Stephen Hawking believes that mankind might want to just mind its own business, cosmically speaking. Even as he turns his attention to the search for alien life, Hawking says we should think twice before making any efforts to communicate with alien civilizations, ScienceAlert reports. Any civilization advanced enough to contact Earth is likely to be "vastly more powerful [than us] and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria," Hawking says. He explains that an alien civilization arriving at Earth could use its vast technological advantage to take advantage of our planet in the same way Columbus exploited the Native Americans.
Hawking made the comments in a new video, Stephen Hawking's Favorite Places, which can be viewed on CuriosityStream. One of Hawking's current projects, Breakthrough Listen, is dedicated to scanning the nearest million stars for signs of alien life, the Guardian reports. That project's first major target is KIC 8462852, an irregular star that astronomers have theorized may be home to an alien "megastructure." "As I grow older I am more convinced than ever that we are not alone," Hawkins says in the film. "One day we might receive a signal from a planet ... but we should be wary of answering back." (Read more science stories.)