I think it was Stephen Hawking who first came up with the idea that if we ever were visited by an alien race, odds would be that the aliens wouldn’t be all that friendly. His reasoning, in short, was that if an intelligent species is out there looking for another planet, it’s likely that they’re looking for resources. Moreover, as is the case in Earth’s history, when a technologically advanced civilization (in Hawking’s case – aliens) encounters a less sophisticated one, the less sophisticated one is like, always annihilated by the technologically advanced one. Hopefully I’ve explained this correctly, and hopefully it was Hawking that said that, otherwise I maybe look like an asshole.
Anyways, scientists have come up with another reason why aliens, if they should ever visit, may destroy the human race – global warming! I’m not even joking. The Guardian reported yesterday that “extraterrestrial beings might view changes in Earth’s atmosphere as symptomatic of a civilisation growing out of control – and take drastic action to keep us from becoming a more serious threat.” And the report from which the article draws appears to be from a credible source – NASA-affiliated scientists at Pennsylvania State University. Here’s more from the Guardian piece:
The authors warn that extraterrestrials may be wary of civilisations that expand very rapidly, as these may be prone to destroy other life as they grow, just as humans have pushed species to extinction on Earth. In the most extreme scenario, aliens might choose to destroy humanity to protect other civilisations.
“A preemptive strike would be particularly likely in the early phases of our expansion because a civilisation may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it continues to expand. Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilisational expansion could be detected by an ETI because our expansion is changing the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, via greenhouse gas emissions,” the report states.
“Green” aliens might object to the environmental damage humans have caused on Earth and wipe us out to save the planet. “These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets,” the authors write.
The speculative report, called “Would contact with extra-terrestrials benefit or harm humanity? A scenario analysis” seems to read like a science-fiction lover’s dream/ nightmare. Along with the humanity-erasing-as-the-result-of-global-warming scenario, the authors also list other negative scenarios, as well as positive and neutral ones. One positive scenario describes an encounter with a cooperative race of aliens willing to help us advance technology and sustainability. Another tells of a victory in an all-out war against aliens and the subsequent benefit of reverse engineering their more advanced technology and using it to advance our own ends. More mundane speculations have the aliens as so different that communication is basically impossible, to District 9 scenarios wherein aliens literally become second-class citizens, further straining the world economy and society.
The worst speculations that arise in the report include aliens accidentally destroying humanity by unintentionally unleashing destructive artificial intelligence on the world, “[perform] a catastrophic physics experiment that renders a portion of the galaxy uninhabitable,” or gives us an annihilative space-disease. Yikes.
In response to all these disclosure conspiracy theorists wet-dream scenarios, the report urges us to curb global warming and, basically, proceed with caution. As they say, “cool story, scientists.”