SETI public: Redefining Kardashev Type Civilizations

Date: Thu Dec 02 2004 - 19:27:57 PST

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    Stephen Ashworth <<about:blank>>

    Dear Dr Peiser,

    Kardashev's scheme for classifying civilisations (even as refined by Carl
    Sagan) suffers from the major flaw that it does not connect with the study
    of human history. (Ref: CCNet 156/2004 - 29 November 2004: TOWARDS A

    It was designed for use by astronomers, for whom the only usable definition
    of a civilisation is one capable of communicating over interstellar
    distances. But this enables it to be completely ignored by historians,
    politicians and social philosophers. The strongly progressive
    philosophical foundation of Kardashev's scheme thus has no impact on the
    strong denial of the reality of progress in much modern thought.

    I propose a refinement of Kardashev's scheme, as per the following sketch.

    Level 0: the biological evolution of a land-based animal with large brain
    and hands capable of grasping tools.

    A threshold in brain power is crossed, which leads to --

    Level 1: tribal society. Early humans with language, fire, stone tools,
    art and artefacts. Apparently our species underwent a population jump as
    it entered this stage. This level stable on the order of 100,000 years.

    Agricultural revolution leads to --

    Level 2: either village society, based on subsistence agriculture, or
    pastoral society, based on animal husbandry. Such life-support systems
    allow a second jump in population density and overall numbers.

    A refinement of social organisation leads to --

    Level 3: regional civilisation, with cities supported by an agricultural
    hinterland, strong social hierarchies, writing, monumental building,
    employment of beasts of burden, adoption of the universal religions.

    Scientific / industrial revolution based on fossil fuels leads to --

    Level 4: global civilisation, with declarations of the rights of man,
    progressive marginalisation of universal religions by materialism, use of
    printing and mass literacy, concentration of population in cities, and a
    third population rise.

    Continued scientific / industrial revolution based on nuclear energy,
    computing, materials technologies, etc leads to --

    Level 5: interplanetary civilisation, based on solar power and nuclear
    fusion, large-scale use of solar system resources, and with the boundaries
    between organisms and machines increasingly blurring. Materialist
    philosophy merges with a sense of the innate purpose of the universe.
    Another population jump seems predictable.

    A further intensification of industrial power would lead to --

    Level 6: interstellar civilisation, based on interstellar spaceflight and
    colonisation, and on (?) antimatter production, (?) complete human/machine
    symbiosis, and (?) unknown and unpredictable intellectual view of the

    Kardashev's levels 1, 2 and 3 should therefore be redefined as 4, 5 and 6.
    That would make explicit the continuous sequence of evolutionary
    improvement possible from our pre-human ancestors a million years ago to
    our post-human descendants a million years hence.

    It would also make the social and political implications of such a
    progressive philosophy clearly apparent to all.

    Stephen Ashworth FBIS
    Oxford, UK
    1 December 2004

    Stephen Ashworth, Oxford, U.K.>

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