When Will Humanity Become a Stellar Civilization? | Unveiled

When Will Humanity Become a Stellar Civilization? | Unveiled
VOICE OVER: Callum Janes
When will humans become Type II? Join us... and find out more!

In this video, Unveiled takes a closer look at how (and when) humans will finally move up the Kardashev Scale! At present, humankind is only Type 0.7 on the ladder of advancement... we have a long way to go! But how soon before we see things like Dyson Spheres and space travel to other planets? How soon before we become TYPE II?


When Will Humanity Become a Type II Civilization?</h4>


As a human being alive in the twenty-first century, how optimistic can you ever really be? How confidently can you gaze into the future and think; yes, things are going to get better? From a purely technological point of view, if you follow the Kardashev Scale then there perhaps is reason to be hopeful. There’s a long journey ahead of us, but there’s also so much to look forward to, waiting just over the horizon. One of the first steps, though, is to move from type one to type two… so how long is that going to take?


This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; when will humanity become a type two civilization?


As per Nikolai Kardashev’s original thinking, a type two civilization is one which has harnessed the energy potential of its home star system - in our case, that’s the sun and everything that orbits it, the solar system. However, it’s not as though all type twos are at exactly the same level, as standard. There are various degrees of advancement at play, as any hypothetical group moves up (or down) those fabled rungs of progress. And, indeed, the same can be said about those (like us, at the present time) that are relatively languishing at type one or lower.


While it’s difficult to put an exact figure on it, most leading voices have suggested that humankind (as it is) ranks somewhere around 0.7 on the Kardashev Scale. The futurist Michio Kaku, the NASA astrophysicist Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene… they’re all roughly in agreement that humanity has almost completed Kardashev’s first level, but not quite. To become a true type one, we’d need to have full control (and energy capability) over our own, entire planet; planet Earth. To some degree, we do already have this. We’ve built cities, laid roads, we’ve (in part) tamed the oceans, mapped the continents, and we’re increasingly drawing power from the natural processes on Earth - such as with wind and tidal power. However, we’ve still got a way to go. There’s still so much lost energy in our world that we’re missing out on; and there are still many wide-ranging improvements we could make to increase our collective efficiency. Which is why we can’t yet properly refer to ourselves as type one; we’re more like an aspiring type one, hoping to one day break through and make the mark.


If and when we do move towards type two, it would again be a similar story. Along the way we’ll have had to have developed into a type 1.2… a 1.5… 1.7… and then, finally, a two proper. As such, it’s not as though there’s really a future date of some kind that we can outright predict. It’s not as though there will ever be a truly clean before-and-after moment when we become a type two having before been a type one. In reality, the transition will be much more complex than that. But, nevertheless, we can at least work within ballpark figures. For example, Michio Kaku has (on more than one occasion) predicted that humans will reach full type one in the next 100 to 200 years. It could be, then, according to Kaku, between only three and seven generations before we have full planetary control. And, really, that seems reasonable, given the fast-tracking of tech development that we’ve seen in recent times, and especially since the advent of the internet. But, after that the future becomes considerably more difficult to track. 


Again, there are predictions attributed to Michio Kaku, but they’re much vaguer - reckoning at humans reaching type two in a few thousand years or thereabouts. In fact, very few - if any - theoretical scientists are prepared to put a precise number on it. And that’s mostly because a lot has to happen between now and then. Harnessing the full energy potential of the solar system means, for the most part, gaining full control over the sun. Not just the energy from it that reaches Earth, but all of the energy that it emits and retains in total. Although even that isn’t all there is to it. Type two humanity would also need a full and complete understanding of all the rest of the planets as well as Earth. Every dwarf planet, too, the asteroids and meteors, our moon and every other moon… all the blankets of dust and the pockets of gas, in the inner system, the outer, the Kuiper Belt, the Scattered Disc, and the Oort Cloud. You have to travel some 500 million miles from Earth to even begin to explore the Oort Cloud, which goes on for hundreds of millions of miles more after that. Clearly, then, getting to grips with the solar system is no easy task.


And yet, by some measures, we are already trying to do that. We’ve been to the moon. We’re aiming to go to Mars. We have sent probes to most of the other major bodies in the solar system; the planets, moons, and even some specific asteroids that are all orbiting the sun alongside us. In fact, there’s some argument that simply in getting to the moon, there’s already a part of our species that has ascended to low type two. If we were to reach Mars, then that type two streak within us would only strengthen further. And, from there, some are tipping a sudden and major acceleration in what we might achieve. With many of the solar system’s other worlds hosting considerably weaker gravity, it’s theorized that further travel off of them should be much easier than it is off of Earth. The most difficult part is leaving this planet… but, if we achieve that, then exploring further afield should quickly become much easier. Or, at least, that’s one especially optimistic way of looking at things. What do you think could happen with regard to our eventual spreading out? And what do you think actually will happen in the sureness of time? Let us know in the comments.


All of that said, we are still very far away from achieving the poster child of a type two civilization; the Dyson Sphere. While fully theorized - by the influential physicist, Freeman Dyson - we don’t yet have any even slightly viable options in terms of what we’d actually build one out of, or how we’d even begin to realize that construction job. At present, probably the most ambitious cosmic build on our books is the Lunar Gateway, proposed by NASA as a soon-to-be key component of the Artemis Program - the flagship mission for our return to the moon. But not even the demands of that can compare to what a Dyson Sphere would need to do and be. With the sun some ninety-three million miles away from Earth, even getting there is completely beyond us at the moment. Let alone getting there with an entire fleet of probable AI that’s capable enough of organizing and mobilizing to build an energy-siphoning shell around an entire star. In science fiction, it’s a simple next step… but, in science (and engineering) fact, it would easily amount to the most impressive thing that humanity’s ever done. A Dyson Sphere would essentially need to tame the sun, to redistribute the wealth of energy it offers. But, again, we haven’t yet tamed even Earth, to the point that some believe that the sun could actually be impossible for us… and that we’ll therefore never reach type two, at all.


As with space travel and cosmic megastructures, there are similar ups and downs in other areas, too. For example, if getting to type two is something you think we should strive for, then there’s reason to be hopeful with recent developments in particle physics and quantum science. Never before have we had a greater grasp on the invisible world of the very small… so much so that researchers can now tap into the absolute fundamentals of reality and physical matter. A lot of what we can now do at the molecular level would have been seen as alchemy not so long ago… but, today, it’s typical for headlines to bring news of new particles, new elements, new chemical reactions and materials. Equally, we now intricately know our own DNA, our own genes, and we know how to manipulate and rearrange them, should we want to. And, of course, alongside all of that, we have robotics, AI, biotech, all seemingly enhancing us to become something more than human with every passing day.


Overshadowing it all, however, there are mounting philosophical and ethical questions. Is it right to meddle with atoms? To essentially rewrite our own bodies, and even our own characters, just because we now understand how to do so? What happens when the robots ditch their robot-makers? And it’s arguably here, in the midst of these moral quandaries, that the question of “how long?” will come into shape. How long until type one? Type two? Perhaps that most depends on the solutions we find to the various problems we could (and will) make for ourselves along the way. 


There may yet be an insurmountable problem to contend with - something often known as a Great Filter - that humanity will never work out. But, even if that doesn’t materialize, then we can still say with confidence that we have a long wait and journey ahead of us. To reach Kardashev’s second stage, we need to conquer the solar system. A few thousand years could well be the best we could hope for.