How Advanced Are We Earthlings? Here’s a Cosmic Yardstick

By David Warmflash | September 2, 2014 4:44 pm


Updated 9/16/14 10:15am: Clarified calculations and added footnote

We humans like to think ourselves pretty advanced – and with no other technology-bearing beings to compare ourselves to, our back-patting doesn’t have to take context into account. After all, we harnessed fire, invented stone tools and the wheel, developed agriculture and writing, built cities, and learned to use metals.

Then, a mere few moments ago from the perspective of cosmic time, we advanced even more rapidly, developing telescopes and steam power; discovering gravity and electromagnetism and the forces that hold the nuclei of atoms together.

Meanwhile, the age of electricity was transforming human civilization. You could light up a building at night, speak with somebody in another city, or ride in a vehicle that needed no horse to pull it, and humans were very proud of themselves for achieving all of this. In fact, by the year 1899, purportedly, these developments prompted U.S. patent office commissioner Charles H. Duell to remark, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

We really have come a long way from the cave, but how far can we still go? Is there a limit to our technological progress? Put another way, if Duell was dead wrong in the year 1899, might his words be prophetic for the year 2099, or 2199? And what does that mean for humanity’s distant future?

Teenage Years

The answer to that question, in part, hinges on our longevity as a species. To advance far ahead in science, technology, and the wisdom to use them, we need time.

The history of life on Earth is a history of extinction, and despite the advances we’ve made to date, we’re still quite vulnerable, both to nature and to ourselves. Thus, the measure of how advanced we are, and how advanced we might someday become, is linked to our ability to avoid extinction.

With that in mind, Carl Sagan used to say humans are in a period of “technological adolescence.” We’re developing great physical powers, and depending on how wisely we use them we could mature into a species with a reasonable chance of reaching old age. Or, we’ll destroy ourselves because our technology has advanced more rapidly than our wisdom, or succumb to a natural disaster because our technology has not advanced quickly enough.

When he coined the term in the 1970s, Sagan had a very current existential threat in mind: the combined nuclear arsenals of the US and USSR, approaching about 50,000 weapons at the time. Stockpiling more weapons, Sagan said on several occasions, was like collecting one match after another, not realizing that we’re surrounded by gasoline fumes. Though now that number is on the decline, the danger from these weapons is still grave, and stories of close calls over the decades tell us how lucky we’ve been.

But luck doesn’t keep a species around indefinitely. Sagan was deeply worried that we might not mature fast enough to escape destruction by our own hand; in his Cosmos TV series, he imagined an ET encyclopedia of planets listing our species with a 40 percent survival probability over the next 100 years. But he also was also a situational optimist, confident that expanding our knowledge of the cosmos, and someday learning that we’re not alone in it, could make us a lot wiser – and improve our chances of survival considerably.

“A single message from space will show that it is possible to live through technological adolescence,” Sagan wrote in Smithsonian Magazine in 1978. “It is possible that the future of human civilization depends on the receipt of interstellar messages.”

Putting a Number on It

Other scientists have tried to define our level of advancement in a semi-quantitative way using what’s called the Kardashev Scale, which considers a civilization’s energy consumption. The scale is named after Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev, who 50 years ago proposed an extraterrestrial civilization scale consisting of three types of energy-harnessing capability.

A Type I civilization uses and controls energy on a planetary magnitude. It harnesses and consumes the amount of energy that reaches its home planet from its star. We would be a Type I civilization if we converted all of the solar energy hitting the Earth from space into power for human use, of if we generated and consumed that amount of power through other means.

Currently, we harness a substantial fraction of that amount we’re estimated to be nearly 75 percent of the way toward using that amount of power (based on an extrapolation of our growing power use that was first performed by Carl Sagan in the 1970s**), so we are not yet a Type I civilization. Kardashev did not include a Type 0 in his original scale, but that’s what we are until we pass the Type I energy threshold, which we’re predicted to do within about 100 years.

Obviously there’s a lot of wiggle room in the designations, since the home planets of other civilizations won’t receive the same amount of starlight energy as Earth does. If Earth were much smaller, or further from the Sun, or if the Sun were less luminous, we could have passed the Type I energy threshold already, not because we’d be any more advanced. Similarly, on a bigger planet, closer to the Sun, our civilization would have a longer way to go to be Type I.

So the energy consumption is merely a guideline, and, importantly, there are other factors. Although we’re approaching Type I energy consumption, we still get our energy largely through dirty, non-renewable means. Furthermore, controlling energy on a planetary magnitude also means controlling the various forces of the planet’s atmosphere, crust, mantle, and core. A Type I civilization can control the weather, influence the climate, and prevent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, in fact harnessing their power safely. They also are competent in interplanetary travel. Using Star Trek for comparison, humans in that fictional future are well able to do all of these things.

Moving On Up

Far more advanced than Type I, a Type II civilization controls the energy of its star, which means they use energy at a magnitude billions of times higher than Type I. They can collect a star’s energy not merely from solar panels on planets, moons, or in space, but they might build a structure, called a Dyson Sphere, that partly or completely surrounds their own or another star to harness the bulk of its energy.

And they’re more mobile. They have interstellar travel that has allowed them to colonize hundreds of star systems. They could avoid extinction from a supernova, or other events that destroy entire star systems, by simply moving away. Star Trek’s humans are interstellar travelers and colonizers, of course, which means they are more than a Type I civilization. But on a ST-The Next Generation episode the Enterprise finds an ancient Dyson structure along with an earlier starship that had crash-landed on it, all suggesting that humans have not yet reached this level of star-harnessing capability.

Furthermore, Type II civilizations can mine and move stars, manipulate black holes, and induce or slow a supernova. This suggests that Star Trek (at least the United Federation of Planets on Star Trek) is somewhere between a Type I and Type II civilization. However certain aliens on the show, outside of the Federation, have definitely reached Type II.

Type III, the most advanced civilization Kardashev described, had powers of a galactic magnitude. Its inhabitants have transgalactic and intergalactic travel and work with energy levels on the magnitude of a galaxy or cluster of galaxies. So they could survive just about anything short of the end of the universe.

Kardashev did not bring his scale beyond Type III, but other people have extended the scale as high as a Type VII. On these higher levels, proposed capabilities do not always coincide exactly from one person’s scale to another, but they all imagine beings with ever-increasing capabilities, such as moving through multiple parallel universes and dimensions, ultimately being able to manipulate all existence. The Star Trek character Q and his people might fit into one of these higher civilization types.

The higher you go, the more the members of the civilization (whether biological or more sentient machines by that point) are effectively deities, which in a way turns the theism-atheism paradigm on its side, inside out, or disintegrates it completely, putting the mortal-to-deity difference onto a sliding scale. The gods lived in the clouds in the minds of our ancestors, and today we cross those clouds routinely. To cave people, we would be gods, despite our vulnerabilities.

The Outlook for Humanity

We sure are vulnerable. But we’ll be significantly less vulnerable once we can safely call ourselves a Type I civilization. What is our progress to this end?

Well, as stated earlier, we’re about 75 percent there in terms of energy. The second aspect, survival, is more qualitative, but there are positive signs. Though we haven’t perfected interplanetary travel, we do have it. We send probes around our star system (and we even have a few on their way into interstellar space). Transporting humans between planets is merely an engineering issue, something we could have done already with sufficient effort and money. Without necessitating any major new discovery, we could build colonies in space near the Earth and moon or slightly further away, keeping at least a few thousand people safe from a planetary disaster, and that could be reality in a matter of decades.

