Will Graphene Unlock Secrets of the Big Bang? (Weekend Feature)
Comment of the Day: "What Will a Civilization a Million Years Ahead of Earth Look Like?"

"What Will a Civilization a Million Years Ahead of Earth Look Like?"




For one of this weekend's features, we thought it would be interesting to revisit Carl Sagan's question: "What does it mean for a civilization to be a million years old? We have had radio telescopes and spaceships for a few decades; our technical civilization is a few hundred years old ... an advanced civilization millions of years old is as much beyond us as we are beyond a bushbaby or a macaque." 

Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at City University of New York believes that Sagan's question is no longer just a matter of idle speculation. Kaku writes that that "one day, many of us could gaze at the encyclopadia that contains the coordinates of perhaps hundreds of Earth-like planets in our sector of the galaxy. Then we will ponder with wonder, as Sagan did, what an intelligent civilization a millions years ahead of ours will look like."

Soon, humanity may face an existential shock as we discover Earth-sized twins of our planet orbiting nearby solar systems. This may usher in a new era in our relationship with the universe, so that we will never see the night sky in the same way. Realizing that scientists may eventually compile an encyclopedia identifying the precise coordinates of perhaps hundreds of Earth-like planets, gazing at the night sky, we will forever after wonder if someone is gazing back at us.

Kaku takes up where some/one of the world's pioneer astronomers left off with a definition of civilizations in the universe that mimics the work of Russian astrophysicist Kardashev. Inspired at the age of five by a Moscow Planetariumshow about Giordano Bruno, Kardashev definined three levels of advanced civilizations based on how they harness energy to fuel their societies.

All three categories of civilizations, even the most advanced Type 111, would still be bound by the laws of physics that allow us to predict the behavior of the universe from the subatomic world to the large-scale structure of the universe, through a staggering 43 orders of magnitude (a factor of 10 million billion billion billion billion).

Type 1 civilizations would have a technological level similar to ours at present, as measured by total energy consumption. Carl Sagan estimated that Earth qualifies as a Type 0.7 civilisation.Type 11 civilizations would be capable of harnessing the energy of their own star -constructing, for example, a Dyson Sphere. Type 111 civilizations would be able to utilize energy on the scale of their own galaxies. Kardeschev and Kaku believe there is an extremely low probability of detecting Type 1 civilizations and suggests that type 11 or 111 civilizations would make better targets.

Kardeschev calculated that the energy consumption of these three types of civilizations would be separated by a factor of about 10 billion. In 1963 Kardeschev searched for traces of the more advanced type 11 and 111 at the 920 MHz wave length creating an uproar of excitement thinking he had discover signals from a Type 11 civilization that later proved to be an ordinary quasar with a large red shift.

A similar uproar occurred in 1967 when regular signals were detected by radio telescopes at Cambridge, England, which turned out to be the first discovery of neutron stars. The Kepler telescope, launched in 2008, is able to identify terrestrial planets – rocky worlds rather than gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn. By the end of this year, it will scan as many as 100,000 Sun-like stars up to 2,000 light years away, and perhaps identify hundreds of Earth-like worlds by detecting the slight loss of light they cause as they pass in front of their mother star.

"All this, Kaku predicts "will stimulate an active effort to discover if any of them harbor life, perhaps some with civilizations more advanced than ours. According to the laws of planetary evolution, any advanced civilization must grow in energy consumption faster than the frequency of life-threatening catastrophes, such as meteor impacts, ice ages, or supernova explosions. If their growth rate stays any slower, they are doomed to extinction. Thus, this places mathematical lower limits on the growth rates of these civilizations."

Kaku believes along with Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson, that although human civilization has only recently begun to master planetary energies -fossil fuels, passive solar, wind, geothermal and nuclear fission, and may one day soon crack nuclear fusion-that, within a century or two, we should attain Type I status. In fact, growing at a modest rate of 1 per cent per year, Kardashev estimated that it would take only 3,200 years to reach Type II status, and 5,800 years to reach Type III status.

By definition, Kaku proposes that an advanced civilization must grow faster than the frequency of life-threatening catastrophes. Since large meteor and comet impacts take place once every few thousand to million years, a Type I civilization must master space travel to deflect space debris within that time, which should not be much of a problem. Ice ages may take place on a time scale of tens of thousands of years, and so a Type I civilization must learn to modify the weather within that period.

