If aliens had been watching our planet for the last billions of years, “what might they see if they watch for another hundred years?” asked Lord Martin Rees, the astronomer royal of the United Kingdom, when he gave the inaugural Carl Sagan lecture Monday night.
Looking ahead toward the potential and probable technological advances expected in this century both on Earth and in space, Rees spoke to the benefits and risks they pose as humans push forward in this defining century.
A board member of the Carl Sagan Institute and Emmy and Peabody award-winning producer Ann Druyan introduced Rees’ presentation by drawing a parallel between Sagan — a renowned professor of astronomy at Cornell — and Rees as “citizen-scientists.”
Ann Druyan, Emmy and Peabody award-winning writer and producer, and widow to Carl Sagan, introduces Lord Rees. “[Sagan] was also a citizen-scientist who was so conscientious he mounted an independent campaign without any help from anyone to fight for the future of this planet,” Druyan said. Rees began his lecture on this point, stressing the lessons he has taken from Sagan and their relevance in today’s world.
“We need [Sagan’s] optimistic vision of life’s destiny in this world and perhaps far beyond this world,” he said. “We need to think globally. We need to think rationally. We need to think long-term.”