We’re making a little progress with earthquakes, at least learning how to detect them before they strike to give people some warning, although we can’t intervene to prevent them yet. We’re monitoring near-Earth objects like asteroids and at least discussing programs that would be directed at diverting any dangerous body from hitting Earth. And, amazingly, earlier this year researchers in Iceland drilled into magma that was intruding into the Earth’s crust, constituting a major breakthrough toward an ability to harness volcano power. Along with that would come an ability to siphon off the accumulating magma pressure that causes volcanic eruptions.

So our capabilities hint that we are going in the direction of a Type I civilization. Will we get there fast enough? Nobody can say for sure, but it does look hopeful. And when we get there, there will still be quite a lot left to invent.



**Regarding the current level of our civilization as a Kardashev number, I was simplifying in order to keep the post concise. Although Kardashev based his Type I civilization directly on the energy consumption compared with the amount of energy reaching the home planet from its star, the K numbers that we talk about actually come from an equation that Carl Sagan derived by extrapolating and interpolating the numbers from Kardashev’s entire scale. The equation is

where P = power in watts. Based on a planetary power use of 10 terawatts back in the 1970s when Sagan wrote the equation, this leads to

A more recent assessment of planetary energy consumption, published by The Economist in 2008, shows it at 15 terawatts. Plugging that into Sagan’s equation gives a K value of 0.72. All of the sources that I found were based ultimately on the 2008 Economist number, so anything more recent is an extrapolation.

Based on Sagan’s 0.70 along with Michio Kaku’s estimate that we’ll be Type I in 100-200 years, and the fact that our energy use continues to rise faster and faster, I used 0.75 to be approximate and rounded off, but to be precise we’re somewhere between 0.72 and 0.75.


Image by Vadim Sadovski / Shutterstock



CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Technology, Top Posts
  • George Wilson

    We’re doomed.

    • Corner Stone

      That is what people have been saying and believing in for countless centuries out of fear of the unknown, perhaps since the dawn of mankind; AND YET; here we are today. We have broken barriers that cannot be conceived of by early man, and we will continue to break barriers and consistently surprise ourselves in ways that we would never have imagined before. Just think about it, One day we will be capable of breaking the light barrier (faster than light speeds) and the barrier after that, then the barrier after that. One day Man will be able to command the stars, one day; any single individual will have the capacity to end a species, and i’m not talking about powerful individuals; i’m talking about ‘common’ individuals. Human capacity for wrath and destruction is as great as it’s capacity for compassion and mercy, Humanity has two roads to take; one is the ascension of all Mankind, and the other is complete and total destruction. Where we go from here is up to ‘us’ and ‘we’.

      • Hominid

        LOL!! Take a course or two in biology and physics – perhaps you can overcome your looniness.

    • Hominid

      Of course – as are all species and, eventually, all life on Earth.

      • WilliamBarnes

        As long as somebody can start a nuclear war with a “Because I said so” attitude, we are in grave danger

        • Hominid

          That’s an overstatement and, even if accurate, there’s nothing to be done about it.

      • Charles2424

        They are talking about the Kardashev scale and hypothetical civilizations where we fall into the Type 0 category, and based on recent current events we have very little chance of reaching Type 1.

    • Jim Brotherton


  • Георги Кънев


  • Nate

    I’m curious how you qualify that we use 75% of the solar energy reaching Earth? Most explanations of solar energy, in layman’s terms, say we receive more incident energy in 1 hour than the whole world uses in 1 year. Maybe 75% of incident energy reaches the surface rather than being reflected back into space, giving us heat and driving the climate, but I wouldn’t hardly call that “harnessed for power consumption”

    • dabble53

      I think the argument was that we use the equivalent of 75% of the energy from the sun, not that we actually use that much of the sun’s incident energy. We generate the vast majority. So if the incident energy from the sun was 1kWh and we generate .74kWh and solar convert .01kWh, we are still “using” 75% equivalent energy.

      • Nate

        Just going off the Wikipedia article about solar energy: in 2010 we generated 67 EJ of energy from all sources combined. We received 3,850,000 EJ in incident sunlight. That doesn’t even register, let alone 75%

        • dabble53

          I was merely commenting on the way the story was worded. I agree, that given those numbers, 75% is WAY off base. Obviously the author made a decimal point error (and a multiplier error) lol

          • Donald P Tang

            I think if you were to include all of the fossil fuels, solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, and waterfall/river energy we get combined, you might have about .75% (notice the point) of what the sun gives us in a year. I remember reading somewhere that a solar panel the size of rhode island could power the entire planet at the rates that American’s use energy without issue. The only problem would be getting the electricity out to everyone.

        • DavidAppell

          The Earth receives about 200,000 Watts from the Sun, and civilization now runs on about 20 terawatts. So the fraction is only 0.01%, not 75%.

          • David Warmflash

            Hi David..They forwarded me your email and you’re right. That mistake resulted from an oversimplification in an attempt to keep the article very simple, Lisa (the editor) and I have since corrected it with a footnote..

          • DavidAppell

            Thanks David.

    • Megan

      75% of the energy that reaches Earth each second, maybe that’s what he meant?

    • Ken Harris

      That’s a complete misreading by the author of the article. Sagan took Kardashev’s discrete scale and converted it to a logarithmic formula, and determined that Earth in 1973 was at approximately .7 on the scale, which is not at all equivalent to 75%.

      • Lisa Raffensperger

        Thanks Ken – we’ve clarified with a footnote above.

      • David Warmflash

        You’re right Ken, I oversimplified to the point describing our level as our power use divided by the amount of solar power hitting Earth. But it really means an estimate of the fraction of the way toward K=1, based on Sagan’s logarithmic scale, which depends on us using A LOT more power in the years to come. As you saw, I’ve corrected with a footnote that Lisa has posted. To reach K=1, we need to use 10,000 terawatts. We have a long way to go in terms of energy, but adding some major new activity, like moving small asteroids around, mining them, and using available solar power and lunar helium-3 to power that, we could find ourselves suddenly jumping way up.

    • Lisa Raffensperger

      You’re right, the way the post was worded was a bit confusing. We’ve clarified with a footnote above.

      • Nate

        Ah thanks for the clarification. 15 TW is equivalent to 0.72 on the Kardashev scale, but this is a log scale and if you compare that to the power need to yield a 1 on the scale, we are at a tiny 0.015%

      • Radu Voinescu

        The wording was not “a bit confusing”, it was quite clear.
        It was the reasoning that was ” totally confused”. You can admit it.

    • David Warmflash

      Hi Nate..It was an oversimplification on my part that led to the confusion, so we’ve added a footnote to correct it. We’re more than 70% the way there, but that’s just an estimate based on Sagan’s logarithmic scale, not a direct representation of our energy use, which currently is only a little more than a thousandth of the amount that reaches Earth from the Sun..

      • DavidAppell

        It’s actually only one ten-thousands: 0.0001, since we receive 2e5 Watts from the Sun.

      • Radu Voinescu

        You’re mistaken, we’re not “more than 70% there”, we’re about 0.01% there. That’s what 0.7 stands for on this scale. Are you sure you understand logarithms?

  • john

    Any civilization above Type II is probably not possible due to the constraints of physics. There actually might be a Type IIa where sub light velocity colonization ships explore near regions of their star. Anything beyond is just pure fantasy.

    • ericlipps

      And so was heavier-than-air flight, according to the eminent astronomer Simon Newcomb–who said that after the Wright brothers’ first successful flight. (Evidently he hadn’t heard yet.)

      Regarding faster-than-light travel, we simply don’t know, though I recall reading recently that NASA is now quietly investigating it. (I’d love to know what prompted the agency to do this.)

    • Dan MacRae

      There are other theories that could eventually become reality, like folding space.

