Sure, they’re out there, but should we be looking?
Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at City College of New York and all-around pop-science icon, has issued a warning about extraterrestrials — and efforts to seek them out.
“I think that’s a terrible idea,” the 74-year-old astrophysicist said.
Kaku, perhaps best known for his contributions to string theory, spoke to the Guardian about his new book, “The God Equation,” which covers contemporary movements in science and technology.
But his interview took a spacey turn.
In the past, Kaku has theorized that humans may meet their extraterrestrial counterparts within this century. While the prospect might sound thrilling for many, Kaku is more cautious than eager to make contact.
“We all know what happened to Montezuma when he met Cortés in Mexico so many hundreds of years ago,” he said, alluding to the disastrous demise of the 16th century Aztec emperor, which was instigated by what seemed to be a friendship of convenience with Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés.
Cortés’ amiable acquaintance would devolve into the fall of the Aztec Empire as Spanish colonizers usurped power over native peoples — all based on what historians describe as a big miscommunication between the disparate cultures. Or, that Cortés lied to the Spanish monarch as justification to wage war against the Aztecs.
Either way, those worlds colliding ended in tragedy for some 200,000 Aztecs.
And, like the European settlers to the Americas, Kaku hypothesizes that our other-worldly visitors may also approach amicably, although they could harbor more insidious intentions.
“Now, personally, I think that aliens out there would be friendly, but we can’t gamble on it. So I think we will make contact but we should do it very carefully.”
And the potentially disastrous meeting could also happen sooner than you might think.
“Soon we’ll have [NASA’s James] Webb telescope up in orbit and we’ll have thousands of planets to look at, and that’s why I think the chances are quite high that we may make contact with an alien civilization,” Kaku said.
Recently, Kaku made another alarming prediction for the near future: self-replicating robots. In a 15-minute video for Big Think, the scientist discussed the prospect of sending clone bots to help build-out Mars for galactic colonization.
While discussing Elon Musk’s plans for a “multi-planet species,” by sending about 1 million humans to colonize Mars via Musk’s SpaceX rockets, Kaku notes that the job would also require “a million hammers” and “a million saws.”
“You have to have fleets of workers to begin the process of building things — unless you create the first self-replicating robot … until you have an army of these robots that can build cities on Mars,” he told Big Think. In his vision, these robots “can make copies of themselves by mining the minerals that are already on Mars.”
“And then beyond that, who knows? Maybe our destiny really does lie in outer space,” he concluded — that is, if the robots don’t wise-up and turn against us first.
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