Civilization Classification

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In 1964, Nikolai Kardashev defined three levels of civilization, based on the order of magnitude of power they could harness. According to his theory, a Type I civilization can make use of all the energy that makes its way to a planet from its parent star. A Type II civilization is thought to be able to harness all of the energy radiated by its own star. Kardashev hypothesized that a Type III civilization would gain access to the energy provided by the luminosity of an entire galaxy.

It’s theoretically conceivable that the extent to which a society has colonized a region of the multiverse is another reasonable metric by which to evaluate a civilization, along with energy consumption. This leads to the same kind of scale that Kardashev proposed, but includes extra orders of magnitude:

TYPE 0 (National)

TYPE 1 (Global)

TYPE 2 (Stellar)

TYPE 3 (Galactic)

TYPE 4 (Universal)

TYPE 5 (Cosmic)

Based on this model, Type 0 beings have access to different countries, Type 1 have access to other planets, Type 2 have access to different solar systems, Type 3 have access to other galaxies, Type 4 would have access to separate universes, and Type 5 could even gain access to the entire multiverse. For now though, you presently live in a Type 0 civilization, although we are on our way to Type 1. Humanity has become sufficiently advanced enough to operate the International Space Station, and people will be walking on Mars soon. However, we are still a long way off. The world renowned physicist Michio Kaku has indicated that humanity might attain this status within a century or two. Given the orders of magnitude involved, scientists speculate that it will take thousands of years to reach Type 2 and millions of years for people to achieve a Type 3 civilization.

Trillions of years from now, our species could even evolve into beings that are so far removed from us that we can only imagine what our descendants will actually be like. In my youth I became fascinated with Gene Rodenberry’s Star Trek character “Q” portrayed by John de Lancie. This fictional being is unconstrained by, and possesses immeasurable power over, the laws of physics, being able to violate or alter them at will. In the show, Q is part of a race of beings that has gained access to other dimensions, as a Type 5 civilization.

Unfortunately, the military-industrial complex perpetuates global conflict, and predatory capitalists hoard resources, preventing the necessary development required to achieve this kind of thing. However, there is hope because, in spite of it all, visionary philanthropists like Elon Musk are doing what it will take to get us to the Type 1 planetary status that I have dreamed of for decades. A crucial step in this process is the transition toward renewable energy through sunlight conversion to electricity — either directly with solar cells or indirectly through wind and hydroelectric power. Another is the ability of intelligent life to inhabit other worlds. This is how and why innovative companies like Tesla Motors and SpaceX will help to usher in a new era of civilization.

Written by

An Autodidact Polymath

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