Many of Stephen Hawking’s recent pronouncements have been slightly dire. He worries about artificial intelligence. We evolve so slowly that it could simply stomp us out, he said last year.
But there are other threats. In an interview with Spain’s El Pais, the world-renowned physicist said he feared aliens might destroy us. He said it might be worse that when Columbus turned up in the Americas.
“Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach,” Hawking told El Pais. “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.”
It’s funny how math can make you paranoid. Even if it’s entirely reasonable paranoia. The discovery of water on Mars is, for the non-mathematical at least, the first indication that something out there might be alive or might once have been alive.
For math-based humans, though, it’s a race to see which threat will destroy our way of life first. Hawking worries that we’re messing up our own planet so much that we’re going to have to get out.
“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,” he said.
The disaster could be environmental. It could be nuclear. It could come from another planet. We’re really setting ourselves up for quite some nightmare.
Prayer, though, won’t do us any good — according to Hawking. He reiterated his belief that there is no God. “I use the word ‘God’ in an impersonal sense, like Einstein did, for the laws of nature,” he said.
But it’s not necessary in his view to use the word “God” at all.
“The laws of science are sufficient to explain the origin of the universe,” he said. “It is not necessary to invoke God.”
There’s confidence in science for you. And to think scientists still can’t invent batteries that’ll keep our phones easily charged.
I searched for a little light in Hawking’s somewhat bleak and portentous world view. I found it. He was asked what in life he’d still like to do.
“Go into space with Virgin Galactic,” he said.