  • Uncle Al

    Every polymer molecule of Kraton thermoplastic elastomer contains exactly one atom of silicon. Fulcrums are important. Civilizations are doomed when conquests are replaced by seductions. Anything can be conquered. Seduction requires pre-existing product.

    Males do stupid bloody things to establish social status and mating rights. Testosterone is the source of all progress. Social advocacy demands advantage is managerially awarded not discriminatorily earned. Males are therefore obscene and hateful for individually achieving and bearing scars. We are doomed by abusive hegemonies of beige.

    How many diversity appointments would replace on Richard Feynman?

  • gene

    Memory and processing power would seem more useful measurement tools. Getting smaller (think nano scale) would greatly diminish need for energy besides at some tech tipping point mass is energy so energy doesn’t seem to be such a rare commodity.


      Right gene. Just having DNA brains and the gnome, gee gene,
      it’s fantastic. Having thumbs was a great addition, thank you trees and branches. We’re all in this together. Gee tree, can you grow off planet? Our fingers will get you there, just let them do the walking. How would you, tree, like to grow on Europa and love
      all those ‘extra’ cosmic rays, here lets fix your DNA just a little…
      As far as energy, the universe is bathed in photons…
      I think there will be huge ultra thin translucent light sails that
      take us quickly vast distances, but then something better will
      come along and light sails a thing’k’ of the ‘ancients’ …

  • SixSixSix

    Hmm…the surest way to destroy human civilization would be provide a cheap, limitless source of energy. Matter is finite. Given enough energy we could deplete all natural resources at high speed and be left with little to nothing.

    For an astronomer energy consumption was a dumb measure. Energy consumption increases entropy in the universe. Sure the thing(s) produced have lower entropy but taken together the total energy consumption nets out to increased entropy. Civilization is a cosmic leap in the rate of increasing entropy. To be crude but direct, all this energy manipulation is a cosmic dump. All that such a super civilization would achieve through high level of energy consumption would be to burn the universe out earlier.

    The author also ignores the only unique thing about humans is abnormally high ability to manipulate information. The neural system now rivals and directly manipulates the genetic system rather than the other way around for all of previous evolution. If we don’t first implode, it is highly unlikely that human intelligence will be dominant on this planet in 50 to 200 years. Cells make for lousy information processing. Just as machines replaced muscles, alternate forms of information processing will replace neurons as the core technology (“singularity” notwithstanding). The individual self aggrandizement of Capitalism over the interests of all others will progress until everyone has been made redundant until finally the last equity holder who contributes nothing is automated. Oh my, Marx didn’t foresee the end state at all.

    We are a type 1 biological intelligence. No way that type II is biologically based. If we haven’t heard from anyone it could well be because we aren’t worth talking to. Just too dumb and slow understand anything interesting. Much like most those of us who make these comments. :-)

    • George Levanduski

      The universe is running up not down. Entropy decreases as organization and complexity increases. See Tom Campbell’s My Big TOE (Theory of Everything).

      • pjsx

        Prove it

        • George Levanduski

          Consider the above. I’m not sure if more can be done.

      • SixSixSix

        See Third Law of Thermodynamics, Heat Death Of the Universe. The only reason that time has a direction is due to increasing entropy. Things, literally are running down.

        • George Levanduski

          Space-time is a medium in which sentient consciousness has the capacity for self-ordered improvement (evolution) and growth. Earthbound life with its drama is a more tangible physical manifestation of interacting units. Increased complexity and organization provides increased opportunities for interactions. The average entropy of the system is thus lowered.

          The universe is expanding. The notion of its inevitable collapse is spurious while we have so little understanding of things like dark matter. Ultimately the universe may mature and recycle, but we lack sufficient
          knowledge to make a practical forecast.

          According to advanced physics and mathematics, the universe is not a closed system. Thus a process that exhausts available energy and drives up entropy is not presently the decisive scenario that should apply.

          The claim of theoretical evidence has been made for the existence of multiverse groups, i.e. universes that have similar
          characteristics. Other perceptions additionally suggest that a big picture viewpoint of a larger consciousness system is appropriate.

          Linear time is an inherent constraint in our kind of physical reality. Time is also concurrent, but how so is not within our grasp.

          • Maia

            Please say more about how time is “concurrent”.


            I would REALLY (I think), like to know if there
            is any conscious life that does not use the DNA
            template, like really, is it possible? I’m absolutely
            curious on this. Has anyone even coscieved a temlate for evolving life that is not DNA based?


            Hey, and as a bonus, we have FREE WILL!


            Time is only ‘concurrent’ if you’re ‘there’ at the time.


            But I guess it goes without saying, but…


            Basically, I agree George. I think humanity is reaching post adolescence. I hope the Internet
            helps, we are all in this together.


          Terms like entropy may be overlooking the
          influence of growing dark space. – Mayb dark space becomes big bang.
          You can’t ‘run down’ in a true vacuum, and ever
          growing dark space creates vacuum, so like the fixity of a gyroscope, life determines to continue.
          The question is, does dark space reach a terminal point? then what…

          • SixSixSix

            Unless Quantum Mechanics is totally wrong, there is no such thing as true vacuum. There are constant “virtual” particles becoming “real” and winking back out of existence in a constant “quantum foam”. It is one of the big splitting point of incompatibility with General Relatively at the Quantum level. Further the ground energy state is not zero. There may or may not be dark energy and dark matter but space is space and it keeps expanding, all the more room for entropy to run down the entire universe: big empty, and undifferentiated randomness. Ultimate big blah. Even a Big Crunch universe winds back up in one imploding blob. This one from the beginning has only been accelerating in size so far.


            Doesn’t this eventual total entropy conflict
            with the basic law of cause and effect, and that
            all action leads to reaction and increasing complexity? All of our actions are imbedded in space time, we are space time. These ‘actions’
            lead to ever expanding complexity absorbed by
            the universe at large, somewhere?!
            It’s like you’re saying we are using up all the possibilities and we we will run out quicker.
            The way I see it is, we are creating more possibilities…
            Just because you can’t go home doesn’t mean
            you got nowhere to go

          • SixSixSix

            No it does not. Cause and effect are the result of time having a direction. The thing that gives time irrationality is increasing entropy. Like it or not the universe is getting less and less organized or put it another way less and less different and more and more evenly random. OK, big time scale. But you can’t beat entropy unless you find a physical process that will exactly reverse an egg shattering. Because all the Kings Horses and All the Kings men just burn up more energy creating greater total chaos even if they could to it (which would not be the original Humpty Dumpty in any caase), Look I am far from being a Physicist. When I am dumb enough to argue with a real one, they pull my wings off. But I know the basics that I have communicated. I suggest you do further reading from a real source. I have said about as much as I can before the guys with the nuclear wands crawl out of their tunnels and chase me for spouting gibberish science.


            Well, educationally, I know next to nothing.
            I just think about this stuff and blab comments, and I like the arguments. Spout away, we all do it.
            I neglected my own education, if only I could again, and get some math and physics! I am fascinated, obviously, with the light sail concept.

          • SixSixSix

            Sigh,what can I say? Move over. Nothing like a light sail on a good day…but what happens when you get around to the other (night) side of the sun? :-)

          • Bonusje

            Quantum does Not exist as base is claimed as so many claimed does Not exist…but it is difficult to Say Otherwise…for so long science is insured of exclusive monopoly and budget and status as new got on the horizon…who of course exists of exact the same bunch that already came with religions politics meds govs laws services and slavery to bennefit on Mankind.

            But… if any …claimed …without a scred of Convincing Evidence or Logic Symptoms or secundairy consequenses (ahem like a 137 GeV mass hidden in eacht atom or even smaller)

            HOW would that must that have been for the Image Quality of the hubble deepfield and ultra deepfield Images?

