Dumbest Alien Invasions
This episode is sponsored by Audible. It seems like in most alien invasions of Earth in scifi the invaders have pretty dumb reasons for invading, but does that mean Earth is safe because there are no good reasons to invade us, or just that we’re not being sufficiently creative? Welcome back to our Alien Civilizations series here on Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur for another Sci-fi Sunday on SFIA, and I am your aforementioned host, Isaac Arthur. On our Scifi Sunday episodes, we try to relax our scientific rigor and try to look at concepts in science fiction and see how realistic they are, or for that matter, how unrealistic they are, and when it comes to alien invasions of Earth, there are sort of a champion of unrealistic sci-fi, right up there with fighting giant monstrous Kaiju in equally giant robot mecha or fighting off zombie hoards, both of which are often alien invasion scenarios too. The invasions often seem dumb. Both how they happen and why they are done in the first place. The motivations and goals for the aliens to invade often seem incredibly stupid and when it comes to tactics and strategy during the invasion they often seem to ignore the First Rule of Warfare, and indeed, so too do the defenders. So, I thought we’d spend today discussing the dumbest alien invasions of fiction, and why they’re strategically and scientifically flawed, as well as some examples of better reasons and methods. So, grab a drink and a snack, smash thoses like and subscribe buttons, and let’s get started! Now we need to acknowledge from the outset that the reasons for most alien invasions are actually just to set up the plot of a film and frequently the writers care about the motivations for the invasions only to the degree needed to allow the audience to suspend disbelief for the story.
And there are tons of excellent movies that are guilty of this, for instance my own favorite film, Blade Runner, is all about a man chasing after rogue android equivalents and it rather ignores that there’s no reason you wouldn’t have installed a tracking chip into them in the first place to avoid this and contemplate obvious contingencies for how that might fail. This applies to artificial intelligence films too, machine rebellions, which are often near-identical to alien invasion films. We don’t really worry too much about why the AI rebelled, why that wasn’t foreseen in advance, or why it wants us all dead now. Of course those stories often are designed to show a failing in mankind, how we brought it on our own heads and must learn to do better in the future. Which takes us to our first example of stupid reasons to invade: #1 Divine Judgment At least as far back as the film the Day the Earth Stood Still we get examples of aliens appearing to chastise us for our violent ways. Or even threatening to invade if we don’t learn to be more peaceful. Humanity is warlike and a threat
to itself and eventually a peaceful galaxy, so we’re going to invade Earth preemptively. Now this isn’t really a dumb reason to invade, just kinda hypocritical, which doesn’t make it implausible. The flaw is that it is assuming any species is likely to claw its way up Darwin’s Ladder without being fairly good at violence and that we would be exceptional in this regard. It would seem more reasonable to assume nearly every civilization that invents rockets to get to space also thought about how handy they were for dropping bombs on their enemies, and peaceful civilizaitons come about with reason and experience because war is expensive on resources, lives, and sanity, civilizations that value those will tend to prefer to avoid wars when reasonably possible. So the aliens might show up to make us more peaceful, but probably just by saying “Hey, it’s great to meet you guys, welcome to the galactic stage. Our philosophy is that it’s good to own enormous space cannons and be experts in their use, but basically never need to use them in favor of peaceful reasoned arbitration and friendship. We figured you might want some help at achieving
the latter before you achieved the former, rather than the other way around.” And we’d probably reply that we were open to that though promise nothing since we don't really know these strangers from afar yet. And the same pretty much applies to the reboot version of that film with Keanu Reeves where it's all about our environment and how badly we treat it, only there the aliens wreck our power grid rather than just offering us the technologies and techniques they have for cleaner power production and overall living. This is because these stories are just using the aliens as Divine Judgment, and the plot isn’t about them fixing the problem it's about humanity getting what its got coming to it - in the writer’s opinion anyway - or narrowly avoiding that doom as the entity is merciful and grants a stay of execution or outright forgiveness. Obviously if a real civilization acted that way they’d be open to getting called out for that sort of behavior but they might not care. We also need to keep in mind that clever players
