Is Humanity About To Accidentally Declare Interstellar War On Alien Civilizations?
“If you were an alien on this world that got struck by these relativistic masses, what would you conclude? You’d know that these were too massive and too fast-moving to be created naturally; they were made by an intelligent civilization. You’d know that you were being intentionally targeted; space is too vast for these to strike you by random chance. And — worst of all — you’d assume this civilization had a malicious intent. No benevolent aliens would launch something so recklessly and carelessly given the damage it would cause. If we’re smart enough to send a spacecraft across the galaxy to another star, surely we can be wise enough to reckon the disastrous consequences of doing so.”
Until recently, the idea of any sort of interstellar travel was restricted to two lines of thought: a multi-generational trip using conventional fuels or technologies, or a super-fast one using technologies that would require revolutions, like matter-antimatter propulsion or warp drive. But recent developments in the field of laser technology have brought about a new option: the capacity to accelerate a low-mass, large-area ‘laser sail’ to relativistic speeds. Even though the payload might only be a single gram, it could reach speeds of up to 20% the speed of light, bringing it to Alpha Centauri in under 25 years. Unfortunately, one of the downsides includes that any alien at Alpha Centauri would view it as an aggressive, malicious attack, for extremely justifiable reasons.
Before we put our interstellar ambitions into the Breakthrough Starshot idea, we’d better make sure we don’t start an interstellar war. If they’re more advanced than we are, it could (and maybe should) be the end for us!