The Kardashev Scale – Type I, II, III, IV & V Civilization

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The laws of Physics say that energy in a closed system is always conserved. Such as in our own Universe energy is conserved. It may be converted, concentrated and dissipated, but it’s never lost. James Prescott Joule built an apparatus which demonstrated this principle in 1845. That led to the one the several basic energy units known as “Joule”. A joule is the amount of energy required to lift the apple weighing 100 grams, one meter against the pull of the Gravity of Earth. Here is an interesting example of energy for your concern, it takes about one hundred joules to send a tweet. Metabolism of an average size person going through a normal day generates about 100 joules per second or one hundred watts.
Image Source:  ieet.org

Soviet scientist, Nikolai Kardashev divided the civilization into three Levels on the basis of their energy sources. Nikolai Kardashev speculated that a Level one civilization would acquire the technology needed to harness all the power available on a planet like Earth. 

According to some calculation we are 0.16% there. Humans today generates about two and a half trillion watts of electric power. So here is the comparison to the power of earth, Deep inside our planet the radioactive decay of elements like uranium generates 44 trillion watts of power. When this heat rises to the surface, it drives the movement of the earth’s crustal plates, it also powers volcanos. This energy is just a fraction of energy released by the large Hurricane in the form of rain. 

At the storm’s peak it can rise to six hundred trillion watts. There is one human technology, which has exceeded this level and that is the AN602 Hydrogen Bomb detonated by the Soviet Union in 1961. It unleashed some forty hundred times the combined power of Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombs. It generated about 5.3 trillion, trillion watts. That is 5.3 yottawatts.

A level 2 civilization would achieve a constant energy output 80 times higher than the Russian’s super bomb. That is equivalent to the total luminosity of our sun. A medium size star that emit three hundred and seventy five yottawatts. They use solar flares, they use the power of sun itself to power up their huge machines. They use energy of sun directly. The Milky Way Galaxy has about 200 billion stars and has an estimated total luminosity of three trillion of yottawatts.

A three followed by 36 zeros. The author Isaac Asimov imagined a galaxy scale civilization in his foundation series and this civilization is the level 3 Civilization. Isaac Asimov in his foundation series called it Galaxyier. This is super organisms that surpass through time and space to draw upon all the matter and energy in the galaxy. But this is still not the most upper civilization because there are many other energy sources in our universe. Beyond Level 3 there are Quasars and black holes.

This all can be summarized in a short form that a level 1 civilization has used all the fossil fuel of its home planet and now has full control on the Planet itself. They even control Weather of the planet. Level 2 Civilization has used up all the fuel of its planet and now they are using the full power of their parent star to generate power enough to run their heavy machines and level 3 civilization has even used all the fuel of its parent star and now are using the energy of whole galaxy itself in order to meet their needs. 


Kardashev believed a Type IV civilization was ‘too’ advanced and didn’t go beyond Type III on his scale. He thought that, surely, this would be the extent of any species’ ability. Many think so, but a few believe there is a further level that could be achieved. (I mean, surely there is a limit?) Type IV civilizations would almost be able to harness the energy content of the entire universe and with that, they could traverse the accelerating expansion of space (furthermore, advance races of these species may live inside supermassive black holes). To previous methods of generating energy, these kinds of feats are considered impossible. A Type IV civilization would need to tap into energy sources unknown to us using strange, or currently unknown, laws of physics.

Type V. Yes, Type V might just be the next possible advancement to such a civilization. Here beings would be like gods, having the knowledge to manipulate the universe as they please. Now, as I said, humans are a very, very long way from ever reaching anything like this. But it’s not to say that it cannot be achieved as long as we take care of Earth and each other. To do so, the first step is to preserve our tiny home, extinguish war, and continue to support scientific advances and discoveries.

Where are we in this scale? You can say we are Type Zero we don’t get energy from stars or galaxies, but we only rely on fossil fuel.  We get our energy from dead plants, oil and coal. In about 100 year we may can attain the Level 1 position. We are progressing toward the first Level of civilization every day with the advancement in technology.

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