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Toward a Type I Civilization

by Michael Shermer, Jul 21 2009

To solve our energy problems we need more than new technologies,
we need a new type of civilization

Last week I reviewed the first half of my lecture at TAM 7 (The Amazing Meeting 7) on rising above traditional left-right politics. The second half of my lecture was based on my belief that in order for our species to survive we need to make the transition to a Type I civilization. This visage of our future is based on some work I did last year, that resulted in an opinion editorial in the Los Angeles Times:

Our civilization is fast approaching a tipping point whereby we will need to make the transition from nonrenewable fossil fuels as the primary source of our energy to renewable energy sources that will allow us to flourish indefinitely into the future. Failure to make that transformation will doom us to the endless political machinations and economic conflicts that have plagued our civilization for the past half millennium. We need new technologies, but without new politics and economics we cannot make the transition. The transition to what? To a Type I civilization. Let me explain.

In a 1964 article on searching for extra-terrestrial civilizations, the Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev suggested using radio telescopes to detect energy signals from other solar systems in which there might be three different types of civilization: Type I can harness all of the energy of its home planet, Type II can harvest all of the power of its sun, and Type III can master the energy from its entire galaxy. Based on our energy efficiency at the time, in 1973 the astronomer Carl Sagan estimated that we are a Type 0.70 civilization. Current estimates put us at 0.72. As the Kardashevian scale is logarithmic — where each increase in power consumption requires a huge leap in production — we have a ways to go to make the transition.

Fossil fuels won’t get us there. Renewable sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal are a good start, and coupled to nuclear power could eventually get us there, once the technologies are developed. But the problem is not just a technological one. We have a proven track record of remarkable technological solutions to survival problems, as long as the political will and economic opportunities allow them to flourish. We need a Type I polity and economy, along with the technology, in order to become a Type I civilization. What is a Type I polity and economy? Global democracy and capitalism. We are close. Consider how far we’ve come in the long history of our species from Type 0:

Type 0.1:
Fusion-fission groups of hominids living in Africa, where group membership is fluid, technology consists of primitive stone tools, within-group conflicts are resolved through dominance hierarchy, and between-group violence is common.
Type 0.2:
Bands of roaming hunter-gatherers who are related to one another as a kinship group, with a mostly horizontal political system and an egalitarian economy.
Type 0.3:
Tribes of individuals linked together through kinship but with a more settled and agrarian lifestyle than bands, with the beginnings of a political hierarchy and a primitive economic division of labor.
Type 0.4:
Chiefdoms consisting of a coalition of tribes into a single hierarchical political unit with a chief or big man at the top and with the beginnings of significant economic inequalities and a division of labor in which lower class members produce food and other products consumed by nonproducing upper class members.
Type 0.5:
States as a political coalition with jurisdiction over a well-defined geographical territory with its corresponding inhabitants over which it rules, with a mercantile economy that seeks a favorable balance of trade in a win-lose game against other states.
Type 0.6:
Empires as states that extend their control over peoples who are not culturally, ethnically, or geographically within its normal jurisdiction, with a goal of economic dominance over other empires through colonies.
Type 0.7:
Democracies that divide the sources of power over several institutions that are run by elected officials voted for by some citizens, with the beginnings of a market economy.
Type 0.8:
Liberal democracies and free markets that gave the vote to all citizens and began to embrace a nonzero win-win economic game through free trade with other states.
Type 0.9:
Democratic-Capitalism, now spreading across the globe through democratic movements and free trade agreements.
Type 1.0:
Globalism that includes worldwide wireless internet access, all knowledge digitized and available to everyone anywhere any time, a global economy with complete open economic borders and free markets where anyone can trade with anyone else without interference from states or governments, and where all states are democracies in which everyone on the planet has the franchise.

The forces at work that could prevent us from making the Great Leap Forward to a Type I civilization are primarily political and economic. The resistance by non-democratic states to turning power over to the people is considerable, especially in theocracies whose leaders would prefer we all revert to Type 0.4 chiefdom status. The opposition toward a global economy is substantial, even in the Industrial West, where economic tribalism still dominates the thinking of most politicians, intellectuals, and citizens.

For thousands of years we lived in a zero-sum tribal world where the gain of one tribe, state, or nation meant the loss of another tribe, state, or nation, and our political and economic systems have been designed to live in that win-lose world. But now we have the opportunity to live in a win-win world and become a Type I civilization by spreading liberal democracy and free trade.

I am optimistic because in the evolutionist’s deep time and the historian’s long view, the trend-lines toward achieving Type I status are inexorably upward. That is change we can believe in.


91 Responses to “Toward a Type I Civilization”

  1. John says:

    I’m hopeful also, because in the long term, there has always been forward progress in civilization. However, there have been reversals in progress of civilization, politics, economics and technology in the past (often with deadly results) that were ultimately short-term, but reversals just the same. I’m concerned that the continuation of wide-spread ignorance and poverty will make it possible (if not actually likely) that such reversals will happen again. I think that part of the solution is free trade and education, but I worry that resistance to such remedies will make long-term progress very slow when it really need not be.

