It’s in our geek DNA to contemplate life on other planets and, by way of the science fiction genre most of the time, imagine them in as many ways as possible. Additional appendages? Check. Strange colored skin? Check. Psychic communication powers? Check. Human-like faults? Uh, huh?
Well, according to the Guardian, Cambridge University professor Simon Conway Morris believes we should prepare for the possibility that if and when extraterrestrials make contact, they are likely to resemble us in more ways than we’d imagine. That includes our propensity for exhausting resources and being greedy. Not to mention blowing things up.
Conway Morris’s points are to be delivered at a Royal Society Conference, where experts will gather to discuss what alien life may be like, and what measures world governments should take to prepare for such contact. And while the skeptics among us might believe that contact is still far, far out of reach, every week it seems that science points to the possibility of life on other planets. So perhaps it’s not such an improbable prospect.
But what about the shape and size? Mostly through the vision of science fiction writers and Hollywood, we tend to think aliens are supposed to look like, well, aliens, right? Or, at least, if they do look like humans, it’s only a guise to ravage our bodies and colonize the planet unbeknown to us! However, Conway Morris takes a different approach. He explains, “My view is that Darwinian evolution is really quite predictable, and when you have a biosphere and evolution takes over, then common themes emerge and the same is true for intelligence.”
Conway Morris is not alone in his views, and Albert Harrison of the University of California, Davis, believes that not only is alien life plausible, but that there’s a definite chance that whatever contact we make may not be as peaceful as others have posited. In other words, think Independence Day. Harrison says, “I do think there’s a risk in active searches for extra-terrestrials. The attitude seems to be they’re friendly, they’re a long way away, and they can’t get here. But if you wake up one morning and an armada of extra-terrestrial spaceships are circling Earth, that prediction won’t necessarily hold.”
As a kid, I was never scared of vampires or boogeymen. But aliens? They freaked me out to the point near paralysis. Nothing was more frightening, either, than eerie greys, with their bulbous eyes and long, frog-like fingers (not to mention E.T.). These days, it doesn’t scare me. In fact, it fascinates me. And while I think we’re very far off from being able to make contact from where we stand it’s perhaps not such a stretch to think that extraterrestrials may have advances, or fewer limitations, than we do. So, on the one hand, while part of me wants to cry skeptic, there’s definitely something to be said for being prepared.
Any differing opinions? Should we prepare for our worst enemies, those just like us? Or, to take a darker approach: might we destroy ourselves before they even have the chance?