005


Message 10 of 62 (557508)
04-26-2010 10:57 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by nwr
04-26-2010 8:32 AM


I wonder why he is coming out with it now, rather than say 20 years ago.

He's been saying it for at least 20 years - in this case, he's just been asked to comment for this TV documentary, and so the topic has come up again.


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cavediver
Member (Idle past 1926 days)
Posts: 4129
From: UK
Joined: 06-16-2005


Message 11 of 62 (557510)
04-26-2010 10:59 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee
04-26-2010 10:34 AM


Well, we are already aware of problems we are causing to our own planet and it is within our ability to solve those problems.

You have to remember to split the "we" into ethical, scientific, political, and corporate. Once that is done, the rest is obvious...


This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee, posted 04-26-2010 10:34 AM Jumped Up Chimpanzee has responded

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Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 12 of 62 (557519)
04-26-2010 12:14 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by cavediver
04-26-2010 7:56 AM


Do you think that as soon as we gain the ability to traverse say local inter-stellar distances, our entire nature will change and it will all be STNG love and harmony?

I think just a few things can be said on any potential contact with intelligent alien life:

1) They're not likely to be able to get here easily. So far as we know, you can;t go faster than light, meaning even relatively "close" civilizations will take thousands of years or more to travel interstellar distances.

2) The reason to come here will never be "resources." It's easier to acquire resources by far in an asteroid belt or on low-gravity or even by mining uninhabited worlds than by wasting resources in a war.

Now, none of this precludes aliens that, while intelligent enough to travel interstellar distances, are also stupid enough to waste resources by attacking another intelligent civilization with the capability to fight back when easier choices are innumerably common. This would include aliens on some religious crusade to wipe out all other life, aliens that just "don't like us," or any other ridiculous reason to expend massive amounts of resources in travel followed by still more resources and manpower executing military action despite the fact that they'd get easier returns by mining an asteroid belt and harvesting water from comets and such.

The only intelligent reason to come here would be for scientific research. This could take the form of non-interventionist observation, or it could take the form of capture and dissection. Even though this could potentially justify an interstellar trip, it seems to me that it would be far easier to simply establish an open line of communication and ask us what they want to know about life on our world rather than (again) committing to an unnecessary expenditure of resources.

Comparisons to the discovery of the Americas are simply invalid. Columbus and those who followed sought resources, and on Earth that meant trading with or conquering whoever already claimed those resources. In this case, the technological level of those who claimed the new resources was low enough to make conquest an easier and arguably more profitable response (in addition to religious motivations to convert the heathens).

In space, the vast majority of resources aren't claimed by anyone, and no conquest is necessary. You don't have to fight anyone off to strip-mine some asteroids or tap Europa for water. In a simple quest for resources for a nomadic space faring society, why bother with the mess of interstellar war when there's no need to do so?

I'd fear contact with religious extremist aliens, myself, because I think that sort of irrational drive would "justify" ridiculous expenditures of resources with no additional good reason, but short of that, color me unconcerned.


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Replies to this message:
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Faith
Member
Posts: 33256
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001
Member Rating: 1.2


Message 13 of 62 (557521)
04-26-2010 12:24 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stagamancer
04-26-2010 2:14 AM


Do alien entities exist and if so what exactly are they?
I'm surprised that a physicist would take the possibility of extraterrestrial aliens so seriously myself, but of course if he's going to take it seriously he's going to be thinking in terms of physical beings from other planets. If anyone is interested, there's a whole other line of thought on aliens that ought to be considered, which is, that they exist but they aren't physical, they're spiritual beings, or entities, beings that can manifest physically under some circumstances.

This gets discussed on some fringey websites including some theosophical and spiritualist sites. There is one genre that treats them as friends and indeed benevolent masters of the human race, and invites them to come and straighten us out, and another that treats them as evil beings, demons, interested only in deceiving human beings into submitting to them. UFO type spaceships are often part of the scenario.

Some Christians join in on this latter view, but it's by no means only Christians who hold it. Some years ago the UFOlogist Jacques Vallee proposed that the actual phenomena reported by witnesses of UFOs doesn't fit that of physical entities but entities more like the old traditional stories of goblins and fairies, and that their effects suggest intentional deception. Vallee isn't a Christian.

I wonder if Hawking has happened to have some personal experience of something like this since he's given so much thought to it. He probably wouldn't admit it if so.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

Edited by Faith, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
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Jumped Up Chimpanzee
Member (Idle past 3225 days)
Posts: 572
From: UK
Joined: 10-22-2009


Message 14 of 62 (557526)
04-26-2010 12:46 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by cavediver
04-26-2010 10:59 AM


You have to remember to split the "we" into ethical, scientific, political, and corporate. Once that is done, the rest is obvious...

I take your point that even within 1 species there are many different agendas and interests. And it is true that disputes on Earth have already spilled into space in the form of military satellites, etc. And I fear early settlement on the Moon could be a bit "ugly". But I agree with Rahvin that it would simply be much easier to obtain resources from dead asteroids, etc, rather than attack a living planet many light years away. And I also agree with Bluejay that it is most likely that a species that develops the ability to travel inter-stella distances must have developed social and ethical characteristics that would be more likely to make them benign visitors.

I think human development of our own solar system will be something of a guiding light on this issue. Can we explore our own system with the successful aim of managing our own planet in a sustainable manner? Or will we exploit this system for all it's worth with the short-term aim of ever expanding nationalist priorities and populations? I think that is a much more immediate and interesting consideration.


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cavediver
Member (Idle past 1926 days)
Posts: 4129
From: UK
Joined: 06-16-2005


Message 15 of 62 (557528)
04-26-2010 1:03 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Rahvin
04-26-2010 12:14 PM


1) They're not likely to be able to get here easily...

(2) The reason to come here will never be "resources."...

Very much depends upon the resource in question - if it is bioshphere for colonisation, then I would say that Terra is somewhat more appealing than Europa and the asteriod belt. And time of travel will not be a consideration for such an endeavour if it is prompted out of necessity.


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