You could say that Stephen Hawking has been right about a few things in his lifetime, especially around things to do with astrophysics. In an upcoming show, Hawking suggests that if we do make contact with aliens, it could be a decision we regret.
In his new program “Stephen Hawking’s favourite places”, the world’s most famous scientist discusses the possibility of finding life on one of our closest neighbors, Gliese 832C.
“If intelligent life has evolved (on Gliese 832c), we should be able to hear it. One day we might receive a signal from a planet like this, but we should be wary of answering back. Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well,” says Hawking in the show.
Gliese 832c is believed to be an earth-like planet just 16 light years away, which scientists predict has a good chance as any of hosting life. The planet has become the subject of sci-fi style plans to send a fleet of tiny spacecraft to the planet, propelled by lasers to travel at a speed close to the speed of light.
What Hawking’s statement neglects to say is whether humans will be the Native Americans or Columbus in his example. Though most sources including CNET interpret earth’s inhabitants being the Native Americans, it could be that we are Columbus. Man’s history has long been aggressive, expansionist and war-mongering. What is to say that contact with alien technology could yield more ability to kill more of ourselves?
Though we may not want to initiate contact with other extraterrestrials, it may be that our presence has long been advertised, by our continual TV and radio frequencies which travel out into space. At least, that’s what Doug Vakoch at METI International believes.
To date, despite sending years monitoring celestial frequencies, SETI has not found any evidence of alien life. Despite this, NASA’s chief scientist Ellen Stofan has previously stated that he believes humans will find evidence of life abroad by 2025, less than 10 years away.
Currently, the world’s leading thinkers are stumped as to why we haven’t stumbled upon signs of life elsewhere. Under the “Fermi Paradox”, scientists assume there are billions of similar stars to our own sun, many of which host planets capable of sustaining life. With so many habitable planets, the chances are that advanced alien life should have formed. Scientists who take this line of thought are unable to explain why we haven’t already made contact with these life-forms.