World renowned Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking has always been one of the most cautious great minds when it comes to extra-terrestrial intelligent life, and has warned many times that aliens might not always "come in peace." However, despite his misgivings, Hawking is also one of the sponsors of a new project designed to actively call any potential aliens out there in the cosmos. Does this mean he's changed his tune?
Well, no not really. In a recent interview with Spain's El País newspaper, Hawking repeated his warnings that any aliens who visited us would likely only be interested in colonizing and dominating our planet. As he has done frequently in the past, Hawking once again drew allegories to the European settlement of North America. He stated:
"If aliens visit us, the outcome could be much like when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans
Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach."
But, he's just talking hypothetically, right? He doesn't actually think aliens exist, does he? Well, actually, he does. In fact, he has previously stated the existence of extra-terrestrial life in the universe is probably a mathematical certainty. He also explained to El País:
"To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational. The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like."
Stephen Hawking addressed the issue in an episode of Into The Universe With Stephen Hawking. Check out a clip below:
However, ultimately, Hawking also believes our destiny as a species is also out there in the stars. He portended that the Earth would soon be facing ecological disaster which could force us to abandon the planet. He continued:
"I think the survival of the human race will depend on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe, because there’s an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy Earth. I therefore want to raise public awareness about the importance of space flight. I have learnt not to look too far ahead, but to concentrate on the present. I have so much more I want to do."
Of course, despite the dangers, Hawking presumably thinks it is still relatively safe to search for aliens. He recently invested $100 million into Breakthrough Listen, a project which aims to use powerful radio telescopes to actively make 'calls' to other galaxies.
However, the scale of the distances traveled by the radio-waves are so vast, it is unlikely any extra-terrestrial life we do encounter could ever actually come and visit, and vice versa. Still, it's always important to get to know your neighbors.