The KARDASHEV Scale (types 0 to VI)

In 1964, Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev figured that civilizations can be categorized by the total amount of energy available to them. He defined three levels of civilizations based on their capacity to harness and use power. These have since been expanded by another four (in light of the increasingly wild speculations spawned by marrying mathematics and theoretical physics). 

The Kardashev Scale, as it is called, now lists 7 levels of civilizations based on their power consumption, and implicitly on their technological advancement and extension.

Earth by night

Type 0

A civilization that harnesses the energy of its home planet, but not to its full potential just yet.

As you might have guessed, that’s our good old human selves. We’re currently at about 0.73 on the Kardashev Scale. It is presumed we’ll reach type I in about 100 years, give or take, depending on how fast our technology advances and how diligently we procreate.

 

Type I

A civilization that is capable of harnessing the total energy of its home planet.

This is where we’re heading, whether we want it or not. The good part would be that we’d achieve an ultimate peak, the bad part is that we’d then soon have more energy demand than supply, because evolution can’t be so easily halted. We’d have to leave Earth and start pumping other planets for their worth, or even milk our own star directly for its power.

Regardless, becoming a type I civilization is overall a good thing. At least in fiction.

As a type I civilization, we would be capable of controlling Earth entirely. Maybe even influence the weather, control volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, influence global flora and fauna, geological makeup, plate tectonics, etc. That’s pretty awesome! On the flipside, we’d have to recycle everything to get by.

 

Type II

An interstellar civilization, capable of harnessing the total energy output of a star.

This is the next stage in the evolution of a civilization, and presumes a level of technological development that allows for gigantic constructions and utmost efficiency. Dyson structures come to mind here, which are gigantic constructs meant to harness the energy of stars.

I imagine a type II civilization would not just built these megastructures, but also inhabit them and completely control what goes on inside them. It would control the orbit of all planets in that system, harvest asteroids and comets at its leisure, and basically consume the entire solar system. An intimidating power to behold.

dyson sphere

Type III

A galactic civilization, capable of inhabiting and harnessing the energy of an entire galaxy.

Here we start to venture into truly sexy science-fiction territory. Or am I the only one getting all flushed and tingly at imagining this scale of evolution? *fans herself*

A type III civilization would span the entire galaxy, colonizing and controlling numerous systems. It would be able to harness, store and use the energy output of all stars within that galaxy. Such a civilization would use planets like building blocks, being able to move planets from one solar system to other, merge solar systems, merge stars, absorb supernovae, and even create stars. The galaxy is their playground, and everything in it becomes a toy. Even galactic cat shit, if accidentally dug out. Probably here on Earth.

 

Type IV

A universal civilization, capable of harnessing the energy of the whole universe.

This civilization would be supergalactic, able to travel throughout the entire universe and consume the energy output of several—possibly all—galaxies. Think of that real estate size!

It would also be capable of projects of gargantuan proportions, such as manipulating space-time and tinkering with entropy, thus reaching immortality on a grand scale. An essentially indestructible and highly utopian civilization.

Multiverse_by_CryptFiend

Type V

A multiverse culture, capable of harnessing the energy of multiple universes.

Welcome to metaphysics! Leave your common sense at the door, and count your strings before entering.

No doubt a child of the increased popularity of string theory, the type V civilization would outgrow its own universe. It would span countless parallel universes, being able to manipulate the very structure of reality.

Find that hard to imagine in practical terms? You’re not alone. We’re all friends here. Have a cookie.

 

Type VI

Even more abstract is the type VI civilization. The type VI exists outside of time and space, and is capable of creating universes and multiverses, and destroying them just as easily. It’s similar in concept to a deity.

It’s hard to imagine a story with such a civilization, since its perfection and indestructible nature would offer little conflict potential. Unless, of course, you’re a lower type civilization waiting to be chewed, swallowed, and digested by one such type VI monstrosity. Recipe for paraversal tragedy.

 

Related post:

Blowing up the Kardashev Scale – The Black Hole Alternative

 

* * *

          This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, April 2014.          