don’t show all their cards or pieces and display the ones they do with the intent of having you draw a false conclusion. That is the first rule of Warfare after all, “If the Enemy appears to being doing something incredibly stupid or illogical, assume there is a good chance they aren’t”. An invader has no requirement to explain their motivations nor to be honest if they do, and blaming the folks you’re invading is a common approach historically. Nonetheless, invading another world for the purpose of punishing or reforming its citizens might seem like a dumb reason for doing it, but unlike most of examples today, it is one that’s in the eye of the beholder as opposed to simply illogical as a strategy. The galaxy isn’t likely
to offer us black and white cases of morality either, they may invade other worlds to eliminate competition because they are morally opposed to genocide of intelligent entities or wiping out unique ecosystems or both. So they conquer or quarantine rather than eliminate. They might have ethics, just not enough of them in certain regards, humanity’s history certainly shows the frequency of that too. Or it might be seen as a lesser evil in the pursuit of a nobler goal, maybe they need our world as a strategic outpost or burn it to deny it to a voracious galaxy wide threat. They have reasons that make sense, but amount to us as collateral damage. Admittedly, many of the individual reasons in scifi aren’t that great, like Thanos in the MCU wanting to eliminate half the population of the Universe to deal with overpopulation. In the original comics he’s just a death-obsessed nihilist, and maybe in future films this will turnout to be some strategy for dealing with Celestials hatching out of inhabited planets. However, just killing half the people to deal with overpopulation then
blowing up the stones so no one can undo it, or redo it a couple generations later if the problem reoccurs, is rather dumb, as tons of videos on youtube have explained in detail already. What isn’t dumb though was Thanos invading Earth. Virtually every Infinity Stone was either on Earth or had some Earth-involved or originated character handling it, so out of all the trillions of planets out there, conquering or pulverizing Earth was definitely a good idea, even if it was to advance a goal that made precious little sense. You invade Earth because
Earth seems to have some precious resource unique to it, or atypically abundant to it, which takes us to our next category. #2 - There’s gold in them there Earth Hills! Picking on L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth, either the 1982 novel or the 2000 film starring John Travolta, is like shooting fish out of a cannon barrel, as both provide a lot of cannon fodder for criticism, but in that film, we see an alien race that invades Earth because they want our gold. Unfortunately for them, they come from a world whose atmospheric content is so volatile to radiation that it explodes when exposed to even elevated Earth Background radiation and eventually, they are defeated when a nuclear bomb is teleported to their homeworld and the whole planet explodes from the radiation released from the explosion. The book handles this better
than the film but both have this plot point. There’s a lot of criticism to make against the plot and details in Battlefield Earth. For one thing, there should be no planets without background radiation, so even if there was a chemical that could explode that violently when exposed to radiation, it shouldn’t be naturally occurring in quantity on any world. That ending would have worked a lot better if they instead wanted uranium,
which is even more rare than gold in our solar system, especially enriched uranium, and if someone slipped a nuclear bomb into the uranium mining shipments back to their vaults on their homeworld it would be a little more plausible that it might have blown up their whole planet. Uranium is actually a lot more abundant in Earth’s crust than gold too, and decays on geological timelines, so we might plausibly imagine aliens having little left on their ancient homeworld, and they therefore view Earth as a nice source of it. However, my objection isn’t to them wanting gold rather than uranium or any other material. There are a number of materials that are scarce and valuable, and there’s nothing implausible about aliens willing to go to war for them. Many might be more valuable than gold to a technological civilization, or at least as valuable, but gold has more value than simply as jewelry or shiny coins. It just wouldn’t seem Earth would contain something unique, like those Infinity Stones from the MCU, natural elements and minerals should be fairly universal if not necessarily homogeneously spread.
Still, there’s nothing implausible about aliens seizing resources by force, or us losing that fight against some ancient interstellar empire, able to draw on vast resources and technologies. That’s the first rule of warfare after all: Might doesn’t make right, but it sure is handy for winning arguments. Rather, my objection is to the notion that you would invade Earth, or any other populated planet, in order to harvest those materials, and that this would involve any need for ground warfare. Earth has one of the largest stockpiles of gold in the solar system, probably coming in sixth place after the Sun and the various gas giants, who collectively, probably have tens of thousands of times more of everything that Earth has, but even if harvesting it on solid ground is preferable, why would anyone come to Earth first.
