Saturday, February 14, 2015

Should we invite aliens to visit Earth?

There's an interesting story today about the idea of humans "actively" contacting aliens. A scientific conference was held this week in San Jose to consider the advisability of sending messages toward the stars, in hopes of attracting the interest of an intelligent alien species.
Astronomers have their own version of the single person's dilemma: Do you wait by the phone for a call from that certain someone? Or do you make the call yourself and risk getting shot down?

Instead of love, of course, astronomers are looking for alien life, and for decades, they have sat by their telescopes, waiting to hear from E.T. It didn't happen, and so now some of them want to beam messages out into the void and invite the closest few thousand worlds to chat or even visit.
Stephen Hawking, among others, thinks this is a terrible idea. If they're much more advanced than us, there's a good chance they would see us as expendable. And who knows? They might think killing is fun. After all, humans seem to think it's fun. (Hunting, anyone?)

Here's the problem: evolution creates predators. While humans see themselves as "higher" forms of life compared to other Earth species, in truth we are simply the most deadly predators. That's who we are: the most successful of Earth's predatory species. We can kill anything, eat it, enslave it, torture it, etc. Sadly, this isn't a surprise. Because of the way evolution works, it's inevitable.

Species fight each other for resources. Scientists often speak of the "arms race" between species. Plants have defenses against the insects that prey on them. When the insects develop a new way to evade this protection and eat the plant, the plant either dies or comes up with a new weapon to use against the insects. This is the constantly evolving "arms war" that works hand in hand with evolution. All animals prey on something. And humans prey on everything. Hooray for us, huh? I find the whole thing far too bloody -- but hey, that's me.

But this isn't just an Earth issue. Evolution is omnipresent; it isn't confined to Earth. It will happen whenever and wherever life emerges. In this way, evolution is (probably) creating predators throughout the universe. Given an alien species that's existed for a very long time (way longer than humans, in other words), there is a tremendous likelihood that it would be a predatory species beyond anything we've seen in our little Earth backwater. Add inconceivably advanced technology into the mix, and the outcome is predictable: we would lose, every time.

Invite them to visit? I think not. We wouldn't have a chance (if they wanted anything from us; if not, they'd just ignore us).