  2. Rob says:

    @John — These reversals are entirely inevitable, but equally inevitable is the rise above that follows these downfalls — in the Middle Ages human civilization got knocked back several centuries, but managed to rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes to bring about the Renaissance, which has led us to the prosperity we see today. The world is certainly not perfect now, but it is better off than it has ever been. Sure, society may see the Dark Ages again (and probably will), but I am confident that we will bounce back up from it to take civilization to the next level and achieve Type I, Type II, and eventually Type III status. This is all assuming, of course, that we don’t blow ourselves up first.

    • JGB says:

      The Middle Ages didn’t knock back *human* civilization, just European
      (and maybe Mediterranean) – Aztecs and Aborigines were blissfully unaware of any such thing.

  3. foolfodder says:

    Globalism that includes worldwide wireless internet access, all knowledge digitized and available to everyone anywhere any time,…

    Does that mean no copyright? if so, what incentives are there for people to create books etc.?

    …a global economy with complete open economic borders and free markets where anyone can trade with anyone else without interference from states or governments,…

    So nothing to stop people or corporations using the cheapest energy source (fossil fuels) as irresponsibly as possible then?

    • Brian M says:

      “Does that mean no copyright? if so, what incentives are there for people to create books etc.?”

      But that is against individual property rights. Oh no! We may have stumbled upon a Michael Shermer Paradox.

      “So nothing to stop people or corporations using the cheapest energy source (fossil fuels) as irresponsibly as possible then?”

      Could not have put it better myself. But I may have also added, it allows necessary services to be handled by a competitive model that does not apply. Things like health care, where the supply is finite, but the demand is infinite. It is a prime example of things that capitalism cannot solve. I love my capitalism, but some things just cannot be fixed by it.

      • Patrick says:

        1) There are arguments on how copyrights reduce economic efficiency, I do not yet agree, but they exist
        2) Having copyrights does not mean something must be unavailable to you.
        3) The problem you seem to imply has to do with the tragedy of the commons. No one owns the air so we have no real way to assess how much benefit there is to gain from pollution and clean air and who benefits the most. So regulation is ok in this instance…but you made a failure in your assumption. Shermer was talking about Type I civilization…thats renewable energy system. It would be highly unlikely at that point that fossil fuels would be the cheapest source of energy.

      • Peter says:

        But that is against individual property rights

        No it isn’t. Copyright is in opposition to (real) property rights.

      • Tim says:

        “Real” property rights being what, a right to what other people have?


        Nothing could be more totalitarian than the notion that you do not even have the right to what is in your own mind.

      • Michael Andrew Thompson says:

        On the scale listed above mankind managed to move right ahead WITHOUT copyrights and so I am confident that it would continue to do so without them. Think about it, everyone here has contributed to this “Book” and did so without demanding payment or copyright. Take a read on any scientific BBS and your mind will be put at ease in regards to life without copyrights.

      • Tim says:

        To the contrary. Human civilization sat in a state of perpetual poverty until the American Revolution and the introduction of complete protection of property rights, including intellectual property. I also must object to the equating political discussion with the results of painstaking research. Such research can cost millions of dollars to produce and the type of system of government you would advocate would permit the cowardly theft of such work. Putting aside for the moment that not just research, but authors and artists of every type would stop in mass if condemned to slavery as reward for their contributions, the refusing of people access to the courts as a means of keeping that which is theirs is completely immoral. I can think of view notions more totalitarian than the idea that one does not even have the right to what goes on in their own mind. Sure, protect the land owners, protect the corporations, protect the factories, the farms, the mines, the home owners, the car drivers, these are all good things, but why do you say that the thinker shall be stripped of his rights?

      • Ryan says:

        I dont think researching renewable energy would cost so much since we already have it. I think its the big coperations who already have their money preventing such things. We have wind,solar,hydro,thermal energies. If anything wouldnt it cost more to improve the technology?

  4. Jim says:

    “I am optimistic because in the evolutionist’s deep time and the historian’s long view, the trend-lines toward achieving Type I status are inexorably upward. That is change we can believe in.”

    This is where I have a problem. I agree that moving to a Type I civilization would (most likely) be in our best interests, but I in no way think that there is any inevitable “progress” to anything, and that includes our own cultural development. We could just as easily slide “backwards,” wipe ourselves out completely, or just slowly die off without any great event. Progress is a myth, and there is no reason to think that humans truly are moving “upward” as in some Shellian notion of perfectibility. This, to me, seems to be the same kind of error committed by those who misunderstand evolution such that they think that we are the end result, and any further evolutionary change would be for the better, pushing us up some mythical evolutionary ladder.
    Perhaps I am misreading you. Perhaps this is not what you intended. If so, I apologize. But if there is truly a suggestion here that if we can only last long enough, then we will progress upward to a Type I society, then I think that view is wholly mistaken.

  5. Dax says:

    And this comment thread will devolve into a socialism-capitalism slugfest in three… two… one…

  6. aaron says:

    I love the idea of internet accesable anywhere on earth with a fuller bank of the worlds knowledge located therein, and the infrancisement of all the peoples of the earth.

    The shift from .9 to 1 can be achieved with the spread of the style of democratic/capitalist government variations present in Europe or America as a natural result of the desire of people for freedom and economic power balanced with systems for the greater good.

