Humans love to put labels on pretty much everything — even stuff we know nothing about, like undiscovered alien civilizations. Over 50 years ago, a Soviet astrophysicist invented a power ranking for ETs, just so we could tell how they compare to use Earthlings.
“The Kardashev Scale was invited in the 1960s by a Russian man named Nikoli Kardashev,” the founding editor of Futurism, Jolene Creighton, tells Inverse.
“It basically gives us a way to measure how advanced a civilization is and looking to the future it could help us better classify any alien civilizations that we might encounter.”
On Wednesday, Creighton and Futurism managing editor, Sarah Marquart, hosted a booth at the Inverse Lunar Eclipse Party and Science Fair at Caveat in New York City that explained the origin and development of this extraterrestrial ranking system.
Each category in the Kardashev scale measures technological advancement based on the amount of energy a civilization is able to harness from its surroundings, they explained. Kardashev originally designed his system to have four categories, Type 0 to Type 3 civilizations. Later on, famed theoretical physicist Michio Kaku upped the ante by adding a fifth rank to the scale.
Humanity is ranked at a lowly 0.7, because we haven’t fully learned how to use all of the energy sources the Earth provides.
“To get to a Type 1 you have to utilize the energy of your entire planet,” said Creighton. “So all of the solar energy that reaches you, using things like geothermal energy, wind, and tide. We haven’t done that completely, we haven’t mastered all energy sources. At Type 2, you’re able to successfully utilize the energy output from your entire star. So perhaps you use a Dyson Sphere to capture all the energy and you’ve mastered things like nuclear fusion.”
The further along the scale you go, the more insane the requirements to advance become. Once a civilization passes the Type 2 mark, those aliens are essentially zipping through their galaxy, tapping into the energy of multiple stars.
“At Type 3, you’ve basically had the opportunity to go beyond your home planet and go to different stars and are able to take energy from all of these different areas,” explained Marquart. “Type 4 is basically unachievable — that’s like encompassing the power of the entire universe, essentially.”
While we haven’t had the opportunity to use the The Kardashev Scale yet, we can rest assured that if we ever do run into some aliens, we can rank ‘em. Unless they’re a Type 4…then they’ll probably squash us.