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VOICE OVER: Noah Baum WRITTEN BY: Kuil Schoneveld
According to the Kardashev Scale, a Type III Civilization should be able to harness the power of an entire galaxy... Humanity isn't quite there yet, but what will our lives be like if we ever do become an advanced, Type III, intergalactic species? In this video, Unveiled looks far into the future, to see how far humankind could possibly go as we continue to explore and understand the universe around us...

What If Humanity Was a Type III Civilization?

Across our history, humanity has slowly grown to dominate almost all of Earth’s ecosystems. From sharpening stones to breaking the internet, we’ve developed technologies that have helped us to do amazing things. So, what’s next for our species? This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question: What if humanity was a Type Three civilization. So, what exactly is a Type Three Civilization? The term was first coined by the Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev, who devised a way to categorize the degree of technological advancement and intergalactic influence of all hypothetical societies. He originally offered three separate groups - Types One, Two and Three - with more categories added afterwards to encompass even more possibilities for our imagined civilizations. But still, Type Three is held as an ultimate “end goal”. According to the Kardashev Scale, a Type One group is able to harness all of the energy produced by and on its home planet; Type Two groups can capture and efficiently use the energy produced by their most local star - perhaps, at their highest level, through something called a Dyson Sphere, a theoretical device that would surround the sun to transfer energy back to us like super-efficient solar panels; But, a Type Three civilization runs off of the energy output of its entire galaxy - in our case, it’d mean a system of energy capture that would leave no star or object in the Milky Way untouched or untapped. We’d be a super-advanced race of beings with seemingly limitless power! As mentioned, the Kardashev Scale has been expanded in both directions more recently to include Type Zero, medieval-style tech that we’ve since improved upon; But also Type Four, the harnessing of energy from an entire universe; and Type Five, which unlocks the power of the multiverse. But, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves - Type Three galactic power has often been billed as the major breakthrough. So, what would entering Kardashev’s third tier mean for us? And where exactly are we starting from? Well, according to Carl Sagan’s interpretation back in the 1970’s, Earth deserved to be classified as Type 0.7 planet. Which, in Kardashev’s grand scheme of things, feels fairly disappointing - especially since we’re also the most advanced civilization we’ve ever seen in all of the universe. For Sagan, combining both our technological advancement and our general access to information - that is the things we have but also the things we know - we can’t yet consider ourselves fully Type One. Regardless, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku has said he thinks humanity will assume our place as a Type One group in a century or two. While the milestones for progress between Zero and One aren’t universally agreed upon, we have at least achieved some degree of technological and societal improvement to show that we’re heading in the right direction. Remember, it’s mostly about using our own planet’s potential in as efficient and logical a way as possible. For example, we’ve made steps toward a global language, our worldwide communication system - the internet - is potentially only decades away from being accessible for every member of our species, and we’ve seen the birth of mostly cohesive trading blocs like the European Union. To truly become a Type One civilization, though, we have to balance our technological progress with the environment, ecosystems and general planet that we live on - or else we risk an early self-destruction. With the fabled Type Three band set firmly in our sights, however, we’d need cultural and scientific revolution one hundred times over. And the issue of energy - locating it, storing it and transmitting it - would be at the heart of our efforts. We’d have to build systems that harvest the output of entire stars which, at the very least would require some form of reliable interstellar travel or, arguably more simply, some kind of web of interstellar connections. As our ability to reach further into the stars increases, though, so do our chances of being challenged - meaning we’d need to also be prepared to hide or protect ourselves from the possibility of other advanced groups who can do the same thing. Of course, all of these things are much easier said than done, and actually achieving them would require us to overcome all sorts of barriers and possibly rethink the seemingly immovable facts about the fabric of the universe… the laws of thermodynamics, the laws of stable matter, and the implicit laws of planetary evolution could all slow our progress in ways we can hardly begin to anticipate. But, as our expanding pool of technological knowledge has helped us in the past, we’d still need to find answers to these problems. Perhaps our own biological shortcomings would be the first things we’d overcome - in the hope that a race that lives forever will improve forever. We’d employ new technologies to survive most natural, currently inevitable causes of death. Sickness and the ill effects of old age would surely be things of the past in an existence where we have the ability to capture and use the energy of entire stars at our leisure. With our own biology essentially updated, our population would rapidly increase day by day as we also master self-replication techniques. But, the problems of overpopulation would have long gone, seeing as we’d no longer be confined to just Earth. In fact, we may have moved off of Earth completely. And so, as we expand into the universe fuelled by the energy potential of an entire galaxy, we’d reach the limit of what Kardashev originally thought was possible. But such inconceivable developments could never unfold without dramatic societal change, as well. To overcome political barriers and create a truly united community, we’d need to establish seamless, unshakeable social cohesion throughout our species - allowing us to progress toward our increasing goals. Even achieving intergalactic energy capture would require us all working together, rather than trying to battle and beat each other to key discoveries, inventions or pieces of legislation. For some, those same qualities are needed to graduate beyond even Type One - with our planet currently feeling the effects of war, division and overconsumption. If we can’t band together for our own world, then could we ever truly expect to tame galaxies? Ultimately, our ascendance to Kardashev’s Level Three could require us to rewrite what it means to be human; to readjust our natural instincts, to work as one thriving, fluid, intelligent mass. Perhaps we’d slowly, organically evolve over hundreds of thousands of years, or perhaps we’d gradually mechanize ourselves to keep up. Yes, we’re talking cyborgs. At least part-robotic recreations of real-world people could give us a limitless means for storing information in the form of memories. The internet would be integrated into our very thoughts - constantly added to by every other Type Three being - equipping us with instant knowledge on any subject. There are obvious downsides, including the prospect that our shared super-computer could get hacked by a higher power, and the probability that our individual personalities would disappear as soon as our minds are networked together to turn us into blockchain humans. But, such a shift would see us soar up Kardashev’s Scale - granting everyone access to everyone else’s thoughts, memories and ideas, to further improve our status as a civilization. With such radical changes shaping us into almost unrecognisable beings from what we are today, there’d be little incentive or need to conventionally “work” as a Type Three human. Most tasks would be automated with little-to-no human intervention required. Instead, we’d be at liberty to continue exploring other galaxies - now that we’d mastered our own - exposing our collective consciousness to what the wider universe has to offer. We’d no longer be limited by the planet we were born on (because we could travel anywhere); the wealth we were - or weren’t - born into (because we’d all be equal); or the confines of even life expectancy (having sidestepped aging and sickness, too). And so, with so much time on our hands, we’d almost inevitably busy ourselves trying to reach Kardashev levels Four and Five - to wield universal power over everything in existence. This seemingly insatiable quest to complete Kardashev’s Scale does throw up a few existential questions… In this new world, what makes our lives worth living? How would we spend our extra time, effort and intellect? Would our primal needs for things like food, water, shelter and family still drive us in the same way? The average human’s role in a civilization that has claimed dominion over an entire galaxy would clearly be completely different to what we experience today. And that’s what would happen if humanity was a Type Three civilization.