Planet Earth could be an elaborate zoo created by a hyper-intelligent alien civilisation, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has claimed. And such aliens, he added, might even be inflicting “weird politics” on us as a form of entertainment.
Tyson, who was among the guests at the Starmus conference in Tenerife, Spain, said he remained pessimistic about humanity making contact with intelligent alien life, arguing our relative lack of intelligence could either be bad news for discovery or allow us to exist in blissful ignorance.
“I fear the day we come upon a species such as that. Maybe I don’t fear it, I just hope that all they would do for us is create a zoo where we are happy. And maybe that is what they call Earth.”
Tyson was in part responding to statements made by Stephen Hawking in July last year. At the time Hawking said the discovery of alien life could destroy humanity but we should keep searching for it anyway.
But Tyson said the likelihood of that happening were low. “A sufficiently intelligent civilisation would have positively no interest in us at all,” he said. “In the same way as when you’re walking down a street and there’s a worm there.”. And even if you wanted to kill all the worms, he continued, you’d soon get bored and do something else.
“Maybe our biggest protection against being killed by alien civilisations is their conclusion there’s no intelligent civilisation on Earth,” Tyson continued. “Suppose in fact intelligence has come to the galaxy. Who are we to then decide that we are intelligent? We define our intelligence. Of course we’re intelligent because we define it.” he said.
“The microbes in our lower gut would think of humans as dark, anaerobic pockets of faecal matter in the service of their life. That’s the purpose of human life to them.”
Tyson also argued the tiny genetic difference between a human and a chimp made it likely alien intelligence, if it does exist, is already way beyond our on. “We would not be able to comprehend their simplest of thoughts any more than a chimp can understand ‘Let’s go have dinner at the buffet later I’m going to have some carbohydrates and protein because I’m on a low fat diet’. What would that sentence mean to a chimp?” he joked. To a hyper-intelligent alien race, Tyson continued, Stephen Hawking’s intelligence might be the equivalent of an alien toddler.
He also had a word of warning for those that would have humanity become an interplanetary species. “Yes, being a multi-planet species I think that looks good on paper. Put your eggs in more than one basket. If one basket gets smashed the species is preserved. In practice it is completely unrealistic. Let’s terraform Mars, turn Mars into an Earth-haven, ship four billion people there,” he said.
“Are we really going to do that?” It would be far cheaper and easier, he added, to work out how to deflect the asteroid or defeat the pandemic that could spell our early demise. “It plays well as a news headline,” he continued. “I want the solar system to be our backyard, but the motivation should not be to stop everyone dying from a cosmic event.”
Tyson isn’t the only one making bold claims about the reality of life on Earth. Earlier this month Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk said there was only a “one in a billion” chance we weren’t living in a simulation. His proof? Advancements in gaming since Pong was released in 1972.
“Now, forty years later, we have photo-realistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously and it’s getting better every year. Soon we’ll have virtual reality, augmented reality,” said Musk.