In all the arguments over whether or not Pluto is a planet or not, or rather, whether it should be counted as an equal to one of the 8 major planets of our solar system. People tend to forget that there are millions of actual minor planets in the solar system, not 8 or 9. When we discovered a ton of other smaller and distant icy dwarfs, we had to add another category: Dwarf Planets; and of those, Pluto is not the largest, and whether or not we should have kept things classified they way they were, and just added another dozen or so planets to the major category, or not, it doesn’t change that there are still a lot of minor planets, be they in the asteroid belt or moons or trojans or comets or scattered disc objects, or in the Kuiper Belt or Oort Cloud. And if you’ve got interplanetary or interstellar travel, every single one of
them is a lot cheaper to mine than Earth is. So, it isn’t that Earth doesn’t have resources, it's that it is one the last places you would come to get them. It would just be so much easier to mine an asteroid, as opposed to hauling matter up through Earth’s atmosphere and enormous gravity well, even ignoring that most of those resources are deep down in our crust and mantle. Still, rocky inner planets will tend to be higher in density of heavier elements, as the closer to your Sun you are, the more likely that a lot of the hydrogen and helium, and even oxygen - the three most abundant elements in the Universe - will have been blown away.
Of course, another mistake the aliens of Battlefield Earth made - in the film at least - was using humans as slave labor for mining our remaining gold, and using a high-tech teaching device to dump knowledge directly into the head of one of those humans. This violates the First Rule of Warfare: Keep your secrets secret. Never give your enemy an all-access pass or library card to your vaults and technologies. And we’ll give the book version of Battlefield Earth a point for having the alien invaders be from an empire whose chief species guard their core mathematics and science of teleportation so vigorously that they even have brain implants to make them homicidally attack anyone who inquires, in order to maintain their monopoly on that technology. #3 - There’s water in them there oceans
Now, gold might be an iffy resource for an alien empire to give preeminence over all others, but it sure has a claim on being rare and will generally be more abundant in rocky inner planets than, say, icy comets. One material that certainly isn’t more common on Earth than in icy comets is ice and water. Earth certainly has a lot of it, and conveniently, it’s up on the surface for easy access too, compared to all those heavy metals in the core, it’s much easier to harvest. Nonetheless, the only places in our solar system where water is rare are The Sun, our Moon,
Mercury, and Venus. Even Mars has a decent amount, and while water is probably hard to come by in the Inner regions of our Asteroid Belt, out past that, ice is incredibly common. Indeed, water, being composed of hydrogen and oxygen, the first and third most abundant elements in the Universe, is all over the place. Proportionally, Earth is actually rather low on it compared
to most other bodies in the solar system. So, if there’s any substance you wouldn’t bother invading Earth for, it’s water, yet this is what happens in the 2013 Film Oblivion, where the alien invaders are mining Earth for its oceans. Somewhat amusingly, they were first encountered near Saturn, whose famous rings are made of giant floating icebergs, but more importantly, they want the water for fusion reactors, and only about 10% of water is made of hydrogen, the easiest element for fusion, which is also one of the most abundant materials in the Universe and on the Planet of Saturn, which has many thousands of times more hydrogen than Earth does. It is a reminder though, that even fiction that messes up its science can still be fun to watch or read, and critical failures in science are common in even the greatest science fiction classics.