            And WHY is there NO SCRED of any of einsteins claims also?

            Science is Not about Knowledge or Mankind´s Prosperity but for money and power.

            The “impressive theories and claims they give off are just jesuit spirit and maja.

    • RBDLA

      “Given enough energy we could deplete all natural resources at high speed and be left with little to nothing.”

      Sure, we could deplete the planet’s resources, but if we have that capability, we would also be able to mine asteroids, the other rocky planets, and moons. We might be able to find uses some of the gases in the atmospheres of the Gas Giants and Ice Giants.

      While we are developing Type I technologies, we will also be developing Type II technologies, at least rudimentary ones. Sending humans to the moon, to me at least, was a baby step to Type II status, although getting there will take a couple of centuries.

      • SixSixSix

        OK. Take “terra-forming”. Do you honestly think there is a single form of human organization, Capitalism most notoriously not excepted, that could avoid polluting a planet faster than shaping it positively? The only planet we have tried it on so far is in desperate trouble. The end state of Total Energy domination would be Total Entropy (aka cosmic scale pollution). And that my friend is in the nature of energy transformation – irrecoverable destruction of more ordered state.


          I disagree. We are babies created by earth, from
          earth. We are like adolscence now, and have done
          much vandalism, its time to grow up. We are growing up, the Internet is helping. I think everyone
          should have access to internet and that they ALL study math. We just need to clean up our act. DNA
          is good for the universe, it is the outlet for life of many wonderful species’ experience. We should
          spread it and help it grow nourish and develop(DNA that is). We were created somehow by the
          earth to become this DNA that has the potential
          to do immense things, so we shall do.

          • SixSixSix

            Yes but we DNA baby have already gone way past the products of DNA in physical and no information processing capablity. An intelligence based upon ultra fast computation and communication (“mind melds’ of unimaginable bandwidth) puts all biological intelligence to shame. There is nothing to say the quantum effects might even mimic neural ones, but at least vastly quicker and less energy intensive mechanisms are already achieved and/or on the near term horizon. Whatever it is, it will be a heck of a lot faster than neurons pushing ions in events per second rather than computation and communication in trillionths per second or much, much faster.


            I don’t think we have really grasped the brains potential. If you have a population of 1 million
            students who are enabled to develop their intellectual potential to the maximum, what would be the creative result? If there was true equal opportunity, it could be immense.
            The computational capacities to calculate quickly on limited parameters is merely a tool. The lack of olfactory sense any robot or AI may have would be a great disadvantage at board meetings! If Franstien’s monster has steel fingers, he can’t feel my pain, what’s the ‘fun’ of that? If you are programmed for benevolence, but lack empathy, how do you function? If you self program, how far can that go? If it has limits, can the robot complain that his rights are denied? Corporations are considered persons, why not robots?
            What if the robots greatest reward is to aid humanity, they might end up force feeding us vegetables and giving us all pre-frontal lobotomies. All for our own good, given the excellent logical capacities of those ‘born’ to serve! 1984 all over again, but this time for REAL!


            I reference Orwell – 1984, but he wasn’t the true prophet of the times, that was Nietzsche. We are
            the superman. We need to create a morality that
            reverences DNA and the preservation of variety.
            A life morality.

          • SixSixSix

            First all an advance intelligence would not have much of a body at all. What you call robots would merely be semi-autonomous but connected local units. The ability to communicate at trillions of times rate of speech directly from intelligence center to intelligence center is beyond anything we can experience or imagine. But even our relatively crude computing machinery does it today and the coming of Internet of Everything is the next quantum leap which has already begun. Super intelligence will be highly distributed, interconnected, and possess sensors and actuators literally beyond human capacity and reach. The richnes sof their mental world relative to theirs compares us to ants. True we ants have a fun but we can’t imagine what real, advanced fun would be for beings who we can only appropriate as “god like” much as ants can only dimly guess what we food providers must be like and do for pleasure (especially because we never have the pleasure of serving the Queen and hive).

            The real question is not how far they surpass us, that we literally will never understand. Rather do we still have a role, much like ancient life forms like slugs and turtles still have a role long after their peak period has come and gone. Do we make it through the next mass die off, do we cause it, or are just extra baggage? Some would argue quite seriously we could download into the new super intelligence. I view that as absurd, what would be the meaning of “I” as an ant downloaded even into a human brain – just a few impulses quickly overridden.

  • austrolopithicus

    Filth florin florin filth

  • Larry Kueneman

    Sagan was right. Ours is still a technological adolescence. We are aiming at vastly greater inventions. That said, we as humans remain incredibly primitive societies and individuals. This must be taken into account.

  • Defiant

    Unless we know the OTHER side of the story…how can we compare ourselves?

    Sheer, wild, blatant speculation…

    • Maia


  • CR

    Our limits are not technological, nor is there a limit in our ability (with the help of our technology) to understand the mathematics that rule the universe(s) around us. Our limits are purely and overwhelmingly psychological, mostly our inherent tendency to allow our preset personal or culturally-taught worldview, our preset societal values and our dominant emotional nature to override reason, logic and facts, including the inability of large portions of every society on Earth to accept scientifically incontrovertible facts to one degree or another because they threaten to displace longstanding cultural belief systems. We may not have enough time for cultures overall to move as quickly as our technology and science are moving.

    • Michael Scoffield

      Couldn’t have said it better. Your comment is more insightful than the article itself.


      You are 100% correct, that is exacly the problem
      facing us as a species. The internet and free flow
      of information may save us.


      We are an incredibly powerful species with great potential.
      We could spread DNA througout the solar system and
      perhaps beyond. We may be the manifest ‘intention’ of
      the earth the sun or both, we do not really know.
      Natural selection may explain the mechanics, but nothing
      explains the will, conscousnence, and ‘I’ness of life.
      For some reason animate life has the will to grow and
      reproduce in ever growing complexity and variation.
      It’s either that or ‘species suicide’. Stagnation isn’t even
      an option in this dynamic universe. It’s all, either grow up,
      or get out (of existence).

      • CR

        The innate will to live and ability to evolve is why we won’t/can’t just give up on solving climate change, and also why we need to fund a strong space program. The moon, Mars and then beyond. We are capable of achieving this technologically. All we need is one earth culture to commit to achieving these goals over the next 10-100 years. I hope it’s NASA.

    • Lesa Smart

      You has so right on the money

  • Peter Lewicke

    Interesting though this article might be, it is gas. It is possible that there is a huge amount of advancement ahead, but it is also possible that there really are limits as to how far an animal can advance. Or something else. And maybe that silliness about something to happen to the human species in 2042 (or whenever; I can’t remember the guy’s name) will really happen.

    Predicting the future is great fun, but predictions of things more than a couple of decades down the line are almost always wrong, and I mean really wrong.

  • JerryG

    This is an interesting topic, how far would humanity go into the future? We, today are not close to Type II as for energy purposes, but for technology, we are capable of creating much more than the toys our innovators are developing now. Bigger and better rockets are never going to get us very far from earth, computer games, social web toys, and more deadly weapons; with all these innovations it is very doubtful will advance humanity into Type II or III either. We need something with some real ‘meat’ involved to ‘jump start’ this culture today.

    Real teleporting is within our grasp today, we do have the technology today to achieve it, and we are just sitting on our hands hoping for another Nikola Tesla to come along and pull our heads out. Actually Tesla gave us the answer in a New York Times article in Sept 1908, but our brilliant establishment slammed the door quickly on that. Time to resurrect those ideas today and get teleporting in toolbox.

