Our first contact from an advanced civilisation could be equivalent to when Native Americans first encountered Christopher Columbus and things “didn’t turn out so well”, he cautioned.
The comments are made in an online film, Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places, in which the theoretical physicist takes viewers on his own CGI spacecraft (the SS Hawking) to five significant locations across the cosmos.
Watch the video https://app.curiositystream.com/video/1697
On arriving at Gliese 832c, a planet 16 light years away, Hawking reflects: “As I grow older I am more convinced than ever that we are not alone. After a lifetime of wondering, I am helping to lead a new global effort to find out.
The Breakthrough Listen project will scan the nearest million stars for signs of life, but I know just the place to start looking. One day we might receive a signal from a planet like Gliese 832c, but we should be wary of answering back.”
It is not the first time Hawking has warned about the prospect of hostile aliens. Last year he suggested that any civilisation reading our messages could be billions of years ahead of humans. “If so they will be vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria,” he said.