In 2012, my K post was — Kudos and Karma

118 Replies to “The KARDASHEV Scale (types 0 to VI)”

  1. I learned about this principal a while ago from my brother. And, he explained in his usual way to high concept for me to grasp sort of way. I think when I was fourteen or something.

    Now that I’m older it is a lot easier to grasp (ie possible for me to understand).

    It is fun to imagine the type of tech, culture, society that would be in a Type 1 and up civilization. Even if you took on humans they would become alien as they advanced. Which is the most fun part for me about writing sci fi is the weridness.

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      1. NASA is now watching HD 164595 for mysterious signals. The star is 95 light years from earth, and has an older sun similar to ours.

        If this signal is from extraterrestrial aliens, what type of civilization would you might think it to be?

        I though possibly a type II civilization.

        If our signals are 75 years out, then we may have 20 more years before they become aware of us on earth.

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      2. I think it is time to recognize dimensionless zero point consciousness. ALL beings are created equal, with the exact same potential.
        “Advanced” really only means that there appears to be some who are harnessing more of the infinite, limitless supply of source energy than others!!! Cease all your comparisons and you will tap into the “ALL”! There is nothing beyond you, or outside of your mind. Everyone is a vastness beyond comprehension !!! Stop trying to figure ANYTHING out. Blessings ‍♂️!!

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      3. And I think it’s time to recognize rubbish. Does a clam have the same potential as a human? How about a chimpanzee? Sorry , the DNA is just not there….not at ALL. Put down the bong, and look around you. Your metaphysical hypothesis sounds like that drool Timothy Leary was peddling in the 60’s. “Dimensionless zero point consciousness”…Walt Disney called it imagination.
        Peace!

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    1. To achieve a class 1 civilization we will need a class 1 government installed first,Global Governance is required to manage world affairs.Harnessing power from the earths magnetic field,volcanism,hurricanes,static electricity,water current,tide,the moon and sun alignments,solar flares,etc.Harnessing earths vast power sources will happen when we have Global Governance.

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      1. I don’t believe that such a civilization would need to designate Political Affiliations..when we, or another civilization reaches this level of Social, and technological advances I think believe political parties will seem to be rather..well primitive. Especially if, and when humans reach a level 2, or 3 civilization…

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      2. That’s exactly what mankind doesn’t need. In the future, I would see all power being decentralized. Not further put into a dystopian authoritative structure.

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      1. Q isn’t mean by Q standards. Think about it. For what, six seasons, he resisted the urge to rearrange the orifices on Picard’s face or turn the Earth into a black hole.

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    1. Solar energy counts as a type I energy source, but we’d have to consume the amount equivalent to Earth’s capacity, and for that we’d have to either completely plaster our planet with solar panels, or — and this is why we’d have to be a type I — we’d have to harvest that energy directly in space.

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      1. I think you would have to be able to harness the total energy from the sun/star. Like a Dyson sphere is built around a star capturing all of its energy. But that takes an enormous amount of resources. We would have to harvest materials from other planets to even have enough raw materials.

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  2. What. A. Cool. Post! Fabulous! Never, ever has this scifi junkie heard of such a thing. This post completes me! I’m bookmarking and following. Thanks for sharing!!! rsmccoy.blogspot.com

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  3. Firstly, if you are in any way offended by what I’m about to put forth just know that I’m not sorry and I would appreciate constructive input 🙂
    Personally I’m currently sitting on the fence about how the universe came about so here’s my thought: what if a type VI being is who we call God?
    That seems like the most logical thing because evolution frankly has too many holes (there’s too much order for it to make sense) and creation is too rigid an idea based on a book written by man (assuming the Christian Bible as that is what I was tought).
    So I’d really like some feedback! This idea has plagued my mind for a while now! 🙂

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    1. I can’t be offended by ideas, mostly because I value an open and inquisitive mind and a sense of wonder and curiosity. And also because I’m an atheist, in case you were worried I might take offense by assuming God could be an alien. 🙂

      It’s entirely possible that what early human civilizations have thought to be deities were in fact aliens, visiting Earth. It’s also possible that our galaxy (and by a fantastic extension, the Universe) is the creation of a species with nearly infinite power. It’s also entirely possible that the human concepts of deity are just that, concepts, inventions, and that there is no “creation” to speak of at all.

