The Neo-Alien Threat

When Stephen Hawking says that it is time to stop being so sanguine about aliens, you just have to take notice. He argues that there is little reason based on experience with our own species to think that aliens who arrive at Earth will have anything other than conquest and the removal of our wealth of natural resources on their mind. I have been watching ‘V’ and the second time around, it is just as worrying as the first; well, except they seem to be handling the whole conquest thing rather passively compared to your Dalek type deal. Dan Drezner who, let’s face it, is in his element when science fiction and social science collide, sums up many of the issues nicely. I think he suggests we should thrown in the towel a la Hitchhikers Guide.

I think I would be remiss in pointing out that it is pretty darn clear that while these ivory tower scientists are postulating some future alien invasion, they have ignored the clear evidence that this has already happened, probably several times. Let’s just talk about the dinosaur eating aliens who had a wonderful feast 65 million or so years ago and go back from there. If you map these mass extinctions out, it seems we have another 100 million years before the aliens likely come back to feast again. The question is whether that is enough time to get our act together and move from prey to predator in the galactic realm.

3 thoughts on “The Neo-Alien Threat”

  1. Put your economics hat on for a minute, Joshua!
    The business model of interstellar Pizarros are extremely lousy, to say the least.
    What valuable commodities could possibly justify conquest, even accepting for a moment that a civilization with the ability to travel interstellar distances would probably find our defences lacking?
    Raw materials?  Hardly.  There’s likely squillions of other planets and asteroids out there with ample available; in any case I suspect that such civilizations can transmute common metals into rare ones on an industrial scale (we can do so, but it’s not  economically viable except for miniscule quantities of radioisotopes).
    To me, the only valuable things on Earth for an interstellar raider are:
    a) the information contained in the DNA of the animals, plants, and archea that make up the Earth’s biosphere.
    b) the cultural artifacts, tangible and intangible, produced by humanity.
    In the case of a) there’s no need to destroy the Earth to get them, and in the case of b) it’s most likely going to be easier to get some of those artifacts, and, importantly, get the cultural context behind them (what would an alien make of the Mona Lisa?)  with the cooperation of humanity than without.


  2. @Robert Merkel
    But what happened to information asymmetry?! Will they have some sort of interstellar gold detector? And even if they do, who knows, the way their biology operates they’re probably running out of silicates!
    Second, the aliens (like us) are going to put a huge utility on simply the joy of discovery.
    To figure out the economics of how this might operate we simply have to think of spanish and portugese sea-farers and other explorers of the middle ages. They received generous funding to discover places without great expectations. Sure, Drake was a hero — but that was only partly because he came back with precious things; he also came back with a lot of exotic things.


  3. I suspect that a planet conducive to the development & nurturing of diverse lifeforms over a long period is probably far more scarce than the list of minerals it hosts; a rare combination of elements rather than a combination of rare elements if you like.
    So perhaps the information asymmetry is on our side.  We don’t really know what the value of such a planet would be in the intergalactic horde market, nor do we know what costs that market would be a) likely & b) willing to bear in any sort of hostile takeover.


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