On a scale of 1 – 5, how practical is the Kardashev Scale and what it entails?

As an aspiring immortal I have a vested interest in our species future. Part of that is what type of civilisation I will live in. Once you start looking at the long term outlook, you look for solutions to the practicalities of overpopulation and sustaining an exponential population growth (aside from birth control and policies limiting number of children etc). One such solution is the Kardashev scale proposed in 1963 by a Russian chap named Nicolai Kardashev. The scale outlines a means of classifying a civilisation based on its technological ability to capture energy. The scale is often quoted by futurists and astronomers are scanning the skies for evidence of Dyson Spheres in a hunt for evidence of E.T. Whilst I’m a firm believer in alien life, I think as a species, we’re barking up the wrong tree or in this case, scale. Here’s why.

“A Type 1 civilisation would be able to harness all the energy that arrives on its world from its neighbouring star e.g. The Sun”. Whilst very clean and idyllic, a stable fusion generator (once invented) would produce far more bang for buck than massed arrays of solar panel farms.

Dyson Spheres are just a load of balls

“A type two civilisation will harness the power of its sun within a Dyson Sphere”. Yes stars do pump out a fair bit of energy and capturing it all in a bubble would be great. Or would it? Firstly the Spheres are going to have to be set a fair distance from the Sun to not perish from the radiation it’s pumping out. The Sun is pretty big as it is and also contains 99.8% of the solar systems mass, with a fair chunk of the remainder contained within Jupiter.

So the question is, where is all the material going to come from to build a Dyson Sphere? Even if we harvested all the rocks from the Oort cloud and the Kuiper Belt, we’d have a lot of rock, but not much else. Yes some of it will be mineable and have various metal content, but there’s no guarantee as to the percentage of resource rich asteroids floating out there and minding their own business.

And we’re unlikely to strip the solar system’s planets and moons for a Dyson Sphere.  Preservationists and colonists would probably be somewhat miffed and likely obstinate.  Building a Dyson Sphere would be a monumental effort which would require fleets of robots to implement which would require metal and fuel etc. detracting from the great bubble itself.

Who’s going to pay for it?

Well, if Donald Trump were to have a say in it, then the Mexicans most likely. Something like this is going to literally cost the Earth, and then some. Mankind would have had to have reached a system of governance that did not require money. Can you imagine the cost of such a thing? And let’s face it, it would probably end up like the Millennium Dome (BT stadium for all you younger kids)… i.e. massively overpriced, not completed on time and constantly in need of maintenance.

Let’s just assume that we decide to go ahead with it and all those little snaggle ducks are lined up and shot. Now we have a ruddy great big soccer ball around the sun absorbing all that energy and pissing off budding astronomers, romantic stargazers and anyone wanting to travel in or out of the Sphere will probably have to pay an exorbitant toll. But that’s ok, because in 1000 years, we’ll have invented wormholes powered by miniature black holes or antimatter/matter engines which completely bypass the toll anyway. However…

Balls get punctures

Maintenance would be an issue, as it’s unlikely our best efforts are going to create a particle free solar system. Therefore, a fairly comprehensive method of cleaning up the solar system from man/alien-made space junk, comets, asteroids and the itty bitty rocks zipping around at a rate of knots are enough to put a sizeable dent in any solar array.

ESA Sentinal 1-A: A football sized puncture caused by a few millimetres sized microparticle

ESA Sentinal 1-A: A football sized puncture caused by a few millimetres sized microparticle

Now you’re just being silly

According to old Nicolai, Type 3 civilisations will harness the power of their galaxy, and some really unimaginative fellows have reached into their own black holes and hypothesised type 4, using the energy of the universe and type 5, the multiverse.

And for what? Why the hell would we need all that energy? Aside from staving off entropy itself, there are not many things that would require complete control of all the energy in existence. Unless by monopolising it, the energy company can hike the rates as much as they want?

In the relative short term, with recent discoveries such as the potentially habitable Earth like planet near our stellar neighbour, Proxima Centauri B; it’s safe to assume that even if it wasn’t habitable, in the 1000-2000 years that it would take for us to be a Type 2 Dyson Sphere race, mankind would have spread its wings and left the nest.

Featured Image  Fractal Dyson Sphere by Ebarucam45

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