VOICE OVER: Noah Baum
WRITTEN BY: Dylan Musselman
The Kardashev Scale ranks civilisations based on how advanced they are... and, according to Carl Sagan, humans are currently Type Zero! So, what would happen if humanity reached Type I on the Kardashev Scale? What sorts of technologies would be available to us? And how different would our lives be? In this video, Unveiled finds out...
What If Humanity Was A Type I Civilization?
The human race has certainly advanced and developed across history, today employing sophisticated technology to propel us further and further into the future. And yet, by some measures, we’re not actually that advanced at all!
This is Unveiled and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; What if humanity was a Type I civilization?
It was the Soviet Astronomer Nikolai Kardashev who devised the Kardashev Scale; a way to measure a civilization’s degree of advancement. The scale breaks down that advancement by contemplating how much of the universe any given group can harness for energy - with the technology at its disposal improving as the amount of energy increases. To become Type I, a civilization has to be able to harvest all of the available resources and energy from its home planet - so, in our case, from Earth. But the human race isn’t yet able to do this, with the cosmologist Carl Sagan once placing us at around zero-point-seven on the Kardashev Scale. Because we’ve never encountered any form of extraterrestrial life, we don’t know whether any civilizations have ever reached Type I either… but it at least gives us something to aim for! Logically, as we strive to make changes for the better, we should continue to climb through the levels… with physicist Freeman Dyson projecting that humanity could attain a Type I status in two centuries’ time; while Kardashev himself estimated that we could reach Type II - harnessing the full energy of the solar system - in just over 3,000 years. But we do still have a long way to go before enjoying the full potential of just our planet.
According to futurist Michio Kaku, right now we only harness one million-billionth of our sun’s total energy output. To reach Type I we don’t need to capture all of the sun’s power (save that for Type II), but we do need to make use of every bit of solar energy that’s available to our planet - meaning a dramatic increase on that measly million-billionth! A Type I civilization has no need for fossil fuels, because they’re a limited and unsustainable resource. Instead, it’s all about making best use of our world’s ongoing natural processes - the sunlight, the winds and the tides, for example. Were we to reach Type I, then paying for our energy should also become a thing of the past, as every human being would now have the facilities and knowledge to generate energy harmoniously from the world around them. Energy would now exist more like oxygen; a vital and life-giving constant.
But energy use and access would only be one way in which a Type I human race would be united and equal. Some interpreters of the Kardashev Scale envision that we’d also have a universal language - or at least a means of communication - and a universal currency. Today we have some languages much more widely spoken than others, but it’s the internet which many see as our biggest stride forwards. It provides instant links across the global population and even, with the so far arguably dubious advent of cryptocurrencies, seems to be ushering in an alternative to traditional money - one that’s spendable everywhere.
More impressively still, a Type I group is also able to control the weather. Today, so much of what we can and can’t do is dictated to us by whatever the skies have in store… but, ascend to Type I and we’d be able to perfectly forecast the weather for weeks and months ahead; mostly because we’d be setting it. With a perfect understanding of how our planet functions, we’d have the technology to change and alter weather patterns in any location, if they didn’t suit. Say a coastline needed sunshine to attract tourists; we’d be able to disperse the clouds. But, if any region found itself threatened with drought, we could seed those clouds so that the rains fell exactly where they were needed. Clearly, advances like these would not only improve our general levels of comfort, but could also save lives!
The climate is one of our chief concerns today, with fears that we could be in the midst of a “climate crisis” where global warming gets out of hand. But, in a Type I world we’d have full control over our destiny. We’d have enough knowledge and capability to regulate the Earth’s atmosphere back to a carbon neutral - or even carbon negative - state, where rising temperatures are reversed, and the greenhouse effect is limited to just where we need it to be. We wouldn’t be concerned about things like melting ice caps and rising sea levels, because they’d all be manageable through our own environmentally friendly technologies. In this way, we could even avoid the occurrence of entire ice ages in the future, if doing so was deemed to be a positive step for the planet.
It’d be more than just climate change and weather patterns, though. We’d also have full control of the planet’s other natural processes, including earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. Fundamentally, a Type I civilization should be able to predict with pinpoint accuracy when events like these will happen, and also ensure that they inflict minimum damage and place nobody in danger. But it should also be able to take the next step, by actually using something like an earthquake, for example, for its own gain - by capturing the power of tectonic movements and redistributing it for the benefit of its people. If Earth were Type I, we could even be able to safely escape a scheduled asteroid strike, barring human error. Humanity itself would never have been more secure, being able to dodge most of what could once have destroyed life. We would still be vulnerable to natural disasters from even further afield - like the supernova of a nearby star or an approaching black hole - but as far as “local” disasters go, we’d have mastered them all!
Finally, having adapted to everything it could throw at us, as Type I we could also be capable of living on more of our planet than ever before - perhaps even with entire cities safely built atop of oceans, at no detriment to the natural world. And, seeing as we’d also be living more efficiently, it’d not only be the space available to us that would increase… As our technologies, medicines and general lifestyles all continue to improve, the average life expectancy of a human being should also rise.
Today, we can already see some instances where humanity is working its way up the Kardashev Scale. For one, our planned missions to Mars and our revived interest in revisiting the moon. If we can learn how to control and utilize the atmospheric conditions of somewhere else in the solar system, then we could soon be viewing our own planet from a new, more effective and “more Type I” perspective. We’re also already witnessing advances in ocean living - with conceptual projects like the Shimizu Corporation’s “Ocean Spiral” promising to one day build underwater settlements powered primarily by resources found in the seabed!
Michio Kaku has said that we are “the generations that will determine whether we make the transition from Type 0 to Type I”… but he also warns that we could “destroy ourselves because of our arrogance and weapons” before then. When it comes to making our first significant move up the Kardashev Scale, we could now be at a crunch point in human history - on the brink of possible catastrophe, yes… but also of harnessing the full energy potential of planet Earth to accelerate our technology, better our knowledge and maximise our lives. And that’s what would happen if humanity was a Type I civilization.