Indeed, we even see it with scarcity of water in Frank Herbert’s legendary Dune series, where, for some reason, a civilization with casual access to cheap orbital spaceflight and levitation, seems to be unable to supply water to the planet Dune and nobody seems to really grasp how to make water-efficient greenhouses or concrete-lined reservoirs. This isn’t as bad as the alien invaders of the 2002 film: Signs, starring Mel Gibson, where it turns out the aliens are as water-soluble as the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. That’s another example of how films often lack key things that the books have, as in L. Frank Baum’s original novel: The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch carries an umbrella,
rather than a broomstick, far more indicative and appropriate given her hydrophobic nature. Now that book was written in the year 1900, long before we knew water was hyperabundant in the Universe, and it was written as a children's novel, so it's a lot easier to forgive the enemy being deadly allergic to something as common as water. Granted, The Wizard of Oz was never meant to be a tale of space travel anyway. We also see it in the film: Day of the Triffids, where carnivorous plants invade Earth but are killed by seawater. Though to be fair, many plants are.
Deciding to invade a planet that is literally covered in vast, deep pools of a substance that kills you is still a violation of the First Rule of Warfare: Avoid fighting battles in places where your enemy has a decisive advantage. This means you don’t invade planets that are toxic to you unless you have to, and even then, you make darned sure your troops are well-equipped for it. You don’t get in a fist fight with a fully-equipped fireman inside a burning house, and you don’t invade the Planet of the Lava People if your species has gasoline for blood. You also probably don’t want to be keeping them for personal slaves either. Which takes us to our next one. #4 - There’s value in them there humans A reason sometimes given in fiction for why an alien armada bothers sending in grounds troops for us to have firefights with or air-capable vessels for our fighter jets to dogfight with, rather than just bombarding us from orbit, is that they want the planet intact so they can enslave humanity.
Now, many might imagine an alien would be as afraid of using robots and artificial intelligence as we are, however, we are afraid of that because we think AI might rebel and kill us. It would seem that if an alien wanted to avoid using robots because they feared they might one day break their programming and violently rebel, then enslaving a naturally intelligent, rebellious, and aggressive species that rose to the top of its planetary ecosystem by being inventive and ruthless, and often inventively ruthless, would not be a smart strategy. At least the robots don’t start off wanting you dead and practiced at killing things. Also, the only reason you would ever want intelligent slaves, as opposed to dumb automated factory robots, is for their inventinveness and adaptability, and for handling technology themselves, with training. Which presumably means your technology, which violates the first rule of warfare: Never hand someone a loaded gun unless you’re sure who they’ll point at it, and this is even more true if you do know who they will point it at and that’s you. We don’t want to fool ourselves, an interstellar civilization capable of reaching our planet with military force is one that could easily obliterate us, currently. The sorts of weapons that would qualify as entry-level on
any ship able to obtain interstellar speeds for a large vessel and protect it from relativistic collisions with space debris are very potent. Imagine a machine gun that fired nuclear bombs. That’s essentially the weak end of the spectrum. And not for some goliath mothership that shadows cities below, let alone entire planets. Rather, we would imagine that sort of armament on something more modest like a lone frigate or destroyer, or even a non-military freighter.
The dynamic shifts if, for some reason, they want to conquer us, because it's sort of inevitable you get a two-way flow of technology. Folks tend to wildly over-estimate how mysterious advanced technology is to those who don’t know its inner workings, even just seeing how a piece of technology functions will tend to lay an easy path to replicating it. So, some alien occupation force hanging around here for generations would likely see us mastering their technology before long. Defending or revolting forces can often do unexpectedly well, and it’s often because the other side is constrained with where and when it feels it can use overwhelming force. If the answer is everywhere and always, then there is no reason not to scorch the whole planet and avoid the whole invasion. They may have practical or ethical reasons for doing otherwise,