      Sorry for opening the possibility of more questions than giving you any answers, Tumisang, but there is also another possibility. The Big Bang Theory (the theory that states the Universe, and in fact, all of reality) has had a beginning, a point of “creation”, is just one theory of existence. It’s a theory, not a fact. Another theory, that of Plasma Cosmology, states that the Universe had no beginning and will have no end, that it is eternal and endless, in constant change and evolution, and infinite in its variety.

      The fact that nature seems ordered is part of the definition of evolution — only those creatures and plants survive, which make near perfect use of their environment and their own abilities. The result of any evolutionary line (here on Earth, or in alien ecosystems) will always be beautiful, efficient, ordered and entirely understandable through study. That’s the beauty of it. 😉

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      1. Dear Veronica
        There is also another theory big bang and big crunch cycle. In that case a universe expand for a time interval and then start contracting again until it reach the point that universe become singularity again

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      2. There’s also the superstring theory big bang theory. Where in a cycle universes collide once they decay to create a new universe which decays in a heat death which collides with another universe in an infinite cycle.

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      3. I am not an expert on astrophysics or even science, but have had a strong penchant for astronomy since I was a teen. I keenly follow updates on space exploration. I believe there is, and has been a wealth of life, even intelligent life, across the galaxy and across the unexplored universe. Possibly exceeding the figures that Drake’s formula suggests. Life as we know, tends to be self-destructive and also had the potential to start all over again. The prospect of various levels of intelligent life forms coexisting across geographies in a galaxy intrigues me, sometimes to the extent of appalling me. I neither with or against this idea. Thinking a little harder, we would realize that advancing to a level 2 on a scale of 7 would actually throw the need of having naturally born planets out of relevance! Such a species would have developed the potential to build self-reliant and inhabitable structures bigger than what we know today as planets. The most recent detection of a suspicious signal has a multitude of odds against to prove its credibility as extraterrestrial. On top of that, It could not have been sent from a level 2, as they have no reason to contact a species that they know are inferior. For a level 4 or 5 civilization, a galaxy reduces to a little playground, possibly colonized or even remodelled, making us extinct.

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    2. There is fossil evidence that evolution happens. Regardless of how life came about, the principles of natural selection are proven. What you need to keep in mind is that it takes millions of years just for small changes to occur. Lucky for us life has been around for over one billion years.

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      1. A type two society, one that harnesses the full power of a star, makes a type 1 irrelevant, since, with advanced enough particle collides, the hypothetical civilization could be able to replicate the power of a small star without first needing to harness their planet’s power
        Also, harnessing the power of a planet involves more than covering it with solar panels. Fully harnessing its geothermal power and harvesting every atom of matter would also be necessary.

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  4. I knew about this when I was 6 years old, I was discouraged about believeing in this, however I put it into motion when learning about Nuclear Engineering came absolutely natural to me like I already knew nuclear engineering, I am a natural engineer. Physics comes natural to me like being 6 years old and predicting the flipping of a tractor trailer and watching it unfold before my eyes. Allot of humans on this planet don’t posses the natural intelligence to know nor distinguish the knowledge of “aliens” actually residing in a type 6 civilization which to these people is a phenomena called God, God being the creator of all things, well “Aliens” so to speak are God. They indeed create Universes and they can actually communicate future events on earth to selected human inhabitants like myself. I dreamed in 2006 in July a tsunami would take place in the week of Christmas, yes I made an attempt to communicate this with News channels, and they hung up on me, well 12/26/06 a mega tsunami hit Sri Lanka and the surrounding area, 10,000 people perished.

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      1. What an idiotic comment. I say this because when you criticizing someone by questioning whether they are considered a “prophet of the lord” or not is simply an argument of what kind of way we should or shouldn’t label someone. It doesn’t matter if you call them and/ or the phenomenon of sensing what will happen before it happens as a “prophet of the lord thing” or a banana. The fact of the matter is it happened. Now can we stop insulting each other’s egos long enough to figure out the implications of the deeper meaning of this phenomenon for humanity…I guess not.

