The Kardashev scale: why human civilization is still not advanced enough


Although our societies may look modern and technologically developed, human civilisation is still not advanced enough. It’s impressive to observe how we use our own planet’s resources for various high technologies. Humans are ineffective at exploiting even just natural resources. The Kardashev scale shows how human civilisation can evolve if we keep on the right track. It also involves thought experiments about possible advanced alien civilisations.

What is the Kardashev scale?

Keeping that in mind, the Kardashev scale is a method of assessing a civilisation’s level of technology. The amount of energy that a civilisation uses determines how advanced technologically it is. The Kardashev scale was proposed by Nikolai Kardashev, a Soviet astronomer, in 1964.  Although the scale details mathematically how to determine each type of civilisation, I will focus on the practical way you can achieve certain levels.  As such, there are possibly three types of civilisations in the observable Universe.  Here they are:

Type I civilisation

A type I civilisation can effectively harness all the energy on the planet. Solar system exploration is not yet possible, but this civilisation can use all the energy that falls on the planet from its parent star. This type exploits the planet’s natural resources simultaneously. Since human civilisation still relies heavily on earthly resources, we’re not a type I civilisation yet. We’d have to use more solar energy to reach this level.

Type II civilisation

This type II civilisation has moved on from exploiting the natural resources of the planet.  It can now use all of its parent star’s energy.  It has total control of the planetary system it is in. There is a tremendous difference in energy levels switching from type I to type II.  Depending on the parent star, the radiation and energy output of the star might be different.  One way to harness a star’s energy is by creating a Dyson sphere. The Dyson sphere is a hypothetical gigantic structure that encompasses a star. It captures a large percentage of the star’s energy. It’s still only a thought experiment. Even so, the fact that we can imagine this might make it a possibility in the future. However, humans are far away from this level.

Type III civilisation

Very technologically advanced, this type of civilisation controls its whole host galaxy. There are many possibilities regarding the ways in which this type of civilisation could operate. It could employ tactics similar to those of type II civilisations, but on a larger scale. This type of civilisation could use unknown technology to efficiently exploit the energy of black holes, quasars or gamma ray bursts.

All in all, this scale involves a lot of thought experiments. Humans haven’t even reached the first type of advanced civilisation. We need another 200 years to reach it at this rate.  While Kardashev thought it was impossible for civilisations to go beyond the three types, others have come up with ideas about civilisations up to type V.  One obvious limitation in the technological evolution of our species is our lifespan. We can’t explore beyond our planetary system if we live only up to 120 years.

Therefore, this is why human civilisation is still not advanced enough. There are many impediments in our evolution and technological development. We still have some time to figure out the issues that plague our species. If we are quick enough, we might just see the advent of a new era for humanity.


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