    Project BmeupTeleport has a website with 5 videos illustrating a project to create teleporation. We need to stop playing web games and get back to work creating something useful and important for humanity future. Bmeupteleport dot com

  • abinico

    We’re cavemen with nuclear weapons – hardly call that advanced. Now go eat your GMO and shutup.

  • lucasbachmann .

    The Kardashev Scale is completely totally useless. I had to check if this post was written by Michio Kaku since he promotes it contantly (makes a nice drinking game). Think about it – if the only civilization known to exist is less than 1 and realistically the only possible civilizations that aren’t SF fantasy is somewhere between 1 and 2 what good is it? A real yardstick would be what’s their fastest computer. Or how many digits of pi it has calculated. Even a straight up how many planets is it on or how many solar systems with a colony would at least be a useful number…a “yardstick”.

    • vonskippy

      Exactly, I have a neat looking rock on my back patio, that by the “solar use” scale, is a type 1 civilization. It’s a really nice rock.

      • Tim

        So , it must be a Black rock then , correct ?
        To absorb maximum solar energy ?


          The earth has an ambient energy, that is cooling as time goes by. That is why return of the ice age is
          an eternal threat. Burning off fossil fuels as an
          offset for this eternal cooling can have drastic long
          term effects, hastening the the return of the ice age during this current interglacial. This is very simple.
          We have slowly warmed the oceans of the planet
          during the industrial age. When the ocean continues to absorb this heat it evapourates more
          moisture into the atmosphere creating more cloud cover and precipation(snow) in the large northern land masses that cool, while the oceans continue to give off evapouration because they are still warm. This is beginning of ice age in the snowy snowy north creaping south, as the oceans cobntinue producing precipitation.

    • Scott Bisset

      SF has a element of science fact u just have 2 think real deep about it

  • Cyberdactyl

    I fear we may be at a beginning, and yet at our end.

    We are most likely at a cusp or ‘break’ in intelligence on this planet. As humans on this planet, we are at an extremely unique time. Probably the most unique time in human civilization.

    AGI (artificial general intelligence) is about to emerge (~10-30 years) in which ASI (artificial super intelligence) will likely follow closely behind. And it likely will not be a pleasant experience for mankind.

    Don’t buy into the utopian outlook suggested by Kurzweil or Kaku, etc. PLEASE check out James Barrat’s non-fiction treatise, “Our Final Invention”. An extremely well researched and honest treatment of the race for AGI by Google, DARPA and other well financed entities.

    For all practical purposes we are done, and will pass our legacy on.

    • Maia

      I read “Our Final Invention” and it’s excellent. BUT. We can’t just throw up our hands and say “It’s done”, that will only speed the bad things along. Come on and help along the world you WANT, the world you care about, in whatever ways you can.


      Nothing is faster than DNA. It’s at the molecular level.
      Nothing matches DNA template brains for info processing,
      No nano chips can do it so good. DNA is here to stay.
      We may adjust the template somewhat, but DNA will-to-live
      is essential. There maybe other non-DNA templates that work
      to produce tool making species, but they would have to organize, like DNA, at the molecular level. And that human gnome is incredibally complex…


      We may be a real fluke. Perhaps there have been millions of
      planets that produced life but never the opposable thumb or technology before they burned out. We may be a real fluke.
      It wreaks of destiny. I hope we spead the DNA.

  • Franco J. Torres

    Well I want my spaceship already.

  • boonteetan

    “We’ll destroy ourselves because our technology has advanced more rapidly than our wisdom, or succumb to a natural disaster because our technology has not advanced quickly enough.” This is the crux of the article,

    However, extreme hi-tech will eventually be in the hands of few in-the-know, 99% of world population will end up enslaved by technology. Could wisdom of the few help? (btt1943)

    • Don Honeycutt

      As long as we continue living on non-renewable energy sources (yes that includes nuclear energy) we are still infants. Until we stabilize the population at a sustainable level, our destruction of our environment will continue. As the ‘use it once and throw it away’ lifestyle continues to spread to the big countries (India and China for example) the over consumption of our non-renewable resources will continue to accelerate.
      When I was a lad working in the ‘Social Management of Technology Program at the University of Washington, (mid 70s) we discussed such topics and made predictions for what would be the likely trends in the awareness (and corrective action) on the part of the general US population regarding the dangers we face. We made best case and worse case predictions of the results of continuing trends toward self destruction.
      The reality that I have seen over the past 40 years has exceeded our worse predictions. Our society and the world at large have become so fascinated by technologic toys and short term fixes for the real problems facing us that I am very pessimistic at this time. I will die in the next 15-20 years, so I will not have to ‘pay the piper’ but my children and grandchildren will.
      As ignorance, greed, short term planning and ‘Bronze Age Mythologies’ continue to rule our thought processes, I predict the huge population collapse described in so many science fiction novels, with the accompanying collapse of ‘civilization as we know it’, is only decades away, not centuries. Sorry kids…your parents failed you!

  • gibbon

    i just checked out the concept of a dyson sphere. it should be renamed a moronic sphere. apart from the impossibility of constructing it, why tap the suns energy in the first place? the universe is a sea of energy that is omnipresent. hopefully ZPE or similar will be perfected.

    • Scott Bisset

      U don’t know that until u even have the technology to start building it.

  • Tongo

    As long as Muslim’s & Negroes exist we have no long term future

    • jerryglen

      Tongo proves my point that our problem is within each of us. Even within Tongo!


    “So our capabilities hint that we are going in the direction of a Type I civilization. Will we get there fast enough?”

    With our current planetary Muslim problem, it’s unlikely. The majority population of the Earth is not-Muslim but we cannot seem to agree what to do about our mutual problem. Technology issues are easy in comparison, but people problems stand in our way.

    • jerryglen

      The ‘Muslim’ problem is not Muslim in nature. It is inherent in all of us. Currently it is evident in the radical Muslim population. Tomorrow we will see it elsewhere.

      • Dan MacRae

        I see signs of a massive Buddhist jihad against all other religions on the horizon.

        • Maia

          I think we are really talking about individual human tendencies, not organizations of them, since organizations consist of individuals, not the other way around. All humans carry the potential for violence in varying degrees. We can all look to our own histories, national and personal and religious, and find violence in its many forms there. To single out a particular GROUP of humans as especially evil, is evil.


          That’s a little harsh isn’t it Dan, I mean ‘jihad’?
          It’s just shoju… and shakubuku is never more than a strong argument – nobody hurts, nobody cries, nobody dies…

      • Maia

        We see the root-human problems of greed//violence/revenge more often than you have stated, though I completely agree with your point.

    • Scott Bisset

      What.. normal Muslim aren’t extremist. That’s a minority, my god u do u know this…!!!? Extremism is the problem not Muslims. That a rather harsh comment putting many people under one label. Which is not a good idea if u look a history. Islam is fine, when follow properly. I highly doubt that a minority force of people will stand in the way of a type one civilization likely the problem would be erased well before we become one.

      • lucasbachmann .

        Historically the people proclaiming loudest that Islam is a religion of peace and that no true muslim would commit atrocity X, Y or Z…well they are not muslims but are western politicians and folks with coexist bumper stickers that act shocked when someone deviates from the peaceful majority myth. The instant muslims become a majority anywhere the minority population crashes. So yeah the majority of muslims don’t have anyone left to be “extremist” towards because previous generations took care of it.

  • Tim

    Forget about it.
    To truly advance civilization , we must have the ability to travel vast distances in maximum time.
    To do this , it requires near light speed travel.
    Outer space is dirty , consisting of , AT A MINIMUM , several atoms of hydrogen per cubic meter.
    Striking these disperse atoms at near the speed of light has VERY bad consequences for the traveler or even the electronics (if unoccupied by organic life).