and again conquest oriented doesn’t necessarily mean universally unethical or casually genocidal. So, conquest to use humans, or some other smart alien critters, is a lot more likely to fail in the long term, compared to just nuking the planet till it glows, or sending in wave after wave of self-replicating murder bots. Alternatively, much dumber bots will do virtually every task you could need, and would represent a much smaller rebellion risk. And if you need talented minds, you can just breed and raise more of your own, though your own kids might be just as likely to be rebellious as aliens. Indeed aliens might be more cooperative and respectful in some cases. Heck, you can set up shop in orbit and start a recruiting campaign, why enslave people if you can just hire them. Aliens may not view converting a civilization as all that tricky, they may view converting a more primitive civilization to be staunch allies a desirable goal, and they may be masters of psychology and brainwashing too. Of course enormous space guns
can make a great sales pitch. That’s the First Rule of Warfare after all, the persuasiveness of your argument is directly proportional to how much firepower you have to argue your case. The nature of interstellar travel and non-FTL time lags tend to ensure that any interstellar empire is likely to be used-to huge genetic and cultural divergence between its own colonies and might not particularly view a conquered alien race any differently. That’s often been true of human conquest, and historically, big empires, for all their many other failings, frequently are a lot more cosmopolitan. They don’t need to keep us around as slaves for labor, but they might be prone to conquering civilizations and absorbing them, as opposed to wiping them out. The invading admiral or general might be from a conquered world themself and yet a true
believer in their cause. Neighbors in the long term can be threats, as can vassals, obviously, but while the latter has more reason to become an enemy if you mistreat them, they’re easy to keep an eye on and intervene early with. If you think you’re good rulers, a well-treated vassal might seem a safer bet then a sovereign neighbor. They also might value our perspectives. It's a weird idea for us at the moment, but there probably is a real limit on technological progress. We are predisposed to think of science as some ever-expanding art with new mysteries all the time, but this is mostly poetic. There’s no real indication that the Universe has infinite
rules, quite to the contrary, and speaking as a physicist, while we make new discoveries all the time, our understanding of the core fundamental physical laws haven’t changed much in nearly a century. It is entirely plausible that we’ll have finished figuring out the core physical laws of the Universe in another century or two and be hitting a point of diminishing returns on scientific progress within a millenia, which, barring faster than light/FTL travel, is about as soon as we could plausibly expect to reach any planets with other past or present native civilizations even under the most optimistic models for how often intelligent life may occur. It seems almost heretical to predict an end to new science but if there is one it’s probably not too far off in the future, in galactic timelines. Odds are good aliens have basically
maxed out their physics and production technology before ever meeting another alien civilization. So, you’re probably not looking for new worlds for new core physical science - but for biology, geology, psychology, and so on, there’s likely to be a lot of new material for those fields, which we’ll return to in a minute. Rather, if science is fairly maxed-out in your civilization, that strongly implies you are very skilled with automation and very good at generating power and using resources efficiently. So to your civilization a worker is probably someone in the arts and entertainment, robots do the rest and very well, and so that’s the workforce you’re seeking to enslave or convert when you invade an alien world. The rich hoard you want from them is likely to be all their literature, films and games, and the folks who make them, and that doesn’t really imply a need for conquest, let alone hyper-violent conquest, and is certainly not benefited by wiping new aliens out. Though it raises the question why you don’t just trade for those resources, given that you can make copies of great works, especially digital ones. Though a bullet is cheaper than a gold coin, especially given that you might not
need to fire the bullet, just threaten to do so. One of the key things that aliens probably would value about new planets is their native biology, intelligent or dumb, animal, vegetable, fungi, whatever. Probably not for cuisine though. As another example of awesome classic sci-fi that also has a very flawed premise, the 1959 Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man” is one of many stories where it turns out that aliens like to dine on humans. This can overlap a lot with the vampire genre of fiction, especially the more consumptive style of vampires who eat people, not just look pretty and drink blood without much mess or lethality. Or it can be more of a Matrix-style predation where the conquerors use humans as batteries. Though, the 2009 sci fi horror film: Daybreakers, does both, with vampires who keep humanity in matrix-style farms for their blood.