  7. Alex says:

    Actually there’s no reason why to become a Type I civilization we need democracy and capitalism. Consider that you say, “The forces at work that could prevent us from making the Great Leap Forward to a Type I civilization are primarily political and economic”, when the original Great Leap Forward happened in China under Mao, which technologically speaking improved China, but did cause widespread famine and death. There’s nothing stopping some future dictator succeeding in taking advantage of the energy of a whole planet.

    Oh and technically, “all knowledge digitized and available to everyone anywhere any time” is communism not capitalism. Where’s the price mechanism?


    Does that mean no copyright? if so, what incentives are there for people to create books etc.?

    Books, music, films will still be created even without copyright. There’s a natural altruism in humanity so some people will create these things for the common good, and there’s a natural love of some subjects in certain people which requires no monetary reward to get them to create these things. Consider that copyright was created in 1710, and before that didn’t properly exist i.e. for the vast majority of human history there was no copyright. And yet music and books were still created.

    So music and books will still be created when there’s no copyright, but how much? Probably not as much as now, what with the speed and power of the internet to disseminate information. And in the days before copyright, was there still the same proportion of authors, musicians etc? If not, then that means we would get less music etc even without the internet in a non-copyright age.

    I guess it depends how much less information would be created. If it’s only a bit less, then having no copyright would be worth it, due to the cultural benefit of sharing all that information. But if it’s too much less then…

    I guess this great communist experiment that is P2P will soon show us, won’t it?

    Will newspapers die?

    • Drew says:

      “Consider that copyright was created in 1710, and before that didn’t properly exist i.e. for the vast majority of human history there was no copyright. And yet music and books were still created.”

      I don’t necessarily think you’re wrong, but this is a non-sequitur. Prior to 1710 it was not technologically feasible to copy and distribute materials in violation of the intellectual property rights of the creator.

      People pointing to the apparent contradiction between free information and intellectual property law are on to something; we’re in the midst of a rethinking of intellectual property law. As recording (both audio and video) and publishing gets cheaper and cheaper we’re seeing more quality artists being willing to work for less; eventually maybe just for donations or advertising revenue.

  8. Tim says:


  9. Mike says:

    “…endless political machinations and economic conflicts that have plagued our civilization for the past half millennium.”

    Hahaha,then he proceeds to politically machinate and push his economics.He sometimes sounds like these religious nuts:”All these religious conflicts would end if you all would just shut up and accept Jesus.” LOL!

    • Patrick says:

      Think deep for a moment. If you have an economic system whereby the government can manipulate the economy is it not reasonable to assume that the government can manipulate the economy in such a way as to make war cheap?

      Furthermore, if you have a political system whereby people cannot express their concerns, especially if the concern is war then you have a system where the people who must pay for war and suffer the costs of war have ways to prevent war from happening.

      Which returns me to the first point, the people must be able to fully understand the costs of war…and that means no government manipulation of the economy through regulation, trade barriers, taxes, wage and price controls etc.

      That is, capitalism, free trade, and a constitutional republic make war expensive, the cost of war visible, and give people the means to express a disinterest in paying, fighting, and suffering from war.

      This isn’t religion, its reason.

  10. Jim says:

    I remember reading this article a year ago, and I agree with it as much now as I did then. I’m sure the majority of those who read this will disagree with the emphasis Michael places on the importance of free trade and free markets, but I agree with him that these are essential to a Type 1 civilization. They promote amity, tolerance, and productivity like nothing else.

  11. Max says:

    I wonder if in 1964, the Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev would’ve agreed that a Type I polity and economy is global democracy and capitalism.

  12. Max says:

    And after we reach Type I, we can strive toward a Type II civilization, like the Galactic Empire in Star Wars and the Borg Collective in Star Trek. You will be assimilated.

  13. MadScientist says:

    I believe that part of the war against terrorism should involve programs in developing nations which aim to educate people and provide them with gainful employment. Imagine the US government having large farms and schools in, say, Indonesia. Democratizing nations is another great challenge; barging in with guns blazing is an expensive way about it and not a good way either (way to go Dubbyah!). Unless the population is educated and has certain ideals, a state cannot support democracy. We have seen such failures numerous times as the US and European colonial powers ceded control to the locals throughout Asia, Africa, and south and central America.

    • Max says:

      “Imagine the US government having large farms and schools in, say, Indonesia.”

      How about large oil companies in, say, Saudi Arabia?

    • Tim says:

      Do you have any evidence to back up your opinion? All 19 hi-jackers on 9/11 were fairly well educated. Do you have any evidence that poverty causes terrorism? Do you have any evidence that ending poverty ends terrorism? Large farms? Like the Soviet Union? If you like the idea so much, why don’t you pay for it with your own money? When taking other people’s money, will you be taking our money here in the US or will you use the host nation’s government as a tool of wealth redistribution?

      P.S. We already do all these things, you are getting your wish and do not even realize it.

      • Dax says:

        I’m with you on this, Tim, however MadScientist has one point, though, and that is that for democracy to work you need an educated, involved public. This was something that the Founding Fathers realized, but we seem to have forgotten. This is also the reason why the west is run by ignoramuses. I think everyone here, no matter where on the political spectrum, can concede that most politicians (of all parties) are inherently inapt. We truly get the government we deserve.