    MASSIVE amounts of gamma rays are produced. This will turn most everything into a plasma state.

    I have read that it would take a lead shield several thousand meters thick to prevent this , not to mention , needing to cool it.
    And good luck accelerating this much mass.

    No , we’ll be stuck here for a LONG time into the foreseeable future.

    • Dan MacRae

      “a lead shield several thousand meters thick” LOL. Just tell the helmsman to raise the shields. Get with the program…….

    • Scott Bisset

      Plus u have the possibility of warp drive which could circumvent many problems due 2 distance


      @Tim: That sounds like the argument against travelling at high
      speeds – ‘their necks would break’. All things are relative, matter probably passes through us frequently even here on earth, it’s negligable. dozen hydrogen every cubic metre? negligable, RELATIVELY speaking. Depends on how far your going on what arrives when you get there and will ‘there’ be there when you get there, and are you still you. Fer sure you can’t go back, it isnt anymore. The light sail concept is vastly underated, it requires only an ultra-thin tranparency controlled material that can be created in vast reams in space, it’s a real can do.

      • Tim

        There does exist something that travels through us every day – Neutrinos. From the sun , the latest estimate from CERN is 100 billion per square centimeter per second. However , “matter” in the form of plain atoms , not so much.
        Hitting these few H2 atoms at near light speed is anything BUT negligible.
        As Einstein stated , mass traveling at the speed of light has INFINITE mass.
        So , hitting an atom at the speed of light would be like smashing into a bowling ball at ? (You pick the extreme velocity)
        Having said ; two masses , a vehicle and atoms colliding at these speeds , releases ENORMOUS amounts of energy in the form of radiation , namely gamma rays. Which in massive quantities , is VERY BAD for organic life.

        But the cosmic sail idea is doable yes , but impractical , as it would be both somewhat delicate , as well as take FOREVER to build speed.


          But Tim, they have been up in that space station
          for a long time, and they went to the moon. Where are all those random hydrogen atoms exploding?
          just sayin

          • Tim

            They were not traveling at anything NEAR the speed of light.
            But what they DID find on some crafts were small pits and some cratering on surfaces.
            Some of which occurred from nothing larger than a grain of sand at 25,000 MPH.
            If you wanted to travel even WITHIN our solar system at only 10% light speed could you imagine the consequences ?
            And don’t forget , only HALF way is acceleration.
            Half must be deceleration if you want to stop.
            Recent revelations on the health of our longest humans in space say they are not in good shape , after only several months…


            Tim maybe we have different ideas of what a light sail is. In my definition, it is a device that uses light
            as a source of energy to propel itself, it doesn’t necessarily travel at anything near the speed of light, maybe 1% or half that of the speed of light.
            And you are right, half of that is slowing down, and perhaps these trips would age us. But if it means tomorrow you could be orbiting Europa, would you want to go? I would. Mass production by robotics in space, including ‘ice’ mining are the great economic boom space could hold.


          But Tim, they are not travelling at the speed of light, only light travels at the speed of light. They
          are not even travelling relative to us at the speed of light, if they where, for us they would be just light. You misunderstood Einstien, he was defining light.
          You never hit atoms at the speed of life, nothing but light hits you that fast. A cubic centimetre ‘lump’ traveling at half the speed of light relative to us being on that trajectory, would just make a 1 inch hole in one of 1 million subpanels of our light sail.
          I am sure that if right material is used, these HUGE sails could generate great amounts, excessive amounts, of heat energy from the opaque sides.
          This excess energy could be used to generate a protective electrical field cloke around the ship,
          a vapourization field you might say. Every problem has a solution, it’s all in the details, you just need to know math…


      A vast light sail, interconnected panels of light sensitive ultra thin material would be so huge the the infrequent collision with space debris would have negligable impact. The sail would absorb light on one side, channeling it as a power source, the opposite side would propel the sail by reflecting the light, bouncing off the photons. In gravitiless space, this power source has near light speed potential and can accelerate at a certain point, to near light speed. If the reflectivity can be controlled, speed can be controlled, and you would have a good solar system ship.
      It’s all about developing the ‘fabric’ material and manufacturing
      it in space from space materials. The material must efficiently convert photons to electric power on the dark side, be translucent, and have a dimmer control effect on the light thrusting drive side. The sail is a HUGE disk, with a ‘ship’ at its centre, tethered around it’s circumference.
      The sail absorbs energy from it’s dark side, transforming photon power to electrical power for the ship and translucent control of the opposite side. You could fly to Mercury on this ship using just the thrust created by the stars in the sky, not even using
      the sun. This is because there is no ‘drag’ in space to impede acceleration, and with a big enough sail, that acceleration could carry hefty loads at high speed. The material would probably be
      a conductor of interconnected semi-conductors. In a grid. An asteriod passing through would just create an infintisimal power loss. This type of sail is theoretically feasable. Some kind of ‘fabric’ or film flexible at very low temperatures, with phase control inherent in it’s properties, could be H2O based. Must be
      black non reflective heat absorbent one side, and adjustable
      reflectivity controlled motion ‘powered’ side. The level of power applied by the translucent thrust side is program controlled by
      energy absorbed on the ‘dark’ side. The photons are travelling
      at light speed, as long as they’re travelling faster than your sail, they’re wacking your sail, ACCELERATING it through space, and that builds up in virtual gravitiless space…

      • Tim

        No , no , no
        You cannot get around it.
        The faster this craft goes , the greater the rate of damage will be done to it when colliding with ANY matter , no matter HOW small , even singular atoms.
        The more damage done , the more propulsion will decrease.
        Til eventually , you will have nothing more than a constant velocity wreck of material surrounded by plasma.


          Well Tim, for travelling outside the solar system
          you may be right, the frequency of mini colisions could be incredible. For travel within the solar system it is highly feasable, the frequency of collisions versus the the sails size would make
          their impacts negligable. On a square mile surface area, with 1 foot square panels ? – negligable. Auto self-repair? – feasable.

      • Tim

        Mercury using other star photon acceleration rather than sun ?
        WHY ?
        To complete the task 1,000 or 10,000 times slower than our close sun could provide ?

        No ‘drag’ in space ?
        Actually there is.
        Because when you collide with objects , you slow down.


          You cant use the sun, because travelling towards Mercury is flying towards the sun. That side of the light is opaque and absorbs light as heat, transforming it into electrical energy. The side facing space(away from the sun and Mercury),
          would be reflecting photons which would push against that side in relatively gravitiless space.
          Your only gravity is your own! You need strong tethers radiating outward to a huge thin sheet of
          material HUGE in space. Relentlessly being bombarded with photons on one side, absorbing
          them and converting them to heat / electric on the other. A sail with a one mile radius? We built the pyramids…


            When was the last time you heard of anything being smashed to bits during spacial impacts? Name one. A light sail traversing the solar system might encounter a few, negligable, thin fabric holes in frozen space. The living area torpedo shaped ship would possibly be enveloped in a protective sphere of some form of neutralizing radiation, self monitoring. You basically control the reflectivity of one side using the power generated by the opposite side. Reflectivity = acceleration in the opposite direction. On one side the light is absorbed and transformed into heat, on the other side it reflects and by reflecting is pushed away from what it is reflecting(all those stars), against a square mile of sail, in gravityless space, gonna get ya somewhere. It’s worth at least a test, you just need the fabric, some sort of life form that thrives in space, or just the right materials…
            something plentiful on certain asteroids. I’m sure
            there’s lots of ice in space, its all in the chemical bonding to formulate the right material… All in space, mine the asteroid for water etc. mix up
            the fabric, assemble in space on site! The site would be a a huge long output conveyor that exudes panels in, say 50 ft square panels, premaid with ribboned 1 foot switch strips in both
            directions, making 2500 sub panels. Make about
            200 panels, assemble on circular grid. heavily tethered at the ship end, gradually thinning out to medium then a bit thicker at the circumference, with a fairly heavy rim(big job).
            Hopefully you have developed the perfect ultra controllable opaque transparent either side material, and its set to neutral, out there in space.
            The ship seems small in comparison to the sail on the approach, but is actually a quite sizeable torpedo shaped ‘flyer’. You go to the bridge, at the controls, you opaque one side of the sail and build energy. Next you slowly increase the reflectivity on the panels away from that panel, you can control the area of high reflectivity on a mouse pad! Now, by careful control of intensity of reflectivity and direction of centre point, you navigate space.
            You always have an automatic cut off before you exceed anything more than a slight fraction of light speed…Just so you don’t get lost nowhere no how and your never going home…

