Everyday Life in a Type IV Civilization
The Kardashev Scale imagines all kinds of advanced and futuristic civilizations. It’s a popular way to think about everything from technological progress… to the search for extraterrestrials. What’s perhaps a little disappointing, though, is that it’s generally agreed that we humans rank at just 0.7 on the Scale, only. We’re still a long way from reaching even Type One, the next level above our own. But, today, we’re not just envisaging the next step up, we’re soaring to the very top.
This is Unveiled, and today we’re exploring what everyday life would be like in a Type Four civilization.
When the Kardashev Scale was created by the Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev in 1964, it was originally built around three Types or levels, known as Types One, Two, and Three. These are markers, of sorts, indicating the level of technological complexity and advancement of any given civilization, based on the amount of energy it can use. A Type One civilization can harness all of its own planet’s energy; a Type Two can harness the energy in its own star system; and a Type Three can capture (and use) the energy content of its entire galaxy. At the time, it’s said that Kardashev himself thought that was the limit. Held back, as we are by such physical constants as the speed of light, a Type Four - with the energy potential of the universe - should be impossible. In the time since Kardashev’s day, however, Type Four has become a widely accepted concept, and something of a “bonus level” to the original model.
Still, the first thing we can say for today’s video, is that living in a Type Four civilization would generally mean living in a world that’s far beyond our current physical understanding. Among the presently impossible inventions and abilities available to a Type Four are; a means of breaking the speed of light (possibly via wormhole technology), and a means of time travel. As we’ve found in previous videos, time travel isn’t technically impossible… and traveling into the future (at least) is theoretically quite easy, although there is danger posed by various paradoxes. A Type Four civilization would have to learn to live with those paradoxes, but it’s perhaps a fair price to pay given the trade-off that they’d also be able to bend the universe pretty much to their will. Everyday life might involve, for example, moving from planet to planet (or even galaxy to galaxy) in the name of work or leisure. And all while potentially moving up and down your own timeline, too. But, significantly, a Type Four being would probably take for granted their ability to do all of that, much as we’ve grown accustomed to our modes of transport, like cars and planes.
So, what would actually happen at such a heightened level? A Type Four society will’ve naturally discovered all that the universe has to hold, so where do they go from there? Would they still have a purpose to work towards? Living at such an advanced time might sound like it’d be a blast, but would that truly be the reality?
Jobs are almost impossible to predict for a future this far away, but some are perhaps more likely than others. Most jobs as we currently understand them will have been automated. Taken on by machines that may (or may not) be fully conscious. But one industry that’s sure to be booming is energy. With a universe’s worth of energy to manage, there’d be plenty of roles available. Automated or not, energy workers would be much like power plant workers today, except they’d be gathering energy from the universe’s most violent events. Draining quasars, absorbing supernovae, and filtering dark energy from the rest of the void would be just some examples of the employment that might be available. All across the universe there’d be engineers and mechanics tapping energy, as well as those charged with storing it in reserves and distributing it to the rest of the cosmos. Although, again, it’s difficult to imagine organic humans (as we are now) taking up the task. Instead, workers would be full or perhaps partly robotic.
Organic humans in general could well be a thing of the past at this point. A cyborg revolution is so often predicted for us in the future, but for a Type Four being it will’ve happened long ago… in their ancient past. First, they’ll have embraced artificial body enhancements, as part of their earlier rise through the Kardashev Scale… equipping themselves with purpose-built, replaceable parts, designed to be as tough, reliable, and efficient as possible. Bodily functions would be out, too, with workarounds devised so that things like sleeping, eating, and going to the bathroom simply aren’t necessary. But, what’s more, by the time of Type Four, the changes will’ve most likely turned to the brain, as well… transforming a Type Four being’s thoughts, as a hive mind replaces the individual. This would be a key development in the bid toward collective consciousness… a seemingly inevitable step for any civilization with universal power.
As such, would a Type Four being have a home to speak of? If we’re imagining humans advancing to this point, then we’d most likely have forgotten Earth long ago. Even if it was somehow saved from a red giant sun, we’ll have moved on… and might not even be based in the Milky Way galaxy, at all. Thanks to our Type Four enhancements, surviving anywhere would be so simple that we’d probably never even consider that it had at one time been so difficult. Home, then, would be everywhere, with the universe connected as succinctly as the continents of Earth are now. One moment you’re chilling on Venus or in the Kuiper Belt, then you’re in a whole new star system like Nu Scorpii (a distant place with seven suns), and then you’re skirting the edges of a supermassive black hole somewhere, without a care in the world (or universe)… because by now even black holes are under your control.
Rather than an endless mystery (as it is now) the universe is your playground. Every star, planet and object is known about. Every creature is discovered, cataloged, and part of the collective… which, again, is all powered by boundless energy. In one version of Type Four, it could be that new stars, planets and creatures are continually created by Type Four beings, as well. So absolute is their control over all things. Or perhaps even the task of creation has been offloaded onto automated machines by now.
Regardless, in our minds, a day in the life of a Type Four is essentially a day in the life of a god. And even something as massive as the universe becomes more like an ongoing project… something to work at and balance, but also to enjoy and explore. The less advanced creatures within the universe would certainly have an opinion of the Type Four power watching over them, for better or worse. But, what’s doubly strange and perhaps a little unnerving is that there may still be other forces that are equal to (or even above) this level of advancement. If the universe is actually but one part of the multiverse - as some theories claim it is - then there should be other Type Fours out there, presiding over their own realities. Perhaps there’s a physical space between them that neither can breach, or a temporal one as part of the possible invention of time travel. Either way, it could mean that even Type Fours would be striving for improvement… with their eyes set on becoming a Type Five.
Here, there would still at least be one shared purpose, continuing to drive civilization forwards. But, in most other aspects, it would seem that a Type Four existence would be one that’s wholly fulfilled, from our point of view. Today, in the real world, we grapple with such here-and-now problems as climate change, space travel, population growth, and the general pursuit of happiness… but a Type Four being doesn’t bother itself with such trifling concerns. And, if there is only one universe, then it really has achieved the absolute maximum that any group can ever hope to achieve.
The potential downside is clear to see, however. And the question “where do they go from there?” remains. Through the lens of human history, after exploring one continent we took to the seas to find more. Upon exploring one planet, we’ve looked to the skies in search of other worlds. But, when a Type Four looks at the whole universe, it sees something that’s totally known and thoroughly tamed. If reality were a game, then it’s one that a Type Four has completed, with every trophy won and every side mission navigated.
You might imagine that an overriding sense of boredom, listlessness and perhaps even hopelessness would set in, with the rest of time stretching out before them… but, then again, in this inorganic, robotic, relentlessly efficient version of life, an advanced enough being could probably just reach inside themselves and turn those negative emotions off with the flick of a switch… before jetting off to another corner of their universe in search of something new. So, it’s not all bad. And that’s what everyday life in a type four civilization would be like.