Artificial and internal catastrophes must also be negotiated. Global pollution is a mortal threat for a Type 0 civilization, but not a Type I civilization, which has lived for several millennia as a global force and necessarily achieved ecological balance with its home planet. Internal problems such as wars do present a serious recurring threat, but emerging civilizations have thousands of years in which to solve their racial, national, and sectarian conflicts.

Since it would take centuries or even millennia for a Type I civilization to terraform nearby planets, its inhabitants will have plenty of time to work out their internal differences on the same planet before they finally leave the mother planet in any significant numbers. The only serious threat to a Type II civilization would be a nearby supernova explosion, whose sudden eruption could scorch their planet in a withering blast of life-destroying gamma-rays.

The most potentially interesting civilization is a Type III civilization, "for it is truly immortal. It has exhausted the power of a single star, and has reached out to other star systems. No natural catastrophe known to science has the capacity to destroy a Type III civilization."

Faced with an exploding supernova, a Type 111 would have several alternatives, for example altering the evolution of a dying red giant star which is about to explode, or leaving this particular star system and terraforming a nearby planetary system.

However, there are roadblocks to an emerging Type III civilization. Eventually, Kaku posints out, it bumps into Einstein's theory of relativity. Nothing can travel faster than light, which is about 300,000 kilometers a second (for a possible loophole, see the end of this article). Since the universe is so vast and space is so empty, this absolute speed limit tends to hold back a civilization's successful expansion.

Dyson estimates that this roadblock may delay the transition from a Type II to a Type III civilization by perhaps a million years or more. So what is the most efficient way of exploring the hundreds of billions of stars in the galaxy? Kaku writes that the solution is to to send fleets of 'von Neumann probes' throughout the galaxy (named after John von Neumann, the Hungarian-born mathematician who defined the mathematical laws of self-replicating systems).

von Neumann probe is a robot designed to reach distant star systems and create factories that will reproduce copies of themselves by the thousands. For von Neumann probes, a planet is a less ideal destination than a dead moon; these have no atmosphere and no erosion, which means the probes can easily land and take off and can 'live off the land', using naturally occurring deposits of iron, nickel and other minerals to build replicants for dispersal in search for other star systems.

Arizona State University physicist Paul Davies, has even raised the possibility that a von Neumann probe could be resting on our own Moon, left over from a previous visitation in our system aeons ago -the plot foundation of the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Originally, apparently, Stanley Kubrick began the film with a series of scientists explaining how von Neumann-like probes would be the most efficient method of exploring space. Unfortunately, at the last minute, Kubrick cut the opening segment from his film, and the famous monoliths – von Neumann probes – became mystical entities that triggered human evolution.

The irony of a search for a Type III civilization is that they probably wouldn't resemble anything we'd be able to recognize immediately.

The image at the top of the page shows the temperature of gas in and around the two merging galaxy clusters, based directly on X-ray data. 

Read Kaku's brilliant essay in its entirety at Cosmos Magazine.

Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus' --Explores Origins of Human Existence and the Eternal Question: "Are We Alone in the Universe?"

The Daily Galaxy via Cosmosmag.com and "The Eerie Silence" by Paul Davies


The sad thing is if a type 3 civilization found us,it would be Equivalent to us finding some bacteria in our showers. And we just spray and wipe that bacteria away as being a nuisance.

interesting article but why does the link in the paragraph about the quasar that was mistaken for a type II civilization link to a wiki article about a gun?

