I am re-entering the blogosphere after two years with a news that has been troubling me for over month. Stephen Hawking declared that aliens are likely to exist, but we should not try to make contact with them. He said, “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans. We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.”
It seemed to be something right out of Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. It got me thinking. Hawking seems to have based his hypothesis on the history of human civilization . Powerful countries colonized and imposed their culture on the less civilized ones.
I am big fan of Carl Sagan and my love for astronomy began with the tele-series Cosmos. Most of us would be aware of his efforts to reach out to aligns. In his famous book “Contact”, he describes a fictional encounter with aliens, where they are described as friendly, benevolent and godlike beings. So, this revelation by Hawking, another scientist whom I greatly respect, whose book “The brief history of time” I truly admire, came something as a shock.
As I pondered over this statement, I was reminded of a theory which I read very long back. Every civilization goes through a phase called technological adolescence, just as human beings go through an adolescence phase which is fraught with danger. In case of human adolescence, there a role models and guides in the form of parents from whom they learn to navigate safely through this phase. Civilizations too go through a phase where they are technological advanced enough to wield a lot of power but not mature enough to handle it responsibly. Unlike human beings, civilizations do not have role models to learn from. So most of them tend to self-destruct during this phase.
By extension, any civilization which has emerged from technological adolescence, should be mature enough to control its aggression. It should have moved from a model of destroying and colonizing the weaker beings to collaborating and living synergistically with its environment. Just like how our civilization is coming to understand the evils of destruction and over utilization of resources. We are coming to terms with the fact that living in harmony with other living beings is vital to our survival. All of us would agree that our civilization can survive only if our collective better nature prevails. We stop fighting wars, stop discriminating on the basis of race, gender and religion, stopping felling trees and killing animals and over utilizing resources.
Wouldn’t this be true any advanced civilization. Even if their initial stages of evolution were violent, they could have survived the technological adolescence only by turning a page in their history. They could have survived only by developing a healthy respect for nature, only by understanding synergy and symbiosis. So why would they want to destroy us? In fact, Carl Sagan goes a step further and theorizes that the early messages from aliens may be on how to avoid technological disaster. How to safely pass from adolescence to maturity. These are the words of Carl Sagan “Perhaps the transmissions from advanced civilizations will describe which pathways of cultural evolution are likely to lead to the stability and longevity of an intelligent species, and which other paths lead to stagnation or degeneration or disaster. Perhaps there are straight-forward solutions, still undiscovered on Earth to problems of food shortages, population growth, energy supplies, dwindling resources, pollution and war. There is, of course, no guarantee that such would be the contents of an interstellar message; but it would be foolhardy to overlook the possibility.” (Ref)