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What is the Kardashev scale?

Updated on April 14, 2016

The Kardashev scale is a means of measuring how technologically advanced a civilisation is. There were originally three civilisation types (Type I, II and III), however in more recent years there have been extensions to this (type 0, IV and V). It was first proposed by the Russian astronomer Nicolai Kardashev.

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A type I civilisation (also known as a Planetary Civilisation) would have the power to maximise the energy emitted by their local star at their planet as well as taking full advantage of other methods for creating energy; e.g. hydro, thermal, wind, ocean etc. Another more radical way to achieve type I status would be for a civilisation to harness the whole energy output of their home star. Theoretical Physicist and Futurist Michio Kaku has stated that It's a planetary scale civilisation that can control earthquakes, the weather - and even volcanoes. It will have taken advantage of every inch of space and built cities under the ocean.

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A type II civilisation can maximise the entire energy output of it's entire neighbouring star. Also, there is nothing known to science that can destroy one of these civilisations. Even before Moore's Law, Kardashev noticed that humanities energy expenditure was steadily increasing by around 3-4% annually for the following 60 years, he then used this information to work out that it should take us 3,200 years to reach type II status. The best and easiest way to achieve type II status would be for us to build a Dyson sphere however this is currently well beyond the realms of possibility with the technology of today.

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The transition from Type II to Type III would be the longest transition taken. It would probably take approximately 100,000 to 1,000,000 years for a civilisation to make this transition (that isn't very long from a cosmological perspective). For a civilisation to have truly reached type III status they would need to have exploited every star and scrap of matter in a K3 galaxy for energy. To an outside observer, a galaxy like this would look totally invisible except for the heat coming out of it which would register on infrared with around a 10 micron wavelength.

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On the Kardashev scale, our civilisation hasn't even reached type I status. Mathematical calculations have helped us work out that we are between 0.7 & 0.72 on the Kardashev scale. However, it is predicted that we should reach Type I status within the next century or two.

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    • Sneha Sunny profile image

      Sneha Sunny 16 months ago from India

      I never knew about this classification of civilization.

      Well, we'll get there!

      Thanks for sharing. :)