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From a Wikipedia article I just came across for the first time while talking to twinbee about renewable resources (pursuant to my entries from 15 Mar 2006 and 25 Mar 2006):
The Kardashev scale is a general method of classifying how technologically advanced a civilization is, first proposed in 1964 by the Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev. It has three categories, based on the amount of usable energy a civilization has at its disposal and increasing logarithmically:

  • Type I - A civilization that is able to harness all of the power available on a single planet, approximately 1016 W. The actual figure is quite variable; Earth specifically has an available power of 1.74×1017 W. Kardashev's original definition was 4x1012 W. (It was identified as a Technological level close(st) to the level presently attained on earth, "presently" meaning 1964.)

  • Type II - A civilization that is able to harness all of the power available from a single star, approximately 1026 W. Again, this figure is variable; the Sun outputs approximately 3.86×1026 W. Kardashev's original definition was 4x1026 W.

  • Type III - A civilization that is able to harness all of the power available from a single galaxy, approximately 1036 W. This figure is extremely variable, since galaxies vary widely in size. Kardashev's original definition was 4x1037 W.


All such civilizations are purely hypothetical at this point. However, the Kardashev scale is of use to SETI researchers, science fiction authors, and futurists as a theoretical framework.

The article is highly speculative, but fascinating. Here are a few commentaries.

On the Kardashev scale in SF: It seems that Dyson spheres and Shkadov thrusters (Dyson "hemispheres" for moving solar systems on solar sail power) are just the beginning. Interesting, too, that zero point technology (such as the Ancients' Zero Point Module technology in the Stargate SG-1/Atlantis universe) is considered low-grade "Type III" despite the relatively lower power (as opposed to work) output of the actual Ancient ZPMs. Also, I noted with interest that all FTL travel (possessed even by the Twelve Colonies of Kobol on Battlestar Galactica, barely a Kardashev Type I civilization before their holocaust) is considered a typical Type III capability.

On the Kardashev scale in real life: It's speculated that the transition from a Type 0 Kardashev civilization (present day) to a Type 1 one (expected by 2200) will be accompanied by either self-destruction or a technological singularity. What do you all think? Personally, I think it shows that futurists have been a little optimistic in predicting a technological singularity in this century; however, it may be the case that estimates of Singularity Year based upon the Kardashev scale are also pessimistic.

On a related note, did anyone catch this roundtable discussion on CNN's Welcome to the Future with Miles O'Brien last week? I posted about it to tessier_ashpool (the main AI community on LJ) and singularity_now.

Apropos of the title: American Movie Classics (AMC) is airing a Godfather Trilogy marathon today and tomorrow (Tuesday). "We're bigger than U.S. Steel" is from The Godfather, Part II. It's been about 20 years since I first saw that on network TV, though I didn't see the first part until a little over a year ago, so it was confusing to me.

--
Banazir

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
cretaceousrick
Apr. 4th, 2006 04:38 pm (UTC)
"Able to harness" doesn't equate to actually harnessing such; there are tremendous energy resources on this planet, from wind and waves to the heat and motion of the mantle, that we barely scratch the surface of. I'd go so far as to postulate that our current civilization is Type 0, regardles of our ability to fling spacecraft beyond the reach of the solar system.
banazir
Apr. 4th, 2006 04:43 pm (UTC)
It's Type 0 all the way down
We are indeed Type 0, and will remain so until at least 2100 (by optimistic estimates), barring the discovery of zero-point technology or a breakthrough in fusion technology.

The transition to Type 1 presumes either fusion plants or something significant using orbital tethers (space elevators) and orbital thin solar platforms (at least a few tens of square kilometers, up to millions, i.e., beaming down a significant fraction of such energy as hits the earth).

It's humbling to reflect that all human civilization to date - Stone, Bronze, Iron Age - has all been Type 0.

--
Banazir
cretaceousrick
Apr. 5th, 2006 12:17 pm (UTC)
Zero, shmero.
I didn't even think of that - all the solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface (and the moon as well, if you ask me) qualifies as energy that should be harnessed before reaching a satisfactory Type I level. 2100 is optimistic. But who knows, maybe this old species will surprise us. I hope so.
banazir
Apr. 5th, 2006 03:09 pm (UTC)
Except that we can't GET all of "it"
It's just a numbers game, you see: there's no requirement that we collect all of the radiation on the surface of Earth itself, just harness (i.e., capture or generate) an equivalent amount.

Fusion will do, since heavy water is a far more abundant resource. Like "fresh" hydrogen and carbon (biofuels, fuel cells), it's considered renewable, even though hydrocarbons are the basis of both biofuels and fossil fuels. The definition of renewable energy requires only that "the energy resource [is] replaced quickly by a biological process", etc. (Emphasis added: in geological or even paleontological terms, fossil fuel doesn't take that long to form. In terms of civilization, biofuel takes long enough.)

We humans are full of surprises... sometimes.

--
Banazir
kauricat
Apr. 4th, 2006 04:49 pm (UTC)
I love your icon
It is by will alone I set my mouth in motion.
It is by the mints of Mentos that breath acquires freshness,
the lips acquire tingles; tingles become burnings.
It is by will alone I set my mouth in motion.
banazir
Apr. 4th, 2006 04:55 pm (UTC)
Mentat: The Freshmaker
Thanks - I'm glad you like it! Feel free to take it if you like.

Here's my "power" icon again, for clarification, since I just changed the icon to "geek" (Dr. Daniel Jackson from SG-1) while searching for an "energy"-themed icon. I will eventually migrate this to "metahumor" here on LJ and put it up on GreatestJournal.



Thanks again to nakki for making it for me in response to this request!

--
Banazir
uncut_diamond
Apr. 4th, 2006 06:26 pm (UTC)
I would question the placement of FTL systems in Type III - just because you've managed to find a funny trick of physics doesn't mean you're all that advanced.
banazir
Apr. 4th, 2006 07:26 pm (UTC)
FTL: a trick of physics or a steady incremental development?
FWIW, I agree entirely - especially considering the ghetto FTL that the Colonials have. They are always remarking on how the Vipers' FTL is weak, as is even Galactica's.

--
Banazir
zaimoni
Apr. 4th, 2006 07:41 pm (UTC)
The presumption is that FTL is supposed to be energetically expensive.

Of course, first we want an FTL ether (to prevent all those icky time-travel paradoxes). Then hyperdrive loses because it is at right angles to the universe (just like tachyons).

That leaves a tossup between teleportation and warp drive. Either of these could be energy-cheap, in abstraction. The only necessary energy lossage is gravity waves for both of these. And teleportation could be managed by coordinate-system-twiddling (cf. Heinlein's The Number of Beast for a reasonable speculation). The current QM approach to teleportation would be energy-intensive, as are current warp drive designs (e.g., Alcubierre).

The least energy intensive gravity wave generator that has been (claimed to be) constructed used 500MW plane sparks. Unfortunately, the authors of the paper couldn't work stress-energy tensors, thus didn't realize that their apparatus was fully within General Relativity. They promptly de-credibilized their paper by opining otherwise.
uncut_diamond
Apr. 4th, 2006 07:49 pm (UTC)
you know far more about this than I. My undergrad degree says science - but the word political is before it.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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