Intelligence, Hawking believes contrary to our human-centric existece, may not have any long-term survival value. In comparison the microbial world, will live on, even if all other life on Earth is wiped out by our actions. Hawking’s main insight is that intelligence was an unlikely development for life on Earth, from the chronology of evolution: “It took a very long time, two and a half billion years, to go from single cells to multi-cell beings, which are a necessary precursor to intelligence. This is a good fraction of the total time available, before the Sun blows up. So it would be consistent with the hypothesis, that the probability for life to develop intelligence, is low. In this case, we might expect to find many other life forms in the galaxy, but we are unlikely to find intelligent life.”
Another possibility is that there is a reasonable probability for life to form, and to evolve to intelligent beings, but at some point in their technological development “the system becomes unstable, and the intelligent life destroys itself. This would be a very pessimistic conclusion. I very much hope it isn’t true.”
Hawking’s suggestion that intelligence may reach a tipping point of sorts in which an intelligent group of beings does not develop a sense of wisdom that parallels their intellectual capacity, is the first time I’ve heard that used as an explanation of why there might not be much intelligent life in the universe. As far as mother nature is concerned she could proceed well enough without any creature being capable of splitting the atom.
If there are other life forms out there we might be lucky as Hawking suggests they have not found us. He even warns that if we do pick up some communication that we not answer back. Its fun to imagine an E.T. out there, but they could be some very intelligent giant leeches.
Maybe its that intelligent life is just very rare. It probably has to be carbon based and intelligent life is only possible within a very narrow spectrum of environmental conditions. The universe is huge, too huge to really imagine. The earth viewed from the edge of our small solar system is an unrecognizable pin dot to the naked eye. Go out further and our entire solar system becomes a dot of light. Further still and you cannot see the tiny bit of light without a very strong telescope. In terms proportion and size of the universe the earth is smaller and more difficult to find then a specific grain of sand in the Sahara Desert. Its difficult to find an earth-like planet. We do not even know if one exists in our corner of the Milky Way. So maybe if there is life out there we just can’t find each other.
A few snips from Bill Maher’s New Rule: Not Everything in America Has to Make a Profit
*Did you know, for example, that there was a time when being called a “war profiteer” was a bad thing? But now our war zones are dominated by private contractors and mercenaries who work for corporations.
*Prisons used to be a non-profit business, too. And for good reason – who the hell wants to own a prison? By definition you’re going to have trouble with the tenants. But now prisons are big business. A company called the Corrections Corporation of America is on the New York Stock Exchange, which is convenient since that’s where all the real crime is happening anyway. The CCA and similar corporations actually lobby Congress for stiffer sentencing laws so they can lock more people up and make more money.
*Because medicine is now for-profit we have things like “recision,” where insurance companies hire people to figure out ways to deny you coverage when you get sick, even though you’ve been paying into your plan for years.
*If conservatives get to call universal health care “socialized medicine,” I get to call private health care “soulless vampires making money off human pain.” The problem with President Obama’s health care plan isn’t socialism, it’s capitalism.