Civilization began slowly, but now it's off to the stars

May 22 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Author William McGaughey interprets world history as five civilizations appearing in succession over the last 5,000 years, each introduced by a new communication technology. In the first civilization, humans only wrote in graphic form, then about 3,000 BC alphabet writing was devised, and this began the second civilization.

This eventually led to the invention of the printing press in China in 593 AD and the world’s first printed newspaper in Beijing in 700 AD. These events were the beginning of the third civilization. The fourth civilization started in the 20th century with electronic recording and broadcasting, which is now merging into the fifth civilization which utilizes computer communications and the Internet, and is still in its infancy today.

Leaving the communications world, futurists ponder where we go from here. In 1964, Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev introduced a method for categorizing civilization advances based on energy consumption which he divided into three stages, Type I, II, and III civilizations. Type I harnesses all the energy from its planet, Type II, its sun, and Type III, its galaxy. Others have since added Type IV, which controls extra-galactic energy including dark matter that makes up 73% of the universe.

Today, physicists rate Earth at Type 0.7. Astronomer Don Goldsmith. reminds us that Earth receives only one billionth of the suns energy, and that we utilize just one millionth of that; however with the help of advanced nanotech and greater-than-human intelligence, many predict we could reach Type I status by 2100 or before. (cont.)

As a Type I civilization, we will generate millions of times more energy than is available today. New technologies will enable us to increase space travel, control the weather (no more danger from earthquakes, hurricanes, or tsunamis), and become a peaceful society where it is no longer viable to waste energy on intra-global conflict.

Radical technologies developed during the 2100s could thrust us into Type II status by as early as 2200, enabling us to mine all the sun’s energy. In Parallel Worlds, physicist Michio Kaku suggests that Type II’s would establish space colonies throughout their solar system and with development of faster-than-light-speed spaceships, explore planets orbiting nearby stars.

Kaku says that when we evolve into Type III, which forward-thinkers believe could happen as early as 2500, we will understand and control energies where space and time become unstable. We will derive enormous power from every star in our galaxy enabling instant wormhole travel to vast distances in space, and nanobots that can time-travel into the past. We will meet other species and join them in a Star Trek-like federation, and “boldly go where no man has gone before”.

Spending a millennium or so in Type III will finally bring us to Type IV. Wild dreams now become possible as we approach the ultimate limits of our journey through the cosmos. We control all power in the universe in this distant time, and can visit our ‘other selves’ in parallel universes. We can even form new ‘baby’ universes and play “creator” to exotic life forms that evolve. Type IV’s will roam throughout the ‘multiverse’ in a never-ending quest for new intelligence.

Although it took 2 million years for our species to leave the safety of the forests and build a modern civilization, it may take only a few hundred years to leave our friendly solar system and begin this amazing adventure to the stars.

Many dream of this future, but the world now stands at a turning point, socially and politically. Can humanity proceed without destroying itself? If we focus on a “magical future” instead of relatively insignificant grievances, the answer is an enthusiastic yes.

What part of the future will be the most exciting?

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Comment Thread (3 Responses)

  1. Hmm… Worldwide energy consumption is 15 terawatts. Power available on Earth is 74 petawatts. So we are using what? 0.02%? Where the heck is everybody getting this Type 0.7???

    Posted by: johnfrink   May 23, 2008
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  2. In Parallel Worlds, author Michio Kaku assumes that a civilization grows at a modest rate of two to three percent in its energy output per year, which he believes is tied to economic growth. Kaku believes this calculates into reaching Type I status in approximately 100 to 200 years.

    However, the late Carl Sagan was more optimistic. He thought that molecular nanotech, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence advances would speed evolution and it is very possible, he said, that humanity could reach Type I by as early as the end of this century.

    As a positive futurist, I side with the more optimistic view.

    I admit though, that there could be several mitigating circumstances that would delay this “magical future.” Bio terrorists killing a million or more would delay progress; conservative politicians ruled by religious beliefs could also impede technological advances; and natural disasters such as an encounter with an unexpected asteroid or comet would really put a damper on progress.

    But we can hope that this great future will unfold without too many problems. Stay positive and it might happen. Comments welcome.

    Posted by: futuretalk   May 23, 2008
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  3. Although Kardashev used energy control as the primary unit of measurement to rate advance civilizations, today, many physicists see a variety of other areas that determine civilization advances.

    1- The Internet is an emerging type I telephone system. It has the capability of becoming the basis of a universal planetary communication network. 2- The economy of the type I society will be dominated not by nations but by large trading blocs resembling the EU, which itself was formed because of competition from NAFTA. 3- The language of our type I society will probably be English, which is already the dominant second language on Earth. 4- Nations, although they will probably exist in some form for centuries to come, will become less important, and as trade barriers fall and the world becomes more economically interdependent. No single nation is powerful enough to stop this march to a type I civilization. 5- Wars will change and eventually disappear with the emergence of a planetary middle class more interested in tourism and the accumulation of wealth and resources than in overpowering other peoples and controlling markets or geographical regions. 6- Information will be almost free, encouraging society to be much more democratic, allowing the disenfranchised to gain a new voice, and putting pressure on dictatorships. All of these facts indicate that humanity could reach type I civilization status by the end of this century. Comments welcome.

    Posted by: futuretalk   May 23, 2008
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