        But back to regular transmission, and the capitalism-or-not debate. I think a type I society can only be reached if we agree that there are things that cannot be capitalized. Take science for instance. If we would let private entities determine what we’ll research a lot of fundamental research will come to a grinding halt, which inevitably leads to a slowdown of science.

      • Tim says:


        On the issue of science, I could not disagree more. First, I wonder if you realize what you say when you suggest there are things that can’t be “capitalized.” Do you realize you are advocating tyranny? What would you do to prevent something from being “capitalized?” Imprisonment, fines, what? We do not “let” private entities (YOU!!!, me!!!, Skeptic magazine!!!) do anything, they do not require our permission. The proposition therefore is what you are prepared to do to stop somebody from conducting research and when you take action to stop research you are, by definition, stopping research.

        With government money comes government influence; with government influence comes political agendas. The financing of scientific research by the state corrupts science for the service of the state. The nature of the state is not reason, it is force. The nature of science is not force, it is reason. These two diametrically opposed natures are not reconcilable.

        Tell me sir, in what way do free individuals conducting research without impediment inhibit science? Tell me, what are all the scientific accomplishments of statism compared to those of liberty? Can you really tell me that science has been held back because of the rise of freedom? Do you really mean to tell me that Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Norman Borlaug, Milton Friedman, and every other private industry leader and organization has helped bring science to a “grinding halt?” Do you think about anything you say before you say it (I mean this as a general expression of disgust rather than a personal insult)?

        In the private market (again, you, me, Mr. Shermer, etc.) we may research anything we please so long as it is not at the expense of anybody else. If something is not worth financing, it won’t be likely financed (although many things that are fairly useless do end up getting financing in part because of risk taking and in part because rich people are as credulous as the rest of us). If people want something, like say, more food, then genetic research will be conducted to grow more food. Only with government can resources be diverted away from worthy research towards non-sense. Only in government can the purpose of scientific research be directed to serve a political agenda rather than the truth, because only in government is the truth irrelevant.

        Grinding halt? Sir, check your premises.

      • Dax says:

        Your assumption that state funded science would lead to tyranny is quite insane, if I may use such a strong wording. Most western nations employ government (non-partisan) bodies of scientists to distribute public funds to scientists for fundamental research without turning into dystopian societies. As long as we respect the checks and balances that ensure us that the science thus does not become politicized, we are just fine — and might I add that it is the Republican party, supposed fighters for Capitalism, that has politicized science more than ever before during the Bush administration!

        The big names in private enterprise you named all have one thing in common: they were/are not involved in fundamental research. You seem to miss that point. Carl Sagan summed up the importance of fundamental research by using the allegory of Maxwell being asked to create a box that could transmit pictures without ever having discovered the fundamental principles of electromagnetism.

        Also, you’ve got to wonder how much effort we would put into evolutionary biology, ecology and biodiversity, theoretical physics, many branches of astronomy, and even anything in social sciences that can not readily be monetized and capitalized, if funding has to come from private sources. The Utopia of people donating freely to funding bodies because they are aware of the importance of the research is just laughable. It will democratize science into a popularity contest, while science is and should be a meritocracy.

      • Tim says:

        What was that you said, the major breakthroughs in electricity and electromagnetism came through private research by Benjamin Franklin and others? Okay, just making sure.

        So Dr. Stadler, we were talking about how you should have the right to legally force people to give you money in order to research whatever you see fit because the idea of having to convince people to invest their money in gaining knowledge is beneath you. Maybe you are right though, maybe in order to keep science from turning into a popularity contest we should have elections and vote on what gets money and what doesn’t. Truly brilliant. All in favor of financing gravity say I; all opposed? Hey you! You trying to figure out gravity by yourself! That’s my money! I know you earned it and all, but we can’t LET research fall into the hands of private entities, science is for the public good which shall remain undefined. Give me your money! What do you mean you won’t mail it in? What do you mean you won’t help me pretend like I am not robbing you? You don’t understand, this research is “special” research, something that you would never do with your own money, which is why it should be funded. Can’t you see how important “special” research is? I mean, if the authorities hadn’t order Galileo to discover that the Earth orbits the Sun, who would have spent the time and the money to figure it out? What do you mean I am reasoning with you for your money, trying to convince you to give me your money on the merits of the scientific validity in the same way Rockerfeller was convinced to found the University of Chicago, one of the most prestigious private universities in the world? Why wouldn’t I? Oh yes, because I am government and I don’t reason with people, I make people do things, I just take the money and I don’t have to show merit therefore by trying to convince you to give money I am not accurately representing the argument in favor of just taking the money. Now that I think about it, I have been undermining my argument this whole time by pointing out what was wrong with it.

        You now what, maybe you are not right after all. Maybe the use of force is not a legitimate means of fundraiser. Now that I think about it, Vanderbilt did pioneer steamboat technology and iron ships, Rockerfeller did build the University of Chicago, Benjamin Franklin did make a great leap forward for electricity, Thomas Edison did invent the lightbulb. Now that I think of it, all this “special” or “fundamental” research that you talk about seems to be discovered in the quest to invent things that improve people’s lives and can be profitable. In order to invent such things, one must understand the universe and one must therefore conduct research and finance it. Indeed, I cannot think of anything that the government decreed to be discovered. More over, it seems to me that government throughout history in every corner of the world has sought to hold back science. Now that I think about it, I was right, government shouldn’t be involved in science and you should revisit your position. I’m glad I talked this out with myself.


