Yes, Kent, I would. Or at least Steven Hawking would. In a new documentary for the Discovery channel, he makes the worrying argument that

…extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact…

He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”

He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

Things to worry about: What kinds of defenses can we use against non-carbon based life forms? What moral codes might aliens abide by? What are the rules of engagement for alien war? Are we obliged to abide by the Geneva conventions for alien prisoners of war?

I believe the appropriate response to this is for Obama to create a cabinet level position focused entirely on these issues; perhaps the Secretary of Alien Strategies. The question then is who do we put in charge of worrying about very unlikely, seemingly absurd, and yet potentially disastrous alien scenarios? What marginally sane person would be willing to dedicate their time and energy to constantly thinking about issues which will only matter with a vanishingly small probability?

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