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Have we finally found a Type 3 civilization?? Join us... to find out!
In this video, Unveiled takes a closer look at the recent study that might've already discovered a Type 3 civilization! When Nikolai Kardashev first created the Kardashev Scale in the 1960s, Type 3 was the most advanced level! A supreme civilization with the energy potential of a galaxy! So... have we finally found one??
Did Scientists Already Discover a Type III Civilization?
For decades now, the hunt has been on to find other civilizations in the universe. And while we still know of only one place that definitely hosts life - our own planet Earth - we’ve gradually scanned more and more of the cosmos in the hope that, one day, we’ll pick up signals of a different existence. A new world. And perhaps a far more advanced existence than our own, while we’re at it.
This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question: did scientists already discover a Type Three civilization?
According to the original Kardashev Scale, a Type Three civilization is one which has harnessed the entire energy potential of a galaxy. While a Type One has the energy potential of its home planet, and a Type Two has the power of its home star system, a Type Three is far larger and even more powerful than anything else. Admittedly, the Kardashev Scale has since been added to, to include Type Four (energy potential of the universe) and Type Five (of the multiverse). But as Kardashev originally imagined it, Type Three was the best there was. The pinnacle of advancement and cosmic civilization.
It's a bizarre concept to think on, because if it is possible to become a Type Three civilization… then there are a couple of important considerations to make. First, it theoretically means that we (humankind) could one day climb the scale far enough to become Type Three ourselves - despite it being estimated that we currently rank at a lowly Type 0.7, only. But second, it theoretically means that there should already be Type Three civilizations out there… and if there are, then why not one that’s ruling over the very galaxy that we call home, the Milky Way? Or one that’s ruling over the next galaxy along, Andromeda?
The Kardashev model also provides an alternate lens through which scientists and astronomers can consider the entire universe, though, as they comb it for signs of life. As such, there have been various claims made that perhaps a Type Three power has already been discovered by us… although nothing, at this stage, is confirmed.
In August 2021, news broke of a joint study by astronomers at the National Astronomical Observatories of China and Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands. Headlines claimed that it may have identified two candidates toward a Type Three civilization. The study focussed on twenty-one galaxies in all, paying particularly close attention to their mid-infrared emissions, which it’s suggested (if they’re high) could be a sign of Dyson Spheres operating in the region. The idea is that Dyson Spheres (huge, hypothesized structures built around stars to syphon off their energy) should inevitably give off waste energy, too… which can then be picked up by researchers here on Earth. As a Dyson Sphere is said to be a key feature in any advanced Kardashev civilization from Type Two onwards, if we were to find hard proof of their existence then we’ll essentially have discovered not just alien life… but super-intelligent alien life.
Importantly, however, those behind the study aren’t yet claiming to have definitely discovered Type Three civilizations. They’ve only narrowed down their original search of the sky toward two galaxies that might be Type Three candidates. Nothing is proven, and nothing beyond some seemingly unusual mid-infrared measurements has even been detected. For some, then, this could soon become just another false alarm. What’s interesting, though, is that for one co-author of the 2021 study - Professor Michael Garrett of Leiden University - it wasn’t the first time in recent years that potential Type Three groups had been discussed. It’s just that last time the takeaways were a little different...
Back in 2015, Garrett took a closer look at some other Kardashev candidates and reportedly dismissed all of them as being the real thing. Back then, with most of those candidates being explained away as natural (and not alien-made phenomena) Garrett had concluded that Kardashev Type Three civilizations “are either very rare or do not exist in the local universe”. And, while the more recent 2021 study has served to re-open the possibility that they do exist, the opinion that Type Three civilizations don’t exist (or, at least, that they don’t exist anywhere remotely close to us) is still held by many academics.
In some ways, it boils down to a heightened version of that other pillar of modern astronomical thinking - the Fermi Paradox. Only, while the Fermi Paradox asks “if aliens exist then where are they?”… we’re now asking, “if Type Three civilizations exist, then where are they?”. Because surely we’d have discovered them by now, and with relative ease? Given the size and scope of their powers. Remember, a Type Three group has the energy output of an entire galaxy at their disposal. In the Milky Way, which is a fairly average-sized galaxy, that would mean more than 100,000 lightyears’ worth of stars, planets, black holes, quasars, and general energy potential. How would that not show up on even the most primitive of the telescopes we have?
As with so many other deep ponderings of the universe, one answer is that it’s because space is incredibly, almost unimaginably, big. And then there’s also the fact that when astronomers look far enough into space, thanks to the universal speed limit of the speed of light, they’re also essentially seeing back in time. Whenever we view a star or planet or galaxy it’s not as though we’re viewing it at the same moment in time as that which we’re experiencing here on Earth. Instead, we’re merely viewing it as it was when the light that we see now first left it… and that could have been millions (or even billions) of years ago. And, when you think about it, that means that if we ever were to discover a Type Three civilization, then in real time (our time) it might’ve progressed far beyond that stage already. Which is another reason why many believe that Type Threes just don’t exist… because the odds are that they shouldn’t even be waiting to be discovered, but in fact should just be (from our point of view).
Of course, this also means that whenever we look into the sky, even with the most powerful telescopes available to us, our eyes could well be passing over galaxies that do now host Type Three civilizations… it’s just that there hasn’t been time enough yet for that information to reach us. In fact, if you believe that there are other civilizations out there, and that it’s therefore very unlikely that we are more powerful than all of them… then perhaps a Type Three is inevitable and, again, we on Earth are just waiting to realize it. We could, then, be currently surrounded by higher powers - to some degree - gradually approaching the day when a scientific study does prove it beyond doubt.
At present, however, that’s not what has happened. Scientists haven’t already discovered a Type Three civilization, although Type Three candidates have emerged in recent times. The 2021 study has identified at least two galaxies that may warrant greater scrutiny… but so far, we have only a tiny amount of unusual data to work from.
Theories continually abound on both sides of the debate, though. And while one researcher might insist that advanced, galactic civilizations must exist somewhere in the universe… another might claim that they can’t possibly exist, simply by the fact that we don’t already know about them. What’s your verdict? And what would your reaction be if a Type Three group were ever to be found?
There’d certainly be no denying that our own identity will’ve been forcibly shifted. On the day that a Type Three is revealed to us, human beings will’ve altered in their own minds from being an intelligent species… to one that has so much more left to learn. Perhaps that’s a frightening thought, or an exciting one? Perhaps it could lead to our own expansion, or it could trigger an existential domino effect toward our own demise?
In either case, for now it’s a hypothetical thought only. Scientists, astronomers, academics, and all manner of others are increasingly on the lookout for Type Three civilizations, but for better or worse we haven’t already discovered one.