Kardashev Terrors

By on 11:22 PM

Alright, so today I'm gonna go over one of the most commonly used (and thus misunderstood) measures of extraterrestrial life, the Kardashev scale.

So, what is the Kardashev scale? Basically the Kardashev scale is a system used to measure a civilization's level of technological achievement. The basic (and paraphrased) scale itself is rather simple:

Type 1: A civilization uses all the energy a planet can produce.

Type 2: A civilization uses all the energy a star can produce

Type 3: A civilization uses all the energy a galaxy can produce.

Now, this scale is nice and everything but what about a civilization that's in between 2 stages? Luckily, the late, great Carl Sagan developed a formula for determining a civilization's place on the scale:


In his formula K refers to the level of the civilization, and MW is the civilization's energy usage for interstellar communications measured in megawatts. He then calculated that at the time (1970) we were around a .7 on the scale.

There also exists several hypothetical additional levels to the scale that usually follow the same pattern as the previous three. For example, a Type 4 would be a civilization that uses all the energy its universe can produce. One particularly interesting aspect to a Type 4 civilization is the fact that any action they take would be indistinguishable from nature due to the fact that there would be no “natural world” to compare it to.

Unfortunately the Kardashev Scale has several massive flaws. One of the major ones is the energy issue. Kardashev's scale rewards civilization's not by their knowledge or efficiency, but by their energy usage. What this means is that a civilization with incredibly efficient technology and massive amounts of knowledge will forever be a Type 1 civilization if they make no use of extraterrestrial energy. On the other hand a massively inefficient, Mordor-like civilization will rank higher on the scale as long as they take advantage of several planets.

There are ways around these flaws though. One common way is to use another method alongside the Kardashev Scale to measure a civilization, similar to using several units to measure the size of a car. Common methods include using technological efficiency, information usage, and scarcity measurements alongside the Kardashev Scale to gain a more complete and accurate understanding.

So what does the scale really mean? Well, if we assume that there's at least some basis to it then it can mean a lot of things. If you're an optimist like Mister Michio Kaku then it means we're just a couple hundred years away from reaching Type 1, at which point we'll be forced to really start focusing on space travel if we want to avoid massive problems. If you're a pessimist though it means we don't even have a glimmer of hope against an invading civilization that's even a quarter of the way to Type 2 (every second the sun gives off enough energy to power our civilization for thousands of years).

One thing to consider with the Kardashev scale is what it actually means for the civilization. As a civilization approaches the next level resources will become more scarce. For example, as a civilization's energy consumption approaches the maximum its planet/star/galaxy can provide the cost of the energy it produces will also increase. One similar “real world” example is the use of oil and other fossil fuels here on earth. As new energy is needed (for example, to power automobiles in China, India, and Brazil) the value (prices) of the energy increases.

One of the major implications of this scenario is the possibility for massive political and social upheaval. In fact, one common explanation for the previously addressed Fermi Paradox is that civilizations might have a high possibility causing a Malthusian catastrophe or destroying themselves every time they approach the next major milestone. If this were the case and the probabilities of destruction were reasonably high then the number of civilizations beyond Type 1 would be drastically reduced, even more so for any following levels. 

In other words, don't put money on humanity ever getting to Type 3.

P.S. Is anybody else freaked out by the idea of a Type 4. The implications of one existing kinda scare the crap out of me.

Rusty is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans planning for any and all kinds of apocalypse when he's not busy reading, writing, or yo-yoing. Keep up with him and Rachel on Facebook and Twitter to get cool, space related news or click here to read more of his thoughts on the terror of alien invasion novels.

About Syed Faizan Ali

Faizan is a 17 year old young guy who is blessed with the art of Blogging,He love to Blog day in and day out,He is a Website Designer and a Certified Graphics Designer.


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