i have pondered this question many times. here are my conclusions. First off i believe the universe itself has an evolutionary roadblock for species that dont leave their home planet/star system and colonize others as eventually all planets/stars will die. As for traveling such vast distances many use the speed of light limit to claim its impossible. Well that logic is flawed. yes the light speed limit is true and perhaps cannot be broken by any means, but ther are loopholes as the spped of light applies to travel within space. Warp drive/ wormholes/ bending space/ teleportation as well as other possible methods we haven't even dreamed off may very well be possible. What would a million year old species look like? Well we have about 7000yrs of "civilization" and only a century or so of "modern" civilization. Show today's world to someone from 100yrs ago theyd think this is some magical fantasy land, we believe we can imagine a world 100yrs into the future, or at least believe we'd be able to understand it and not mistake it for fantasy. To a certane extant that may be true as ou knowledge of science today is sufficient to allow us to make the world of the 22nd century comprehendable, but just remember that as much as the world changed between 1914 and 2014 it'll be nothing compared to the magnitude of change between 2014 and 2114 since science and technlogy is advancing exponentially. Anything beyond that enters the realm of pure fantasy, for all we know we might discover some science/technology that allows us to control the nature of reality itself, who knows. As for a million years ahead of us?? Who knows what the limits of technology truly are, ther may not even be a limit, eventually a civilization can progress to the point that each member is truly a god that can do anything. Take for example "energy beings? potrayed in sci-fi. These noncorporeal beings have transcended a physical form. Everything we know today says that that will probably always remain purely fantasy, its impossible based on any scientific explanation we can muster up, even taking liberties with scince and just trying to make up an explanation for such existence, well just doesn't make sense, but we don't really know do we? Maybe energy beings do exist, created technologically or through natural evolution. Its fun to brainstorm what the pinnicle of 1 million years of science can do. I personally believe that the most advanced thing we can imagine creating is a smalled than nanotechnology that will permeate our bodies and allow us full control of our bodies to a molecular level, as well as control all the forces of nature, allow us matter manipulation, teleportation, complete integration with uber powerful quantum computer, etc.. Well that would for all intents and purposes BE magic, at least to us. I don't know, what do you guys imagine as the highest level of technological achievement that can possible be achieved?

this is the dumbest stuff i have ever heard of like legit people

Hello, people told me that 500 million years ago, the dinasaurs where preset and the world was same as our modern world now.

They told me that the gods like jesus christ, hindu gods, like krishna, sri ram, shiva, jewish leaders like potoki, chinease gods like budda destroy the world.

So just want to ask does any one here know about this. Iw ould like to know more about it.
If you do just write stuff here but yea just to correct u, people did exist back then and the cars and technology was better then today's technology. By advanced cars i mean they looked very cool and all the computers looked very advanced then todays ones.

They told me that they

Who knows about the gods that used be on earth before jesus and other gods destroyed the world. I want to look at a picture. Can someone who knows this or who has relitives existing back then, please provide me with a picture.

Thanks for sharing this post, it is both informative and interesting article for me!

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It depends on how fast the civilization progresses. If is polynomial rate, it may have reached a power level of year^n. After 1,000,000 years,on a 4th power time-line for example, it may have reached a power level of (10^6)^4 watts, or 10^24 watts, just below Type 2 civilization.
On a 6th power level, it would reach (10^6)^6 or 10^36 watts, or type 3 civilization.
Exponential growth of n^year is much greater. If n=4, then after only 1000 years power level is 4^1,000 or over 10^600 watts! Such civilization are difficult to maintain in the long run.

What will life be like in 1 million years times or 1 billion or 100 googles or infinity or something more then infinity or google times more then infinity?
Will we see a tree? So something so advanced beyond advanced word and going further that you might just live on Planet Earth and it's all there.. I don't imagine what life will be like


Lots of thoughts and ideas....

Looking at it from a different point of view...

There are God, god, and Angels...that means, there are up to a few Billion year old civilizations (Type II and Type III) out there.

And they all travel something called hyperspace means and to different dimensions (Universes?)

That means, we will have several planet to move in to, in say 500 to 1000 years from now (with our advanced friend's help who have been here in the past)

So, think about speculations...Thank you.

I think a little humbleness could be helpful in these sort of discussions. We humans gloat a lot. We think we are advanced enough to "get" it, and understand almost everything. I think we are wrong.
21st century humans wanting to learn a way to describe a type III civilization is akin to a mouse wanting to learn nuclear physics. I don't believe we even have the brain power to "know" what a type III civilization might look like.
For instance, if we visit an an ant colony and even disturb the colony as a means of forcefully communicating with them, still the ants won't "get" it. They will instinctively behave as though some natural phenomenon has befallen on them.
Similarly, if a type III civilization even wanted to communicate with us, we probably don't have the brain power to "get" it, or to even begin to comprehend what they are trying to say.
Also, considering the vastness and age of space and the statistis, what are the chances that a more advanced civilization would be more advanced only by a few hundred or thousand years (e.g., star trek/star wars type of aliens). Statistically speaking, its more likely that they would be more advanced by millions of years, if not more. Kardashev's energy consumption method might work up to some level, but I don't think it would work for civilizations that are millions of years more advanced than us.
For instance, what if an advanced civilization at some point realizes that "advancement" means to expand inward into subatomic, rather than outward into space? There are too many variables that are beyond our comprehension, but it sure is fascinating stuff to speculate.

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