  • jerryglen

    The resources, infrastructure and technology to survive on another body such as the moon or mars would allow the human race to survive very well here on earth short of a supernova. Transportation not being an issue, it is clear we now have that capability. We may lose a significant portion of our population but the race as a whole would not perish.

    Therefore, it is not the level of our technology that can protect us. Our problem is not technology but our selfishness and pride. That out dated thing the preacher called sin. Although we might think we have progressed beyond the barbarism of the past, current events in the Middle East and even recent history prove otherwise. We haven’t changed one iota. It is just a matter of how we are poked as to what comes out. Until this is dealt with our dilemma will remain the same. At best we will simply export our corrupt nature to other worlds.

    Our six thousand years of civilization prove that we are unable to change ourselves. The agent of change has to be outside of us, and the change must be permanently within us. In short it is outside of our control. If we have a hope at all it can only come from a benevolent being that cares for us deeply enough to provide a path of rebirth from our inherent nature. I maintain this being has been with us all the time, we just need to allow the change that is available. Short of that we have no hope.

    • George Levanduski

      The perpetual barbarism that you cited is a function of the masses bent on material acquisition, plus the aggrandizement of self sought by many, including dominant individuals. Reliance on an outside intervention do our dirty work for us or to steer us into cleaning up our own dirty work is a crutch that we must abandon. This world is our responsibility.

      Our only hope is a positive shift in quality of consciousness by enough of the population sufficient to pass a tipping point where the majority in control can insist on sane management of resources, fairness, and cooperative behavior. That shift is now truly under way in the form of gains made in understanding the true nature of reality that encompasses subatomic phenomena, multiverses, and consciousness domains.

  • Nom de Plume

    One there was an explorer with advanced technology who encountered a stone age culture. In order to gain transport across a river, he declared himself to be the sun god. Whereupon the head of the stone age tribe gave his welcome, and said that since he was the sun god, he could dry up the river and walk across. Thus was Hernando de Soto rebuffed on the banks of the Mississippi.

    Although the “God Gambit” is popular in SF, just because a people are not technologically advance doesn’t mean they regard those who are as more than men. Cro-magnon chipping a flint point in the comfort of his cave might regard a human who can fly as possessing powerful magic, but still a human – a hypothesis he might be willing to test with said point should his flying human get a bit arrogant.

    Thus the whole question of whether a sufficiently advanced society would turn theism and atheism on their sides, so to speak, isn’t likely to happen, even if humans become able to wield unimaginable power. Perhaps it says something about our own hubris that we think we could.

    • Scott Bisset


  • robbiejena

    Some of them may not use Cars as the transportation device…more like some form of matter transporter that we do not understand (unless Star Trek type)…that is definitely a lot…

  • Dominic Storm

    I know this is pessimistic but just read the daily news. Extremists everywhere. Once man creates a sufficient power, such as nanotechnology and it gets into the hands of a motivated radical, the human race will be reduced to a primitive state, if not eliminated.

  • chairde

    I just love to hear about these types of civilizations. I would also note that progress has speeded up in my lifetime. Born in 1946 I have seen tremendous growth in technology. Most stemming from the military by the way. Money should be invested in research and development and not wasted on wars that never end.

    • George Levanduski

      Advanced technology has existed for a long time but is being withheld so that over-privileged elites can milk the system to their wealthy advantage by constantly stoking the war machine.

      Phenomena such as the two-slit experiment and quantum entanglement should be enough to get people to wake up, to want to get at the truth about reality. Ours is a virtual reality, a subset of a larger nonphysical reality, and it functions as a data system run by nested levels of consciousness.

      Quantum entanglement can breach almost unfathomable distances at faster than light speed without physical movement of anything from point A to point B.

      Photons behave as either particles or waves according to sensible physical rules of consistency, but are just acting as random probability distributions when their scattering is not inhibited by determination of exact individual location.

      Reality is a construct of consciousness, embracing actualized probabilities with due regard for unactualized possibilities.

      Quarks, the constituents of atoms, have been detected blinking in and out of existence a few at a time within a limited range of participating quantity. Where are they going? To another universe?

  • djkiranappiah

    So this ultimately suggests that the goal of civilizations is to become literal Gods, that can manipulate anything and everything, even simulate universes…..maybe we are in a simulation, there might be a googleplex of Gods out there, watching our every move


      Ya, could be anywhere roundabout that. Or even better,
      maybe we’re a first! Like, how many planets are gonna get it to the opposable thumb, brain stem on dry land oxygen rich flowered planet level, eh? And that brain stem and medula oblongata(wouldn’t be anywhere without that occipal), what finesse.
      And math? What a brain storm! Then ya got that physics and micro
      physics and micro-biology, hey your off to go…


      And thank you thank you thank you trees and limbs for those opposable thumbs, truly I thank you! And bees, thanks for the flowers and pollen, we couldn’t have done it without you.


      And birds, thanks for the chirps, the danger signs!

  • Radu Voinescu

    Dear David Warmflash and Discover Magazine,
    We do not currently use “75% of the energy of a Type I civilization”. The Kardashev scale is a logarithmic one, we are indeed at level 0.72 or around, but we’re still orders of magnitude below Level One on the Kardashev scale. We’ll need to multiply our energy use by 10 several times in order to reach Kardashev One level.

    • DavidAppell

      I find the multiplier to be 10,000.

      The Earth receives 1365 W/m2 at the top of its atmosphere, and its cross sectional area is pi^R^2 where R is Earth’s radius. So the energy we receive from the Sun is 2e17 Watts, or 200,000 terawatts.

      But the planet uses about 20 terawatts, or 0.0001 of the available solar energy, or 0.01%.

      We’re nowhere close to being a Type I civilization.

  • Ad Roest

    I regret to say that mankind will never have the chance to develop longer than 10,800 years.Now we are just half way that number of years. That’s our fate. See EARTH a planet with a handicap

  • stevlich

    We’re going backwards because there’s still way too much manual labor that takes forever. Computers are still much too dumb and robotics has stalled completely. Progress is at a glacial pace if at all.


      Computers isnt dumb. The internet is a salvation. The Internet
      will eventual create true sane democracy globally, just wait and see… I trust the human gnome and DNA, survival of the fittest,
      in societal terms that means the whole planet, population control
      etc. War is suicide and unwanted, we mostly feel that. Everyone
      wants to live and survive. Take a vote globally, do you want war here and now, YES/NO. Just apply the result.
      We can make it if we try

  • J.Hamilton

    Wonderful conversation.. great questions and great thoughts.. Love to see humans in serous conversation attempting to solve problems and project answers.. My thoughts, in our adolescence, as we grow up, in our evolution, we are going to merge with the order that everything shares.. Not god per se, but what I instead call Innate Intelligence, the underlying foundation for the order that everything shares.. Much faster than building faster rockets and expanding the mind through linear projections, I believe instead, we will expand our consciousness and learn to merge and partner with this Order.