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  5. America now controls the weather in secret in a study called H.A.R.P an installation in Alaska that is kept by the hush hush law.
    They bend the Ionosphere to create tornado, rain, and hurricanes. It doesnt come as a surprise that ever since 2000 it has rained every week ? Every week where before we’d go up to three weeks without rain ???

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  6. I want to know that is it possible that one day we could reach that level of KARDASHEV Scale where we could become god and do whatever we want to do like creating universes, change the past or everything we could just want to do like omnipotence . And what kind of level of scale we could reach beyond this scale.
    Please reply of my answer

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    1. If we ever reach that level, we’ll most likely not resemble ourselves as we are now. We would be so different, so “alien” to our current thinking, that it’s mostly beyond our current ability to imagine how we might evolve into that. Of course, no speculation is wild enough for fiction. 😉

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  7. This article has some very hard-to-understand concepts that are put very simply very well. I think the Kardashev scale is a great way to look at what we need to accomplish. However, the way a Type VI civilization is described here is impossible. While one can transcend a place of origin, by expanding outward, one cannot transcend dimensions (time and space); where would one go to do so? If one did go anywhere, they would still live in the dimensions they started with. That being said, this is a great rticle

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    1. We absolutely do NOT know that. That is assumption and assertion – the bane of all absolute theories (religious or scientific) is that they have, to this date – been proved wrong over and over and over. This one, IMHO, is likely to be proved wrong likewise.

      Sorry, I don’t need to think this is “all there is” that we can experience anymore than the world was all there was, the solar system was all there was, the galaxy was all there was, or most recently, the observable universe was all there was – and that nothing existed beyond those things depending on what period you were in.

      Regards

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  8. The current human Kardashev rating of 0.73 does not mean that we use 73% of the available energy on earth. The interpolated scale (which was created by Carl Sagan) is logarithmic, because as civilization grows our energy consumption increases exponentially. Current global energy usage is approximately 0.2% of the available energy of the planet.

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    1. They say we’re .73 on the scale but that doesn’t mean we use 73% of available energy. All that means is that we are almost at a type 1 status where we will be able to harness the full energy at our disposal. We could be closer than that by now but we can’t alter our energy use to using just clean green energy since we’ll put a whole industry out of business and a lot of people will lose their jobs.

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  9. I like the Kardashev scale. It explain the concept different level of control in stage of evolution. I find it simple to understand, even though the technology – or what is beyond technology in the conventional form. Already now we develop some very interesting technology, like nano based materials, AI, that will drive the evolution further.

    So time time I started on a story, basically a romance between a human in a level 1 world, involved with a half human in a near 2 world. During the romance they stumble on a level 6 entity, that get involved in their romance and give them a parallel universe to explore. In this parallel universe they explore various races.
    So far the story started as a romance, and pretty much still there, but I am tempted to rewrite it and make it more evolution focused.

    Personally I believe that the human race would be able to reach the type 1 stage, but fear we will not reach type 2 unless we change fundamental – and knowing how human have been over time, I fail to see that happen.
    Anyway it could be a theme for a story 🙂

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    1. Sounds like a really intriguing story idea, for sure, Bent! Speculating about hugely advanced civilizations is terrific fun—reading awesome stories that allow us to visualize such a civilization, are priceless.
      I hope I can write such a story someday too.

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  10. What about zero point energy? Some say its theoretical since as far as we know no one has yet harnessed this energy. But would having zero point energy move you on up the type statuses alone?

