Former President Barack Obama was recently interviewd by New York Times reporter Ezra Klein. During the interview, he was asked for his thoughts should we make contact with an extraterrestrial civilisation.
He has hopes. He has fears.
Transcription of part of the Ezra Klein interview (June 2021):
Here’s a link to the Spotify interview: Relevant question at 55:38
ezra klein If it came out that they were alien, if we got undeniable proof of that, how would that change your politics, or your theory about where humanity should be going?
barack obama That is an interesting question.
ezra klein Thank you.
barack obama Well, first of all, it depends on if we — have we made contact with them?
ezra klein No, just drones. They just —
barack obama We just know that —
ezra klein We just know they’re from afar.
barack obama These probes have been sent.
ezra klein Yeah.
barack obama But we have no way of reaching out to them.
ezra klein We can’t get in touch. We just know we’re not alone, and something’s been here.
barack obama It’s interesting. It wouldn’t change my politics at all. Because my entire politics is premised on the fact that we are these tiny organisms on this little speck floating in the middle of space.
The analogy I always used to use when we were going through tough political times, and I’d try to cheer my staff up, then I’d tell them a statistic that John Holdren, my science advisor, told me, which was that there are more stars in the known universe than there are grains of sand on the planet Earth.
ezra klein Your staff must have loved that.
barack obama Well, sometimes it cheered them up. Sometimes they’d just roll their eyes and say, oh, there he goes again. But the point is, I guess, that my politics has always been premised on the notion that the differences we have on this planet are real. They’re profound, and they cause enormous tragedy as well as joy.
But we’re just a bunch of humans with doubts and confusion. We do the best we can. And the best thing we can do is treat each other better, because we’re all we got. And I would hope that the knowledge that there were aliens out there would solidify people’s sense that what we have in common is a little more important.
But no doubt, there would be immediate arguments about, well, we need to spend a lot more money on weapons systems to defend ourselves.
And new religions would popup, and who knows what kind of arguments we’d get into. We’re good at manufacturing arguments for each other.