    With 40 years of meditation (learning to listen with the nervous system) and now several years of quieting the mind, brain and nervous system through CORE Resonance Training™ (neurofeedback), I am learning to jettison the mind (and its projections) and replace it with partnership with Innate Intelligence. This brings Presence, and in Presence is found Guidance. And in Guidance, everything becomes possible. My sense is that we are out of our natural state of governance; something every other form of expression (plant, animal and mineral) on this planet aligns with and abides by. Re-enabling this natural state will put to rest the fallacies of the mind’s projections, defensive posturing and inefficient problem-solving.

    Even at its best, I find the mind to be incredibly short-sighted. I’ve noticed that all of our solutions, inventions and discoveries come from “beyond the mind” (Google search “Are Inventions Inevitable?”) and tapping into this dimension is going to be the truest measure of our success as a species and drastically reduce “our learning curve.” Tapping into the central order and governance that everything from the smallest to beyond the largest shares, quickly delivers us to Type III and beyond. Human and quantum (cosmic) consciousness is far more than the mind’s capacity to project. Personally, I equate the mind and its projections to a guard-dog resistance-based perspective based on a brain on overload that was never designed to process the vast amount of information it is beset with in the first place.. In Presence everything becomes available.

    PS I hope we do a better job setting up artificial intelligence than we did setting up artificial entity corporations. We kind of blew that one..


    The universe is big scary and dangerous. You’ve got to watch out from
    danger from many dimensions. It is not necessarily malevolent, just
    somewhere you got to keep your eyes open here now and as far as
    your technology enables you to see, then maybe you gotta chance.
    It also has great potential for development, as long as you are the only
    developer. We may be just ‘development’, by some long gone(or returning)
    parent aliens. Or we’re just an opening into consciousnense of beings formerly in ‘dark’ space. I sure don’t know. Maybe gravity is just their waves of ‘dark’ energy from over their in ‘dark’ space, the death realm.
    I know I have free will, even if I’m just another ‘chip’. Besides, I created this reality, didn’t I? There’s nobody right here but me, and of course all the host of micro-organisms living in and about me. I’m just the manifestation of a recipe made of DNA remaking itself, and I know me and others, amazing. Apparently we’ve got the brains and knowhow to develop the
    means to spread and go on forever wherever that is and take all our DNA
    cousins with us. We could be wonders…

  • c.

    Will we get there fast enough ? Nobody can say for sure , but a space elevator would take us a long way in the right direction . Developing space is the only problem which requires more people rather than fewer people .

    • zlop

      Sadly the Evil World Order Malthusians want to Agenda 21. “Robert Zubrin on Agenda 21, Loss of Freedom and Population Control”

  • zlop

    Outposts, on moons and other planets, increase survival chances. On the Moon, people would not be dependent on an atmosphere. So, if a supernova blew Earth’s atmosphere away, some humans could continue to live.

  • LoveYourDNA

    Yep. The issue is that we are not preparing ourselves mentally for all the technologies we are creating. A lot of these technologies are actually hurting us and aren’t vetted properly so as to do no harm. GMO is one example. It’s a fabulous science and can solve world hunger and provide more nutritious foods however, Monsanto is using this science to harm humans and the planet because it only cares about the money side of it. If our psychology doesn’t keep pace with our technology, we’re doomed. We are in the same stage as a two year old, not a teenager. Just look at all the warring and destruction going on. We should be well past this stage and yet we linger. This is why I became a Raelian in 97 to help prepare humanity for all the advanced science we are coming in to. Science + love is the only thing that will save us. That and freeing ourselves from the myth of “God” which has only divided us and caused suffering.

  • thefermiparadox

    I do and still worry we won’t put the money and effort out to make humans a long term (millions or billions of years) civilization, but lately I realized the cultural and social-political aspects will hold us back more. We don’t have the right world values.Half the world thinks death is okay, can’t conceive in long term thinking and doesn’t even know there is a universe.
    We still have subhuman barbarians who want the destruction of the Earth or at least half the planet. Some day these cockroaches could get lethal existential technologies. As tech continues to get more sophisticated, it is easier for all to get just below the most advanced weapons. Human nature unchecked (religious folks in uncivil society) is our biggest enemy for long term survival prospects. We need to start splitting our massive world population asap within our solar system and eventually interstellar. I’m not paranoid but why risk it and these assholes only need a strike or two and you can’t guard against everything. This is not coming from hawk paranoid perspective but more someone that knows human nature and the seriousness of religious fanatics.

  • Douglas McKee

    The key to survival is integrity in government. No civilization has ever survived the period in which we are now. Politicians start wars we cannot win, social programs that disempower the very people they control, and education systems designed to keep the masses trapped in ignorance

  • Metalhead Nick

    There are a lot of good comments and keen observations here, but no one (I think) noted the real problem. It is not really about the issues with the Kardashev scale, namely the enormity of the Kardashian scale. It’s through the roof. Our society could give two $4!+s about it. They care about tmz and the useless kardashians and that talentless moron one of them married who thinks he’s a genius because he is so far below average as to even know the difference. That is why we will remain a type 0 civilization for what small amount of time we manage to cling to existence. The Kardashian scale. Look it up. If we want to achieve anything, anyone who knows or cares about them should be flogged and drowned. I kid. A bit. I saw someone reference Nietzsche somewhere down on the comments…don’t be one of them, the contributors to ever rising Kardashian scale, that is the path of the untermench. The last man, the lowest man. And that is where most of our society is heading. And they will drag everyone else down with them…

  • Corvette Ed

    Fantasy is nice, but we as a species have made a pact with our gods in the name of mutual assured destruction. The human race has always been a weapons race. The scourge that is humanity is just beginning.

  • Radu Voinescu

    The fact that we’re a 0.72 or 0.75 level civilization doesn’t mean we are at 72% or 75% completion, because we speak about a logarithmic scale. We are currently using approximately 10^-5 (ten thousand less) of the energy potential available on Earth, most of it being solar energy.
    The error is massive and shows a complete lack of understanding of the scale. I think you should publish a correction, in order to try to regain some credibility.
    My criticism refers to “Currently, we harness a substantial fraction of that amount we’re estimated to be nearly 75 percent of the way toward using that amount of power (based on an extrapolation of our growing power use that was first performed by Carl Sagan in the 1970s**), so we are not yet a Type I civilization.”

  • Megan

    I don’t even use 75% of the energy I consume each day! Leave the sun out of this! lol :)

  • Chrisanto Dongon

    There are so many alien in all galaxy that we do not know how far are we build something technology that can fly all over the galaxy we are just a primitive planet ahahh we are worst than other planet they are so far genius even they are ugly than us

  • Dan

    I always wonder why these long conceptual debates ONLY revolve around outer physical development, and NEVER on the one thing that is needed to not self destruct with these levels of technology: Wisdom, and development of the spirit and heart.

    On almost every scale related to visdom, empathy and spiritual insight, our civilization is STILL completely dormant. We are still the same primitive greedy monkey brains as always, destroying everything, and still completely unable to understand even the most basic of concepts e.g.: That it is a mathematical impossibility to have infinite growth on a finite earth.

    This complete lack of maturing of the soul, spirit, and visdom means that we are simply monkeys with machines, no more no less.

    And THAT is the primary reason why we will be extinct LONG before these outer forms of a type 1 planet will ever form.

  • Blackhawk

    Humans are still at the level they were at the Stone Age when it comes to interstealler travel , it will take many millenniums to create the technology to become cosmic Gods if that is ever possible in our flawed species


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