Proposed by Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev in 1964, it is a scale for predicting a civilisation’s advancement level. It originally had three types : type I, II and III or planetary, stellar and galactic (Spoiler : We are not even type I). The scale was later improved by Carl Sagan, another astronomer.
The scale is logarithmic. The Kardashev reading of a civilisation is determined by the amount of power it can produce :
Type 0 – 10^6 Watts
Type I – 10^16 Watts
Type II – 10^26 Watts
Type III – 10^36 Watts
Thus, to smoothen the scale we can consider a formula :
Kardashev reading = (log(P) – 6)÷10, Where P is power produced by the civilisation.
Let us discuss the types in detail :
Type 0 :
It is the type of civilisation which has just started it influence its own planet and is just an amateur in utilising its resources, a defination in which our civilisation seems to perfectly fit. In fact, considering our current energy input, we are indeed a type 0.73 on the scale. We are yet to achieve a lot.
Type I :
These civilisations are capable of harnessing and using all the energy of their home planet. Such a civilisation could travel easily in its solar system and might have settled on many other planets or moons. They would be capable of mining asteroids for resources. It might take us a few thousand years to reach this level. If we ever meet aliens, they would probably belong to this type.
Type II :
This one has the technology capable of harnessing the energy of a whole star. How? Science Fiction has already imagined such a hypothetical megastructure. Dyson Spheres. They envelope the entire star like a shell and have solar panels on the inside which absorb the star’s radiation. This much energy can be used to power their titanic-scale projects like terraforming whole planets and colonising distant star systems. They might build a galactic empire.
Type III :
They will have access to all the energy of all the stars of their galaxy. The whole galaxy will become their playground and they will use the monstrous amount of energy for whatever they want. They might be able to travel faster than light and have technology which is impossible according to our current understanding of physics.
Beyond the Original Scale :
Kardashev thought that human advancement may not go any higher than type III but some scientists believe that even higher levels might be possible.
Type IV :
A civilisation which could harness entire universe’s energy might not seem to be possible. However, our current understanding of physics might be incomplete. These people could play with physics for their good.
Type V :
They are literally Gods. They might have technology which may seem magic to us. They could be able to alter the laws of our universe and create new universes.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” –Arthur C. Clarke
This brings us to ….. us. We already have technology which might be magic to anyone a thousand years ago. We would be gods to them. But we are demons to ourselves. We have technology capable of destroying ourselves and are threatening our own existence. But if want to achieve any significant position on the Kardashev scale, we need to develop not only our technology but also the wisdom to use it.
By Abhinav Singh.