Can a Civilization REGRESS On The Kardashev Scale? | Unveiled

Can a Civilization REGRESS On The Kardashev Scale? | Unveiled
VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio
Could an advanced civilisation destroy itself beyond memory?? Join us, and find out!

In this video, Unveiled takes a closer look at the Kardashev Scale to ask; could an advanced civilisation ever fall back DOWN it to become primitive again? Could an intelligent group ever destroy itself so badly that even IT can't remember what it once was? What do YOU think??


Can a Civilization Regress on the Kardashev Scale?</h4>


Life on Earth is still the only life we know of. But, we now know more about it than ever before. Thanks to work across science, technology, archaeology, and countless other disciplines, we can chart the evolution of life from abiogenesis - the very beginning - to its current state. And we can look into the future, too, making predictions about what could come next. Our want to prophesize begs another question, though; have we actually been here before?


This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; can a civilization regress on the Kardashev Scale?


The Kardashev Scale has long guided how we view potential civilizations, ranking them based on the amount of energy they have access to. Type one is planet-sized; type two is star system; type three, galaxy; four is universe; and type five has the multiverse at its disposal. It’s enough to make anyone feel very small indeed, especially considering that humankind as a whole only ranks at around 0.7. No matter how advanced we might think we are, we haven’t even breached the first major Kardashev milestone, type one.


What’s more, there’s little-to-nothing by way of evidence that there has ever been anything better than us on Earth. Yes, there are more than a few conspiracy theories suggesting that an advanced civilization was here before us or intelligent aliens brought us to this world… but nothing even close to officially confirmed or even supported by mainstream science. It seems that after hundreds of thousands of years this really is it; the culmination of human intelligence and ingenuity up until this point. But that’s not to say that the same pattern would present itself across every group.


One reason why the Kardashev Scale remains so popular is because it provides us with a prism through which we can imagine (and grade) other, hypothetical civilizations, far removed from our own. We can ask questions like “what would you do with the power of a star?”... “where would you go if you controlled the entire Milky Way?”... and even, “could you ever die if you truly understood the universe?”. There’s always another level up to strive for… and, indeed, some versions of the scale do reach to types six, seven, and beyond, at which point any “civilization” becomes essentially god-like, channeling time-bending weirdness to its heart’s content. If it even has a heart. However, at the other end of the spectrum, is it also possible to know too much?


A lot of research has been done into how and why civilizations collapse and disappear just on Earth. War between itself and invasion by others rank highly on the lists of potential reasons, as do catastrophic natural disasters and unrelenting disease. But, so far, no single event or circumstance has ever been bad enough to fully wipe out all of humanity. As a planetary species, we’re safe. 


According to the Vulnerable World Hypothesis, however, that might not be the case for long. Proposed by Nick Bostrom of the Future of Humanity Institute, it suggests that we’re potentially always on the brink of a black ball technology - which is any product or process that could reasonably cause armageddon. Chief among the contenders for such a technology are things like simple-to-build nuclear weapons and one hundred percent fatal viruses. If either arrived, then our hundreds of thousands of years of progress could very swiftly be ended and lost forever. But does it have to be so bad as all that? Rather than end completely, could a civilization ever be knocked back far enough that it forgets where it came from?


Nuclear war is so often a case in point because (thankfully) no one’s quite sure exactly how much of our civilization it could destroy. The devastating bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War Two proved how merciless this type of weapon is. Then, the rushed accumulation of warheads from the 1950s to a peak in the 1980s proved how quickly we could mobilize ourselves to the point of potential doom. That nuclear war could happen is no longer a question; it’s a reality. But what would happen next? 


Some models see total annihilation of our species; an extinction event like we haven’t seen since the downfall of the dinosaurs… while some see a major scaling back but not quite the total end. An apocryphal Albert Einstein quote allegedly goes; “I know not with what weapons World War Three will be fought, but World War Four will be fought with sticks and stones”. The authenticity of that quote is doubtful, but the meaning is still pertinent. If the Third World War were to be a nuclear war, then even then Earth could see a Fourth World War in the future… but under very different circumstances. By then, so the idea goes, society will have been reduced back to primitive means. It’ll have forgotten the machines and technologies it once had, and returned to the basic tools of our ancient history.


Again, there is little-to-no evidence that such a transition (or devolution) has ever happened to humankind. By all measures, we’re currently at the most advanced we’ve ever been. Nevertheless, alongside all of our seeming progress, we’re also busily preparing for the end times, as well. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was one of the first major initiatives to capture public attention; a huge and sprawling bunker filled with most of all the organic materials for life on Earth, securely built into the wilderness on a remote Norwegian island. Broadly, the idea is that if something terrible were to happen, then the survivors would at least still have this resource to stage a rebuild. 


However, in recent times, the Seed Vault has been joined by other, similar ventures. Ventures like the “Survivor Library”, a digital resource regularly updated with information and articles for the survivors of any hypothetical disaster. Or the Vivos survival bunkers, a series of ultra-luxury doomsday shelters available for the super-rich. Perhaps it’s the Georgia Guidestones that best encapsulate the problems for a post-apocalypse, though. The Guidestones were a nineteen foot tall granite structure, rising from the ground in Elbert County, Georgia. Made up of six massive granite slabs, they had instructions carved into them (in a variety of languages) meant to be read and followed by those who might be left over after a planet-wide event. However, in 2022, the Guidestones were bombed, partly destroyed, and eventually dismantled due to safety. Their messages are lost.


There are levels at play here, then. In the immediate aftermath of a civilization destroying disaster, it might well be possible for knowledge not to be lost. For at least a generation post-civilization, there would be those who remember what it was like before everything disappeared. However, after that point, that information becomes knowledge that’s passed down, and inevitably changed as a result. In this way, without the infrastructures to support it, any group could feasibly regress… perhaps even to the point of forgetting what it was. Until, eventually, in the far, far future, that group is only identifiable via a thin layer of sediment found deep in the Earth’s crust by another civilization left wondering what it is that they’re looking at.


While there’s no reason to believe that this has happened before in human history, there are concerns that it could happen in the years and centuries to come. In smaller and more specific cases, we’ve already seen countless methods, traditions and technologies phase out, usually in favor of Kardashev-style upgrades promising more, more, more. Often, this is for the better, but sometimes it’s for the worse… although, in either case, it surely always pays to remember the mistakes (at least) that have gone before. Or else we’d be in danger of making them again. Scale that idea up to technologies that could have a planet-wide impact (like nuclear weapons) and, bizarrely, it can be viewed as knowledge that we need to preserve (for our own safety) but also that we want to forget (for our own safety) at the same time.


Ultimately, it seems very possible that a civilization could regress on the Kardashev Scale. The development of Vulnerable World black ball technologies appears to be an inevitable byproduct and risk of technological growth… meanwhile, episodes like the destruction of the Georgia Guidestones hint at just how easy it could be to erase the warnings and know-how as to why previous, more advanced civilizations failed.


What’s your verdict here? Is the seemingly relentless expansion of the Kardashev Scale maintainable? Or could any one group fall down it just as much as they can rise up through the levels? In the ever-growing and fast-moving modern world, it’s an increasingly pressing problem… and with huge and potentially dire implications.