Monday, April 26, 2010

A Brief History of Isolationism

Cybernetic astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has a new series premiering on the Discovery Channel next month in which he warns against humanity ever contacting extraterrestrial species in case they decide to kill us all. Hawking believes that alien life is basically a given, though most of it is of the dimwitted animal variety. But intelligent races may also be out there, and chances are good they aren't friendly. He cites the historical human tendency for more advanced nations to conquer and rape their technological lessers as an example of what could happen to us if we're visited by the equivalent of an interstellar Christopher Columbus. But I'm not sure Hawking's reasoning is sound. True, our more primitive ancestors had a disturbing trend of clubbing to death those people they happened upon in their sea travels, but such a thing would be unthinkable today. I'd like to think someone would speak up if a NASA expedition someday discovered crossbow-wielding native Martians and threw smallpox-infested blankets at them so we could mine their delicious, delicious ores. I mean, worst case scenario, we have to deal with rogue sex tourists who travel to Mars for a suction cup reach-around. More details here.