The Kardashev Scale


“Dyson Sphere” by Kevin M. Gill is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By: Isabel D'mello, Journalist

We can only make assumptions about the nature of alien life; if it even exists. Since we cannot study evolution and the beginning of life on multiple planets, there is currently no way to know if alien life is familiar or weird to Earth’s life. However, there is one thing that all life has in common: energy.

The Kardashev scale was invented by Nikolai Kardashev. It uses the amount of energy at a civilization’s disposal to measure its advancement. The original scale had three types of advanced civilizations:

Type I – A civilization that can harness the energy of its entire planet.

Type II – A civilization that can harness the energy of its solar/planetary system.

Type III – A civilization that can harness the energy of its galaxy.

Modern astronomers have added on to this scale:

Type IV – A civilization that can harness the energy of an entire universe.

Type V – A civilization that can harness the energy of multiple universes.

And of course, there’s Type 0, which doesn’t rank on the scale. This level is about where humans are since we haven’t conquered the whole planet yet.

With that said, why haven’t humans reached Type I?

It remains true that technological advancement takes time; each generation is more knowledgeable than the one before it. We didn’t go from caveman to cashier overnight. However, there have always been ways to expedite the process. Humans are a divided species; we have countless wars, and loyalties lie not with the species as a whole but to specific groups (countries, states, religions, etc.). Taken on a galactic scale, the conflicts between these groups are civil. Altruism was never an option nor even close to one. Our greed and arrogance by far supersede any selflessness, and they are our downfall.

These characteristics project into the visualization of extraterrestrial life. When we picture aliens in the media or our imaginations, they are often violent and a threat to humanity. Without knowing anything about alien life, we are quick to make such assumptions. If anything, aliens reflect ourselves more than extraterrestrial life. We picture aliens attacking us because we are a lesser advanced species. We anticipate this because if we were in the position of the aliens, we would attack the more primitive species, so we expect the same extraterrestrial life.

In conclusion, if we want to advance as a society and species, we must work together and respect our differences.

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