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    1. The extraction and use of zero-point energy has definitely been debated, but it is still considered impossible due to a number of scientific improbabilities. Yet, for speculative purposes, if a culture would indeed be able to harness that energy, it would definitely jump the Kardashev scale. 😉

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  11. Having fantastic and almost unimaginable ideas about creation is the basis to the beginnings of minutely comprehending the possibilities. What is obvious is we know little on how to even use our own noggins let alone conceptually state we know how this all came to be. I feel we’ve had type 2s here previous whom were well versed in using the natural planetary energies with their constructions on the 33rd parallel. Now having moved on to mining other planets including our own moon for it’s enormous amounts of iridium and directly capturing the suns fusion energy. ( search NASA videos of planet size orbs casting a net around the sun). I would further believe that a type 3 may have been responsible for the incident that conveniently took us from a planet of giant lizards to one of hominids. With the hominid proto type arrivng on the same vessel that caused their demise. Its clear that even the type 2s that were here were obsessed with a particular point in the constellations, one they layed (and had us build) worship to. Further reaching into the 33 arks of soul resonance one can similarly agree that levels of consciousness exist for an elite Elohim that created what is called the universe. I would be excited to welcome in our official standard of a type one and am certain avtype 2 status will quickly follow. First we must destroy a few inhibitors like based on our monetary system. Including the people getting rich off fossil fuels will block any change of platform entirely. Also the capture of energy as a cost basis is akin to the head of Poland Spring saying water should never be a free commodity or privilege to public. These ideologies are the last blocking pillars of a global front.

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  12. I want to know that is it possible that one day we could go beyond KARDASHEV Scale i mean to say we should not restricted our thinking only this extent. I have read so many articles regarding this scale where they have written that one day kardashev civilization would create universes, change past and future and also could do time travel literally like a god do anything they want become omnipotance. May be we could go to new civilization scales.

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  13. My opinion on this kardashev scale is very optimistic it is give us to think that what could happen with us when we would reach that scales perhapes very different type of devlopment we would encountered. My question is that to you veronica is that do you think that this scale of human technological advancement might give us that power to change anything that we want to change? In some article i have read that type 7 civilization would not be different from GOD in any manner . we could get power to time travel,making new universes, resurrect the dead or any wild imagination which we can think may be after finish this scale future civilization would innovate new scale for civilization who would evolve after them.

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  14. I often contemplate the nature of time. It doesn’t do me any good.
    I’m always late.
    Never encountered this scale before. But I like it. More food for thought.
    I also like the way you write. Will send an email for a copy of your book.
    Ciao

    Like

  15. Very nice article but there is a fatal flaw in the science behind the Kardeshev scale. The problem is that it makes a very aggressive assumption about the rising use and need for energy. What type of civilization would need a Dyson sphere? Long before a civilizations energy needs reach anywhere the levels of an entire star, they will have vastly better and cheaper methods of acquiring that energy than building Dyson sphere’s.
    The real problem is that the energy output of an entire star is a stupidly large figure. If we consider interstellar empires covering even a million stars or more (eg the Galactic Civilization in Star Wars) its quite conceivable that their total energy budgets might still put them as only class I civilizations – by the Kardeshev scale just above our own present state. In fact it might even be suggested that the less energy a civilization needs for a given size and complexity the more advanced its technology has become.

    I have been interested in FTL physics and the possibility of FTL travel for years. My conclusion is that while energy budgets for FTL travel are likely to be truly enormous, any method that ends up being possible is likely to minimize most of the total budget to near zero.
    (To travel faster than light one of two basic requirements must be met, either imaginary or negative mass. – To have imaginary mass an object must have a net mass superposition that adds up to zero. However by this rule photons with a net mass of zero also have an imaginary mass. A new extension suggests that to go faster than light you need a net negative mass.
    The basic idea ends up with an FTL drive that is basically little more than a bucket containing negative matter. The difficult part is that negative mass matter should naturally travel faster than light and so would not be easy to catch or hold on to.)

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  16. Very flawed concept and some bad assumptions throughout.

    Level 1
    “… capable of harnessing the total energy…”

    Not OMNIPOTENCE at the local scale, just harness all the energy. These differ.

    “As a type I civilization, we would be capable of controlling Earth entirely. Maybe even influence the weather, control volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, influence global flora and fauna, geological makeup, plate tectonics, etc. ”

    Completely errant and erroneous assumptions. Maximising all energy potential of a planet DNE controlling plate tectonics, etc.