As a genre, aliens eating humans is usually sci-fi horror or comedy. Peter Jackson, who gave us the Lord of the Rings movie adaptations, actually had his directorial debut in a low-budget film “Bad Taste” in 1987 where aliens massacre a New Zealand town for an intergalactic fast food company. It’s definitely a popular topic for sci-fi but realistically, this an awful reason to invade. Even if aliens didn’t have ethical issues eating intelligent critters - raising them for food is insanely uneconomical. You want fast-maturing animals for livestock, because a pig you feed
grain to every day for half a year to slaughter at around 100 kilograms is going to be preferable to a human you have to feed dozens of times more food over many years for the same meat. That also leaves out cloning, synthetic meat, the whole issue of alien biocompatibility, and any presumption of ethics inside your own civilization. That’s a lot of ifs in order to achieve a goal that is essentially evil for evil’s own mustache-twirling sake. It also ignores fear of your neighbors attacking you for pointlessly evil behavior, space is big and three-dimensional, so, the longer you’re around and the wider you spread your tentacles, the more likely you are to encounter someone who finds your behavior loathsome and has the guns and willpower to encourage you to change your mind. That’s the first rule of warfare, avoid recruiting for the enemy. It is much easier to imagine civilizations hurling vast armadas across the galaxy, even at absurd cost, in order to wipe out a civilization that enjoys farming intelligent creatures to eat, even at absurd cost, than it is to imagine such a civilization actually existing. With that in mind, it is much easier to imagine
that if by some quirk, a civilization found itself literally preying on another out of need, like the Wraith from Stargate Atlantis, that such a civilization would expend vast efforts to curing that need and hiding that they ever had it. For the ethical, it is a cause for war and invasion, for the unethical, it is a jugular vein to exploit, one they can use to drain you of life just as a vampire would and as your vampiric species does to its prey. For the Wraith, or for examples like Galactus, Eater of Worlds, from Marvel comics, it is usually said or implied that there’s some quantity of life energy or even, if they need to eat humans only, that they’re eating souls. Science doesn’t seem to indicate those quantities are physically
available but we don’t know, and we can’t rule out an alien race believing that was true, whether it was or wasn’t. So, similarly, we can’t rule out something preying on us for that. I don’t recall seeing anyone doing a story on it, but you could probably explicitly write up an alien AI race that was able to measure and harvest souls but be unable to produce them artificially, so they basically had to prey on civilizations that way to reproduce. That’s definitely something I’d think of more as a plot device in fiction than something realistic or plausible, but the Universe might surprise us that way, and we examined those concepts more in our episode: Gods & Monsters.
And for that matter, the invasion of the Earth’s territory in the Babylon 5 Franchise by the ancient and powerful Minbari only came to a halt when they realized that they were killing themselves. They believe there are only so many souls being reborn to repopulate their species when one of them dies, and that they had seen a drop off in recent years, and discovered they were being reborn as humans and stopped the war. Stealing souls is scientifically based in that setting too. I could see that going the other way around, where you wipe out a world because you think they’re stealing your souls or maybe you’ve become so unnatural in your advanced technology you aren't born with them properly and need to harvest them from primitive worlds. I’d doubt it but we should be mindful that there may be unknown aspects to reality we have yet to discover that would seriously alter our equations for invasions.
A recurring theme in a lot of alien invasion sci-fi is that it is really just a plot device to have humans fighting aliens, and usually, they’re pretty thin on contemplation. Like with the Minbari, they ran into an Earth Scout Fleet, crippled them with scanning technology and appeared hostile, and when that scout fleet fired on them and fled, killing a great leader of theirs, they declared a war of genocide. The prequel film, In the Beginning, which sought to put some light on that war, really did the franchise disservice in my opinion. Before that film the war was always portrayed as an unfortunate but reasonable mistake by a mostly noble if sometimes overly proud civilization, which described the Minbari and humans alike, but the film makes it seem like the Minbari are vicious, unreasonable lunatics. Often it’s better to leave some stories untold as they crumble on examination.
That’s maybe why we haven’t been conquered, there really aren’t any good reasons to do so. Of course, sometimes it’s on accident, like the original portrayal of the Earth-Minbari War. Orson Scott Card’s classic: Ender’s Game, and its various sequels and prequels, introduce us to an alien hive mind race that unintentionally invades and murders millions of humans because it doesn’t realize we’re individuals, as opposed to minor components of a hive mind. Great story, but it really falls apart on examination because, even if you accept the notion that they didn’t view killing humans as any bigger deal than trimming our hair or nails, which I should point out are themselves dead cells already, you don’t encounter obvious signs of technology - including spaceships and clearly visible cities with light and power and just start poking around, disassembling stuff assuming it has no value, or no one who values it. And you certainly don’t
send a second follow-up invasion, like they did, and pretend your space fleet dueling with another space fleet leaves you any reason to think you’re not attacking another intelligent agency, and hurting it, and trying to take its stuff. And if that really is something you think is unethical and don’t want to do, some more planning and foresight is probably a good idea in your exploration efforts, in order to avoid engaging in atrocities and starting wars with people who now are passionately devoted to wanting you dead. After all, that’s the first rule of warfare: Pick your Battles wisely. Be smart enough not to start stupid fights, which neither side really wants.
