After the breaking discovery that has a monumental impact on life beyond Earth: A planetary system with a number of Earth-sized planets that could host liquid water and, thus, extraterrestrial life – one might have expected the renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking to have met the news with happiness.
Hawking is majorly involved in the Breakthrough Listen – a ten-year initiative with $100 million funding begun in July 2015 to actively search for intelligent extraterrestrial communications in the Universe, in a substantially expanded way, using resources that had not previously been extensively used for the purpose. It has been described as the the most dynamic and progressive projects searching the universe for intelligent life.
Speaking to the Discovery Channel in 2010, Hawking said that it was likely that advanced aliens would probably be a nomadic race who would travel the universe conquering and colonize whatever planets they encountered.
“If so, it makes sense for them to exploit each new planet for material to build more spaceships so they could move on. Who knows what the limits would be?” he asked.
Hawking doubled down on these pessimistic statements at a Breakthrough Listen event. He said:
“We don’t know much about aliens, but we know about humans. If you look at history, contact between humans and less intelligent organisms have often been disastrous from their point of view, and encounters between civilizations with advanced versus primitive technologies have gone badly for the less advanced. A civilization reading one of our messages could be billions of years ahead of us. If so, they will be vastly more powerful, and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”
Although Jill Tarter, the former director of the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) doesn’t agree with Hawking. She said:
“While Sir Stephen Hawking warned that alien life might try to conquer or colonize Earth, I respectfully disagree. If aliens were able to visit Earth that would mean they would have technological capabilities sophisticated enough not to need slaves, food, or other planets. If aliens were to come here it would be simply to explore.”
However, she did acknowledge that this was no guarantee aliens would respond positively to humanity.
Essentially, she said, there is absolutely no way to know how an advanced alien race would respond to human civilization.