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When Will Humanity Become a Type I Civilization? This New Paper Says It Could Take 350 Years

Human civilization can be traced in a variety of ways. Some metrics include population increase, empire rises, and falls, and our technical ability to strive for heaven.

Calculating the amount of energy humans use at any time is one direct metric. Our capacity to harness energy has become one of humanity’s most beneficial talents as it has spread and progressed.

Nikolai Kardashev, a Russian astronomer, proposed the scale in 1964. He divided civilizations into three categories: planetary, stellar, and galactic civilizations.

A Type I species can harness energy on a scale of stellar energy reaching its home planet. Type II species can harness the energy of their home star while Type III species can harness the energy of their whole galaxy.

Carl Sagan popularized the concept by proposing a continuous scale of measurement rather than just three categories.

On average, roughly 1016 Watts of solar energy reaches Earth, and mankind consumes about 1013 Watts. On the Sagan sliding scale, we’re now at 0.73.

This topic is explored in an article that was just published on the arXiv. The research examines the three basic energy sources: fossil fuels, nuclear power, and renewable energy.

However, this is not without its limitations.

In the most severe event, such as burning every ounce of fossil fuel available, climate change might reach a point where we will all be trapped in a so-called Great Filter. If you’re extinct, you can’t become a Type I civilization.

The team discovered that mankind could achieve Type I status no matter the practical constraints. On the flip side, we won’t get there until at least 2371.

This isn’t always a terrible thing. The Kardashev Magnitude is a crude instrument for assessing the scale of human technological development.

While modern civilizations consume a lot of energy, we’ve seen how breakthroughs in low-power computing and better efficiency have allowed us to reduce or even eliminate our energy usage while still progressing technologically.  

The paper has been published here.