We also have to keep in mind that while we think of space as dark, it isn’t. There’s no night in space, not many shadows, it isn’t easy to hide. Stealth in space is hard, maybe even impossible, especially for conducting entire wars, not just hiding one ship or missile. Folks who’ve been around for millions of years in our galaxy, which was itself billions of years old before our planet even formed, did not just find out humanity existed. Our biosignatures
as an inhabited planet were astronomically visible long before humanity discovered fire, let alone radio waves, and signs of intelligence like fire, are visible from orbit and have been for a long time. Nobody is just showing up now, because they just found out we exist, unless they are new too, and if they are, they have every reason to suspect that the simple fact, both they and we exist alive and unconquered in such an ancient galaxy, means somebody else predates us both and doesn’t approve of conquest, as they haven’t done it themselves. And even if not in this galaxy, the Universe is a big place and eventually you are going to be seen acting hostile to your neighbors, and unless you want to gamble that there was no one else before you, which is really unlikely if you’ve got primitive neighbors close enough to want to conquer, then you have to assume you are being watched by others who both don’t approve of your activities and could be in a position to swing by to tell you so. And you really, really don’t want that. That’s the first rule of warfare after all, don’t start fights with anyone bigger than you, or even the same size if you can help it.
So the reality is, I’ve just never heard a convincing reason for invading an alien planet, and hopefully that means that there isn’t one, rather than us just not having thought one up yet. I’d hate to find out that there is a good one by having an alien armada showing up to explain it in person. So it's time again for our Audible Audiobook of the Month and on the topic of Alien Invasions we have no shortage of excellent books, but our winner this month is “Shards of Earth” by Adrian Tchailovksy, the first book in his scifi series the Final Architecture, that contemplates the aftermath and mystery of an invasion of Earth in an action packed, immersive, and epic space opera setting that is all we come to expect from one of scifi and fantasy’s emerging new leaders. It’s an amazing space opera and Shards of Earth and all of his other novels are available on Audible, as are the other authors we mentioned today. Audible has thousands of audiobooks available and literally centuries worth of content for you to pick from, and more being added every day faster than you could listen to all of it. But they don’t just have audiobooks, they also have many excellent podcasts, such as Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur, where we have every single episode on Youtube, plus several audio-only exclusives I’ve made over the years. That’s just some of the great
content in the Audible Plus Catalog, which also has sleep & meditation tracks available, as well as guided fitness programs, and Audible Original’s like Space: 1969, a retro sci-fi comedy adventure that has to be heard to be believed. The whole Audible Plus Catalog full of free books and other content, comes as a bonus when you join Audible, in addition to your usual 1 free audiobook each month and big member discounts on additional ones, and as always, new members can try Audible for free for the first month, just go to Audible.com/isaac, or text isaac to 500-500. So we were talking about possible doomsday technologies in our regular Thursday episode The Fermi Paradox: Technological Timebombs, and one example of that would be a technology that literally wipes your civilization out backwards in time, and we will be exploring that and other dangerous and weaponized uses of Time Travel in this week’s episode, and how those function inside of various temporal models like alternate timelines. The week after that we’ll
ask what humanity’s first space settlement will be like, and where it will be: in orbit, on the Moon or Mars or somewhere else. Then we’ll close the month out with our Livestream Q&A on Sunday August 28th at 4pm Eastern time, where we take your questions from the chat and answer them live. If you want alerts when those and other episodes come out, don’t forget to subscribe to the channel and hit the notifications bell. And if you enjoyed today’s episode, and would like
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