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  17. Fascinating article: I find the Kardashev scale a very useful way of communicating the idea that intelligence is a physical process.

    I have written about the Kardashev scale a couple of times that may be of interest, most recently in relation to the Paris climate change deal, which I think can be discussed in this context. The idea is that this sort of political development is necessary as we progress toward s type 1 status:

    http://moflomojo.blogspot.com/2015/12/towards-kardashev-type-i-civilisation.html

    I also, not entirely seriously, posit the idea of the Big Bang as an “industrial accident” in a type IV or V type society …

    http://moflomojo.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-conspiracy-theory-of-everything.html

    Warm regards

    Peter

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  18. Veronica Sicoe, according to your logic, theoretically you can go up to type 11 civilization. Using mathematical model of String Theory explaining multiple dimensions. You so far announced up to 6th. Technically 5 cause 6 is not fully correct. Altho there is sixth dimension of phase space which involves all hypothetical time changes in all hypothetical time universes usage of energy from which will make them type 7! Moreover, seventh dimension which is 6th dimension of all possible outcomes of all possible choices from all possible events within all possible timelines, represented by a single point in seventh dimension by (Point) infinity or Calabi- Yau manifold, can be imagined as a line on which (Point) infinity(s) are alined in 2 dimensional scale of near infinite points with ONE different physical state or constant that vary also creates near infinite sources of energy, full usage of which will make them type 8! Eighth dimension is a near infinite points with two different physical state or constant that vary within the system, can be imagined as X,Y coordinate grid. This simply multiplies (almost infinity) by (almost infinity), usage of all such energy from all point infinities will make you a type 9! While 9th dimension is finite but unbounded 8th dimension of Point infinity 10^500 manifolds of landscape multiverse over 9 dimensional hyper sphere. Full understanding and usage of such will make civilization type 10! At last, 10th dimension is ultimate assembly, system of ninth dimension as a point, the omnivores. Not fully developed yet. Usage of all energy in all constants and laws point infinities in tenth dimension will eventually make civilization the last 11th type (GODS)!!!!!!!!! If you feel like it is too complicated, you are not alone. First go somewhere on youtube and see what are 10 dimensions in String Theory. Knowledge all by itself is awesome, be smart and think open minded! High school rules)

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  19. I’ve been reading lots on this lately, and I must compliment you. This was the most brief yet informative and fun article I have read thus far. Thank you so much for taking the time to put this out. I’m off to check out more of your writings now because of this.

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  20. If u guys want to see a type 1 civilization it’s called a Resource Based Economy proposed by The Venus Project. Where in this civilization money is obsolete and everything is free to human beings. That is where we need to go in the next 100 years.

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  21. I have been reading quite a lot about these theories. One questions I asked myself: what would society look like in a civilization on a higher scale? How would they be organized?

    Are there people who discuss this?

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  22. Still a great article here Veronica, well done. Here’s one to speculate… The universe is abundant with plasma. Each time I strike a match, I try to visualise it way waaay zoomed in and slowed right the heck down. Hmm methinks it could just be a tiny replica model of our gigantic universe. OK so I just consumed the entire energy of that mini cosmos to light my quite ungodly cigarette lol 🙂

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  23. I read a book in 1975 or ’76 called The Next 10,000 Years, author’s first name Adrian, probably last name in my notes somewhere but not recalled right now. I don’t recall mention of Kardashev but central premise is overview of Earth’s civilization developing according to growth in energy consumption, suggesting stages toward attaining type II. Using Moon colony as base for mining asteroid belt, for example. A plausible tactic for seeding Venusian atmosphere with heat-adapted microorganisms to reverse greenhouse effect, make rain, oceans, habitable conditions. My own futuring took a page from this book back then, & it’s remained a lifelong influence. Maybe we’ll get there yet, who knows. Keep the faith, V.

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  24. Human beings are not capable of managing the energy they have, let alone harnessing energy in profoundly greater density. Science fiction writing is usually long on hard, and short on soft.

    Like

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