      • Dax says:

        Ah, but you keep referring to times when fundamental research (do you even know what that means) could be performed on a small budget, which is nowadays impossible. I cannot sit at home and study, let’s say, ammonium transport in the kidney. Science has revolutionized since then and it costs buckets of cash to do fundamental research. If we wouldn’t use public funding we are left with only the research that could directly be capitalized (applied research) and research in a few disease-related fields. Many scientists would become unemployed if we would only rely on private funding, which, according to you apparently doesn’t imply that scientific progress would slow down (great leap of faith, batman!).

        You also have yet to address the fact that most western countries do fund science through public means, i.e. tax money, without any adverse effects. In stead you just use a mocking voice so you don’t have to address the arguments made. By the way, might I point out that private research universities do get public money since, for instance through RO1 grants which are the bread and butter of most biomedical researchers, so that little argument you did try to slip in between your non-arguments fails.

        Also, I already stated that I do not want to democratize science. That funding goes up and down with each change of administration is unfortunate though understandable, but scientists should be in charge to distribute the grants, as I stated before.

        Great discussing with you, especially the plethora of personal attacks and lack of argumentation, but anyway… what do you expect from someone who immediately starts throwing godwins around.

      • Tim says:


        You seem to have absolutely no desire to address any part of my argument whatsoever. I ask you for a moral foundation for forcefully taking money away from others to spend it on libraries, universities, or whatever. You call me insane and then laugh about how I am insulting you. I ask you for a few examples of government actually producing some results with other people’s money, you respond with a paranoid exclamation that if government doesn’t finance scientific research then no research will be done. I point out that you want government financing of science and have no problems with government policy based on the notion of population control, you respond with an esoteric reference to Godwin’s law when I suggest that I am a little concerned about where such philosophies have led us in the past when applied.

        I also called you Dr. Stadler, but apparently that one didn’t offend you, and I really thought that was the most offensive thing I could say knowing that you would just dismiss the Nazi comment, even though you believe everything the Nazis did about the role of government (if not all the groups they chose to hate) and the legitimate use of force. Of course, i do not use insults to make my arguments, I use them to emphasize my arguments; to elicit emotional reactions along with rational explanations.

        Now, fundamental research. Applied research is not possible without fundamental research. If you do not know how the universe functions then you cannot apply knowledge in the universe. Now I could point out that the overwhelming majority of all research is completed by free society rather than the state for dramatically less money, but that would be the practical argument and I am trying to emphasize the moral and philosophical points.

        Once you start financing scientific research you have immediately changed the American paradigm on the view of government as well as turned the burden of proof upside down. The American view of government is that people do not do things that are “legal,” but rather there are things that are criminal. The burden of proof lies on those that make the proposition. Things must be produced before they are consumed. Cause, and effect. The premise of your argument is the reverse. You hope to get the cause from the effect. Research produced understanding which could then be applied to produce wealth. You wish to take wealth and push your way through the door that says pull. You want to produce the cause by mimicking the effect and the world does not work that way.

        Will research suffer if we drop public funding? Research suffers because we have public (a nice con word for state) funding. Apart from the negative ramifications on the economy of taking money through taxes there is a mis-allocation of resources. Scientists are drawn away from fields of research that warrant funding in order to work for whatever the state has deemed as worthy of funding. Private companies are muscled out by government involvement since it does not have to show results to raise money since it can just raise money through taxes, scientists are depleted from the labor supply, and you have immediately established a system of rationing.

        Since you have a right to spend money without producing it you have accepted the premise things do not need to be produced in order to be consumed. Wealth is no longer produced, it is merely distributed and distribution means rationing. In the free society resources are produced when people work together for their mutual benefit, but the state views resources as a zero-sum game. Who gets what resources? Who gets to conduct what research? In the free society it is anyone who wishes to do so who makes the effort to produced what they intend to consume. In the zero-sum game, however, “pull” is what determines what you may and may not have and the state decides who gets what. After all, you cannot “allow” science to be capitalized. Do you see what is wrong with that position? The government doesn’t allow you or me or anyone to do anything because we do not require their permission to do so. But in a system where people are “allowed” to capitalize from something they can be “disallowed” as well. If you wish to consume something without producing it then this premise that they exist at your behest MUST be accepted as your premise. You must accept the premise that resources are not produced, but distributed, that the burden of proof does not lie on those that make the proposition, but that the proposition is taken to be true and the burden of proof is on others to disprove it.

        P.S. Just because the government has their fingers in everything doesn’t make it a good thing nor do they get credit. Correlation does not equal causation. Sticking government money in everything doesn’t mean you are responsible for everything, it just means you are sticking your fingers in everything, often crowding out others. Also, I would still like an answer on population control that somehow doesn’t involve eugenics. When picking who gets to reproduce and who does not, how do you intend to avoid making selections that would be defined as eugenics? Also, how does “socially responsible trade” limit population again?

      • MadScientist says:

        Poverty certainly does not cause terrorism but it is a large boon to terrorists. In many poor nations there are people indoctrinating others with all sorts of nonsense, including blaming the USA for all their country’s ills – poverty, corruption, starvation, etc. Some people who grow up in such an environment might believe they are doing some good and fighting injustice by murdering people for their god. The only defence I can see against such ignorance is a more prominent role in helping people.

