Will a Type III Civilization Ever Be Possible? | Unveiled

Will a Type III Civilization Ever Be Possible? | Unveiled
VOICE OVER: Callum Janes
Will Type III ever actually happen?? Join us, and find out!

In this video, Unveiled takes a closer look at a the Kardashev Scale! In his original model, Nikolai Kardashev saw Type III as the absolute pinnacle of what a civilization could achieve... but is it actually possible for humankind? Or are we destined for smaller things?


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How much can human beings really expect to achieve? How far can our species truly hope to evolve? And is there some kind of limit, looming on the horizon, that could ruin our highest, technological dreams?


This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; will a type three civilization ever be possible?


When Nikolai Kardashev first devised his now-famous Kardashev Scale, type three was the original highest level. Type one represents a civilization with all the energy potential of its home planet; for type two, it’s all the energy potential of its home star system; and for type three, it’s everything of its home galaxy. In our case, that’s the Milky Way. If we were type three today, we’d have the energy potential of a 100,000 lightyear-wide, spiral galaxy… essentially at our fingertips.


Clearly, part-way through the twenty-first century, and as sophisticated and impressive as we may consider ourselves to be, we’re still a way away from that. A long way. In fact, right now we’re a distance from being even a type one group. So, what still stands between us and the topmost rung of Kardashev’s ladder, as he originally saw it?


First, to become type one, we need full control over all the energy that’s possible on Earth. That means all the wind and solar potential, all the tidal force of our oceans, all the fossil fuels and nuclear reactions managed in such a way so as to be one hundred percent efficient. It means a food production system that feeds everyone just the right amount they need; it means clean water that’s free and easy for all, and instant communication links to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Elsewhere, disease is almost eliminated, aging has been slowed down, and humans would be an interplanetary species. Most versions of type one see us as having fully terraformed Mars by this stage, and potentially Venus as well. How do we get all the extra energy needed for those projects? We mine asteroids for minerals and fresh raw materials.


So, with all that in mind, is type one possible? Most futurists, scientists and commentators believe that yes, it is. And we’ve already made some significant strides toward it. Nuclear energy is a key technology, representing as it does a sophisticated mastery of matter at the atomic level. Humankind is also forever seeking ways to beat disease and prolong life, with some predictions that indefinitely extended life - i.e., immortality - could be possible within the next couple generations. Where space travel’s concerned, we’ve made some progress, although it’s perhaps been slower going… and despite all the publicity surrounding it, we still haven’t even been to Mars, let alone terraformed it. Energy-wise, it’s perhaps easier to see our route forward. With everything from solar panels to carbon capture tech, we are at least attempting to better use the energy that’s available to us. All in, we’re already not too far away from what’s needed. The futurist Michio Kaku has famously predicted that humans could be type one by between one hundred and two hundred years from now.


The jump from there to type two is then massive, however. For humans, type two means full control of the solar system, and tapping into other star systems as we look to expand. The Dyson Sphere is the poster technology for this level of development - a huge cosmic megastructure that fully encases the sun, siphoning every single unit of energy it produces and dispersing it to exactly where it needs to go. Nothing gets wasted. We’d most likely build a Dyson Sphere using self-replicating machines; robots that are permanently based on and around the sun, organizing and constructing for centuries before maintaining what they build forever more. The solar system is now a fully connected web of industry and innovation. Asteroid mining is a slick process; ferrying products from planet to planet, station to station, is a breeze; in some versions of type two, we have lightspeed travel, as well. You might be based on Mars with family on Earth and colleagues who commute in from Saturn. Civilization has spread out to such a degree that it’s no longer vulnerable to even planet-level extinction events. It’s strong, almost to the point of indestructible.


So, if type one’s achievable, then is type two? In many ways, it is still at least imaginable. A type two builds and improves on many type one technologies. Energy capture is much the same, only it’s employed over multiple planets and moons. The quest for immortality is now a lot further along, perhaps aided by massively scaled up technologies, including planet-sized computers - or Matrioshka Brains. Those brains could then be used to house digital consciousness, thereby allowing people to live forever in a non-physical realm. It’s likely that, by now, humans can’t be killed, they don’t have to die, and they could even create and personalize their own (neverending) life experience via custom-built simulations. Today, virtual and augmented reality are rapidly expanding fields… and, at type two, it would perhaps still be possible to trace technology back to now. It’s just that VR and AR will be primitive by comparison; like a stone age hand tool compared to today’s heavy machinery. Predictions as to when humans could become type two are less definite, but they range between 1,000 years at the lower end… and 100,000 years at the higher.


So, where does that leave type three? If we were to continue along the same trajectory, then you might imagine that if it were possible it would only be possible in millions (perhaps billions) of years’ time. However, although the scope of type three compared to two is incredible, perhaps it could be reached at double quick speed. At type three, a civilization has a Dyson Sphere - or an improved version of - around every star in the galaxy. In the Milky Way, that means a sphere around up to 400 billion stars. A very sizable undertaking, yes, but also easier to picture at a time when self-replicating machines have spread and spread. And also when energy access is essentially infinite. By this time, the foundations for technological progress have long been made; they’re entrenched to the point that they’re really not that spectacular anymore. And so, as fantastic as it might seem to us, upgrading from just one (or a few) star systems… to a galaxy of billions, might not represent too great a challenge to an advanced enough group. All they’d need to do is repeat what has worked again, and again, and again… controlling it all via self-controlling, inorganic means. As a result, the time required might actually be far less than it would seem. Although there clearly are some aspects of type three that would need a little more. For example, wormhole technology is often seen as a signature innovation during a type three time… and that kind of new physics would probably require more than just a fleet of well-drilled robots.


So, type one’s certainly achievable, type two’s certainly imaginable… and type three, well, as we are right now it’s almost immaterial. If humans were ever to reach it, then it’s likely that we’ll have lost much of our humanity along the way; enhancing and reinforcing ourselves via artificial and digital means, instead. At type three, the galaxy is built and powered by self-replicating machines, although that does mean that any life that is contained within it would never go without. Debates around energy and the possibilities for space travel, for example, will have been solved so long ago that they’re now redundant. That said, problems around the distribution of power - as in, of control and authority - could emerge. To some degree, a type three entity is a supreme being… but, actually, given that there are upwards of two trillion galaxies in the observable universe, there is still plenty of room for competition and rivalry. Perhaps, even for war. It’s in part what’s allowed the Kardashev Scale to be added to in recent times, reflecting the potential for type four civilizations, type five, and perhaps even higher.


For now, though, and with so much to consider between now and then, will a type three civilization ever be possible? On paper, in calculations and through logic, there’s seemingly little doubt that it is possible. In fact, given the age and scale of the universe as a whole, it’s easy to theorize that type three groups should already exist, somewhere. Whether such a level could ever be possible for humans is a far murkier issue. If we were to get there, then we would certainly need to have changed significantly… and, in the meantime, we may have encountered any number of potential barricades to stop us in our tracks.