Are we alone in the universe? Should we even try to find out?
These are precisely the kinds of existential questions that unscientific Internet polls were made for. In our latest one at HeraldNet.com, we asked whether people should try to find and contact intelligent life on other planets.
Why did we ask? Recently, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner took the matter into his own hands, as Russian billionaires are wont to do. He announced a $100 million investment to send probes to our nearest neighboring solar system, Alpha Centauri, in search of extraterrestrial life.
Milner has the backing of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who evidently is running out of personal data to collect in his own solar system, and famed physicist Stephen Hawking, who has been reticent about such quests in the past for fear of alerting superior beings to our existence. He apparently has finally given up on Earth.
Our poll respondents weren’t too keen on the idea, with 48 percent saying no because “it’s expensive and probably futile.” All true, but if it’s some billionaire financing a crazy dream rather than our tax dollars, that might change some opinions.
Nine percent voted no “because it could be dangerous.” Hawking himself has said that if aliens were to find us, they might be billions of years more advanced and “not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.” On the other hand, if the aliens are that advanced, they already know we’re here. We’ve been beaming reruns of “Three’s Company” into space for decades.
A minority of starry-eyed optimists voted “yes” in our poll, with 31 percent saying we want to know if we’re not alone, and 12 percent saying aliens might help us solve Earth’s problems.
And we have problems. Aliens might take one look at the 2016 presidential race and decide Earth is hostile to intelligent life.
Next up, we want your opinion on what standards employers should be held to, in light of the recent controversy over the activities of Electroimpact founder Peter Zieve.