        Perhaps the public education system in developing nations should include classes which discuss the cooperative relationship of that nation to others and actively work to dispel dogmatic beliefs in the great satan; these are discussions which diplomats should be having rather than concentrating on military agreements. Even efforts within Iraq and Afghanistan are too paltry and we are not involved enough in developing the ideals and education of the younger generations.

        Using a foreign nation’s government as a “tool of wealth redistribution” as you put it is a guaranteed failure; it must be assumed that the foreign government will simply steal all that money. US entities will have to be somewhat autonomous within foreign nations similar to the autonomy of the consulates.

        Military prowess alone is of little value – we can’t even catch Osama, and as long as you’re in the game of responding to terrorist acts rather than preventing them you’re losing the war.

        Your hyperlink doesn’t work, so I have no idea what story you’re referring to.

      • Tim says:

        Again, where is your evidence? You are just making things up and then assuming them to be true. Poverty is a boon to terrorists? Where are the African terrorists? The Mexican terrorists? Why aren’t Vietnamese blowing themselves up on the streets? People do not blow themselves up because they are poor. The problem is the religion to begin with and the violent philosophy that it inculcates into the children it can get its nasty hands on.

        You make a statement, I challenge the statement, you move onto the next step just assuming the original point to be correct. Do you have any evidence that public schools serve to counter the rise of terrorism (or more accurately, radical Islam)? You have yet to establish your premise. There are also some moral implications involved regarding to (presumably) forced enrollment of children into what you seem to suggest would be American propaganda centers.

        Thank you for saying that “military prowess alone…”, it tells me immediately that you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. This is the sort of mindless stupidity that can only come from higher education. You must have gone to college to say something that stupid because college is the only place where I have heard such nonsense. I have little doubt that you have done as much research to come to that conclusion as you have your other points. Military prowess of little value? How does killing them lessen their number? “We can’t even catch Osama”, as though this task were an easy one? As though all points must begin with catching Osama as their axiom? Sir, read the Looming Tower, read A Savage War of Peace, read the Counterinsurgency Field Manual, read the Bin Laden manifesto and other literature put out by these groups, visit the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), read A Long Short War (among other books by the good Mr. Hitchens), and please conduct research when forming an opinion, preferably before forming an opinion (which includes criticism and opposition opinions).

        If you are having trouble with the hyperlink, highlight the text, copy, and then paste in the web address bar. The link is one connecting you to a news story put out by the Air Force on a recent medical clinic that they just opened up in Indonesia.

      • JGB says:

        Tim says:

        “Where are the African terrorists? The Mexican terrorists?”

        I guess you haven’t been paying attention to world news.
        Look at Rwanda and some of those indigenous groups in
        Mexico are practically waging war against the Mexican government. Then again, these groups are not financed by Oil dollars so their deeds may not make it on the nightly news.

      • MadScientist says:

        You really need to get your news from sources other than Fox. There are terrorists in many parts of Africa and in Mexico as well; they’re not necessarily hell-bent on destroying the USA but they are terrorists. Gee, there are even terrorists in Ireland, France, Italy, Germany, and it would be shocking if there weren’t still terrorists in the USA. You also have a ridiculous attitude that ideas need to be proven before any action is taken – you’re like the religious nuts who oppose proposed “safe injection” offices because “they aren’t proven” and the nuts have no intention of ever allowing such ideas to be proven.

        Tim, you’re obviously an uneducated moron. Do you really believe you’re killing terrorists? Well, tell me how many terrorists you’ve got vs. civilians you’ve murdered. If you believe that military power is the only solution, you’re way beyond stupid. Go back into your hole redneck.

  14. Beast of the lake says:

    Oh, you idealists of capitalism, take into account that a sysyem based on non-redistribution, competitivity, and, essentialy, on continuous growth is essentialy a scarcely viable evolutionary form of parasitism, where the parasite kills its host. Thus, as long as Capitalism rules (which, seeing the way things are going, may have to be on a different planet, once ours is exhausted), there’s not much hope for humans (two thirds of whom are condemned, anyway, at least to hunger). And yes, a feir redistribution is a must, but, do you believe capital will relinquish its power which extends to media, propaganda, misinformation and education, of course? Imprinting takes place from the momento of our birth, so we accept that we’re living in the best of possible worlds. Of course, a pessimistic approach is that such an idea might be right. Capitalism and justice, democracy, brotherhood and all those lovely ideas is an oxymoron. We live well at the expense of others, and we feel very tighteous and kind. Study your facts, try not to be misled by the all-powerful, and I don’t mean any superior being.

    • Dax says:

      But the problem is that the alternative that is given us limits us in our own freedom and right to from and develop ourselves as individuals… our self is lost in the sea of conformity for the greater good.

      Has anyone ever read Perdido Street Station by China Mieville? One of the sentient species are enormous humanoid birds (Garuda) that have a political-judicial-moral system based solely on individual choice: all crimes are therefore based upon how you limit someone else’s choices. Strangely enough Mieville is quite the leftist, since a system like that would basically dictate far-reaching liberalism. The Garuda, however, live in small tribes, and that is the entire point. Both socialism and capitalism work best for small societies, but not in our overpopulated, overreaching societies of present day earth. Large population sizes create instability in any political-ideological system and therefore it might be necessary to reduce our world’s population before we are every able to reach a type I civilization.

