Professor Michio Kaku – theoretical physicist at the City College of New York, science communicator and futurist – has been gallivanting around on Reddit recently, giving its virtual denizens a chance to have a chat about artificial intelligence, extraterrestrial shenanigans, and the like. During his AMA (Ask Me Anything), he offered a comparison of alien life and our own civilization.
Just recently, a video posted by Big Think featuring Kaku suggested that aliens, assuming they're technologically advanced enough to travel to Earth, would be thoroughly unimpressed by what we’ve achieved so far. As highlighted by LiveScience, his Reddit chat follows much the similar theme – with a bold, additional prediction.
“Let me stick my neck out. I personally feel is that within this century, we will make contact with an alien civilization, by listening in on their radio communications,” he said in response to a questioner.
Although there’s increasing hope that microbial life – bacteria and, depending on your definition, viruses – will be discovered elsewhere in the Solar System, it’s deeply unclear as to how likely it is we’ll find any evidence whatsoever of alien life.
Although it’s generally seen as improbable that we’re the only intelligent life out there, the universe is a mind-blowingly huge place, and the chances of two civilizations crossing paths are incredibly low. So, any concrete or confident estimate as to when this will happen should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Kaku then went on to say that, even if we encounter them, “talking to them will be difficult, since they could be tens of light-years away. So, in the meantime, we must decipher their language to understand their level of technology.”
He added that we need to understand their intentions, how advanced they are, how aggressive (or not) they are, and so forth.
“Another possibility is that they land on the White House lawn and announce their existence,” Kaku adds. “But I think that is unlikely, since we would be like forest animals to them, i.e. not worth communicating with.”
Imagine aliens landing on the White House lawn and having to greet President Trump. Just, for a moment, dwell on that thought.
Inverse spotted that Kaku also ruminated on the possibility that, if aliens are advanced enough, then “sectarian, fundamentalist, nationalist” problems may have been ironed out by the time they arrive, which suggests they could be peaceful. That doesn’t mean that they still won’t see humanity as being primitive, harmless, but perhaps inconvenient obstacles of some kind.
Later in the thread, Kaku emphasizes that we’ve still got a long way to go before we’re spacefarers ourselves, even if we do have Elon Musk, who is “making it possible to enter a new Golden Age of space exploration, almost free of charge to the taxpayer.” He still suggests we'll need to speed up our evolution by cybernetically and genetically enhancing ourselves as we get on with terraforming other worlds.
Repeatedly referring to the Kardashev Scale, Kaku underlines the fact that we are “still a Type 0 civilization, we still have the savagery that typified our rise from the swamp. However, we are about 100 years away from becoming a Type I planetary civilization, where many of our sectarian, fundamentalist, nationalist divisions have been resolved.
“So, if we can survive until the transition to a Type I civilization, we might just make it.”
Place your bets now, people.