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Stephen Hawking on $100M Search for Aliens: “We must know”

Nia BrownJuly 20th 2015

The search for extraterrestrial life finally has good funding.

A new project, called Breakthrough Listen, will have a $100 million dollar budget to search for intelligent life in outer space, courtesy of Russian Yuri Milner.  The project will allow scientists to gather more data in one day than other efforts have achieved in an entire year.

Of course, it’s not just Russian millionaires that are backing the project. Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time and one of the most famous physicists ever, is a full supporter and advisor of the project and was at its launch at the Royal Society in London today.

“We are life. We are intelligent. We must know,” Hawking ominously said in a statement.

But this isn’t the first time Hawking has spoken publicly about his thoughts on the future of humanity in the face of extraterrestrial life and superintelligent AI:

  • “To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational.”The Times , 2010
  • “If aliens visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.” Into the Universe, 2010
  • “Alien technology should be as extraordinary to us as a rocket ship to a caveman.” Into the Universe, 2010
  • “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 colonize whatever planets they could reach.” Into the Universe, 2010
  • “Like us, they would have probably evolved from a species used to exploiting whatever it can.” Into the Universe, 2010
  • “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it would take off on its own and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”  Interview with BBC, December 2014

Milner also plans to launch Breakthrough Message, in which a globally crowdsourced broadcast for alien life will be created. Milner believes communication with other life forms, a prospect Hawking opposes and regularly warns against, could be an opportunity for humanity to learn important lessons.

Sources: The Independent, BBC

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