      And now I’ll stop randomly ranting!

      • Tim says:

        “Large population sizes create instability in any political-ideological system and therefore it might be necessary to reduce our world’s population before we are every able to reach a type I civilization.”

        Eugenics, nice.

        So tell me, how many people do you intend to kill because you are not smart enough to figure out how to feed everyone and prosper, and not tolerant enough to leave other unmolested in their attempts to feed themselves and prosper with others? How many are you going to forcefully sterilize? What will be the criteria? Are you on that list? Am I?

        Nazi pig.

      • JGB says:

        Whoa, Tim, relax!

        The world’s population can be reduced without eugenics – you see the population is a function of death rates and birth rates. If you decrease the latter below the former it will reduce the population relatively painlessly and without having to call people “Nazi’s”

      • Tim says:

        I claim truth as my defense.

        Tell me, how are you going to go about reducing birth rates? Who makes the list? Who cannot reproduce? Who cannot be born? Is your eugenics program like the 1 child program of China, does it include abortion, is it like Action T-4? You can reduce the population without eugenics? As soon as you start deciding who can reproduce/be born and who can not you are by definition engaging in eugenics.

        Why do I get so upset? Without saying too much I am the type of person who always ‘makes the list’ so to speak when people start talking about how other people existing is a problem.

        So, who lives and who doesn’t live painlessly? How is it not Nazism? How can you speak so casually about mass execution or forced sterilization?

      • Tim says:

        Also, do you have any evidence that overpopulation (however that is defined) causes any of the problems that you mentioned, or do you just say it out loud and then assume it to be true and feel morally justified in whatever you do to accomplish that end?

        Just to help you emancipate yourself from your fascist point of view I will point out several examples of “overpopulated” areas that prosper:

        Hong Kong

        The list goes on. Give up this fascist ideology now, while you still can, before you are completely enveloped in it to the point where you can talk about forced sterilizations without even feeling a moral hiccup.

      • Dax says:

        Kudos for calling me a Nazi pig… always good to see someone play a Godwin.

        Who says I adhere to a fascist ideology and eugenics. I really think that your assumptions are just truly insane and baseless.

        The nations and city states you mention prosper, but at what cost? Besides a few city states that attract the wealth of the rest of the world, most are high polluters or live off of a marginalized minority (Bahrain, for instance). But besides this non-argument, the point is that we do live in an overpopulated world, especially if we wish to alleviate poverty. Resources are limited, and so is the environment. Concerning the political ideologies we were discussing, both capitalist and socialist systems break down in larger societies because the population size puts pressure on the available resources and habitat, which brings out the flaws of the systems, and in turn forms a large subset of the population that is willing to overthrow said system.

        Do I therefore promote eugenics? No. I don’t even see where I said that! Birth rates naturally decline the more educated, more wealthy, and less paternally religious a society is, and there are humane ways to alter societies in such a way. Education, promoting stable secular governments, socially responsible trade, etc. Gee, I guess that would be fascist, right?

      • Tim says:

        So overpopulation is a problem (a proposition you have yet to establish, you just say it outloud and then presume it to be true) and your solution is…nothing. You just bring it up and then have no plan for reducing population?

        Socially responsible trade? Can you tell me what that is, do you even know? Does this statement have any meaning?

        Out of line calling you a Nazi? Keynsianism, trade restrictions, the belief that “Lebensraum” is needed for a high standard of living (because in your view we just gobble up resources in a zero-sum world and the more people there are the fewer things people get even though we are at an all time high in world population and oddly enough a world-time high in terms of prosperity), and a belief that there are people in this world who need to stop existing because they are dangerous to your existence by virtue of their existing. Yes, I wonder how I could get the idea that you are in favor of Nazism. Maybe you just don’t know what Nazism is. Maybe you think that in order to be a Nazi you have to kill 6 million people and invade all your neighbors. Maybe you think that there is no ideology behind Nazism. Would you feel better if I said you subscribe to a pre-WWII Nazi ideology? I know I would feel better if my government wasn’t making policy with the objective in mind of “population control.”

        So tell me then, in order to implement your policy of population control, who needs to be “educated” and who needs to be “socially responsible trade” – ed? Do we “socially responsible trade” only with European countries to encourage stability in their population while work to decline the populations of Africa and Southeast Asia?

        Tell me what you intend to teach and, more interesting to me, how “socially responsible trade” is going to limit population.

      • Dax says:

        Dude, I am European and unlike the US, we actually dare to look our fascist past in the eye. I am not a national socialist so f*** off with your insinuations. Where did you learn to argue? Fox news?

        The entire population-resources-education relation is nothing new and has got nothing to do with nazism. Unless you would call the WHO, the UN, and several other agencies who agree with this position, national socialist organizations. Way to go, you just called the whole f***ing world a bunch of Nazi’s! Hooray for Tim the Skepticblog troll.

        Why do you think the Cairo treaty focusses so much on education in relation to population control? Because the most educated countries also have the lowest population growth rate, the lowest infant mortality rates, the highest GDPs, the least poverty, are the most equal when it comes to the sexes, etc. etc. Wake up and smell the peak-oil, see how the planet’s biodiversity is dwindling, how we’re reaching peak-platinum production (among other things), how we ship our toxic waste to third world countries just to get rid of it, how teleost populations are collapsing, et cetera, and then tell me we can keep on producing more and more meanwhile improving the environment and alleviating poverty, while we still have to deal with an increasing world population?

      • Tim says:


        So what you are saying is…I am right. You view humanity as the problem.

        So, that question you avoided answering with that barrage of red herrings, I’ll ask it again.

        Who makes the list? Who can procreate, who can not? Who can be born, who cannot? Who makes these decisions? Is it like the 1 child “program” of China? Is there going to be genetic screening?

        Who lives, who painlessly fades away?

      • Max says:

        Tim, look at the median age in the places you listed.

        Macau: 35.2
        Monaco: 45.7
        Hong Kong: 42.3
        Singapore: 39
        Gibraltar: 40.5
        Bahrain: 30.1
        Japan: 44.2
        Taiwan: 36.5

        Pshh, Monaco, overpopulated by millionaires looking for a tax haven.

        Now let’s look at the median age in some other places.

        Uganda: 15!
        Gaza Strip: 17.4
        Afghanistan: 17.6
        Haiti: 20.2
        Mexico: 26.3

        Now, young people have great potential, but if they’re unemployed and uneducated, they start getting into trouble, if you know what I mean.

      • Tim says:

        Well some of the countries you listed are not very high on the population density chart, but some like Gaza are. Now my point is that overpopulation is not a problem, the absence of freedom (economic and otherwise) is the problem. Clearly this example helps make my point, that there are wealthy and stable areas with high population density and there are impoverished and starving areas of high population density. What is the difference between these areas that makes one wealthy and one poor? Freedom. Do you know why the average age is so much higher in the above countries? It is because the life expectancy is so much higher.

        Monaco a tax haven? That point is the one I am trying to make. Monaco has no income tax. Hong Kong has a flat income tax and virtually no regulation. Look at Singapore, Bahrain, Macau, Japan, South Korea, you will find the same thing. Population density is irrelevant, liberty is what improves people’s lives. My objection to the original post is based on the notion that Lebensraum is required for prosperity rather than liberty in the economy.

    • MadScientist says:

      I do not see capitalism as such as the problem; most of the great developments of the past 200 years have been supported and encouraged by the capitalist framework. What capitalism largely lacks is a sense of social responsibility; indeed many people would (incorrectly) believe that this is antithetical to capitalism. However, if you look around at large projects you can see many instances where corporations have realized that opting solely for profit can in fact endanger their operations and profits so tradeoffs are made – for example, do I set up an oil production site in a fragile environment and accept the operational losses due to ensuring the preservation of the environment?

      The next step is for capitalists to realize that there are problems far larger than their own corporation and operations and that these are problems which they may contribute to in some form and which they probably need to address. Let’s say I put up a state-of-the-art semiconductor fabrication plant in Indonesia. Such an investment only pays off if the plant can operate enough years to recover the plant and operational costs and finally be able to make a larger profit based on lower work costs/taxes/whatever. So political stability is a desirable condition and one which a corporation may have to work out how to foster. (The most popular global solution, which is not a good one, seems to be to hire warlords.) I believe only capitalism can provide a solution; socialism and communism only serve to discourage development and encourage big government and tyranny.

    • Tim says:

      Rules for Radicals – Saul Alinsky
      The Closing of the American Mind – Allan Bloom
      Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

      All of these sources are different ways of understanding the above philosophy. The points made are easily refuted, the philosophy that leads somebody to come to these ridiculous views takes a good deal more effort though.

      The first, Rules for Radicals, is the doctrine as laid out by its proponents. The second, The Closing of the American Mind, is a non-fiction intellectual approach to explaining the ideology and why it is ridiculous. The third, Atlas Shrugged, is a fictional work with this ideology/philosophy as the main antagonist. The fourth is a video describing the mindset via lecture which is 40 minutes long, but only the first 30 minutes are required and then the boring Q&A kicks in.

      If you run across this ideology/philosophy a lot on the internet and sometimes in real life and you are confused about how these people act, these sources are good for understanding the mindset.

      • Tim says:

        Also, I have not received Vol 15 issue 1 yet, but from what I see on homepage this method of thinking (anti-thinking) is what produces things like the Christian Origins Conspiracy Theories which move towards atheism not because it is correct, but because it is viewed as correct in orthodox society. The rest of the “Zeitgiest” film (which my brother made me watch a little over a year ago) follows the same line of reasoning which always strives towards neutrality, or the zero. Seemingly contradictory views are constantly held by this philosophy (such as wanting to kill Billy Graham yet willing to lick the left over frosting of a cupcake off the lip of some Mullah from the Muslim brotherhood). The rest of the film explains how the Fed is a conspiracy trying to take over the world and 9/11 was a conspiracy. I am really looking forward to reading what Skeptic has to say on that…if I ever get my issue.

      • Tim says:

        correction: viewed as “incorrect” by orthodox society.

        Also to be clear, Zeitgeist film is crap, in case there is any confusion.

    • William Mook says:

      Its impossible for a technically naive population of investors and managers to formulate realistic visions of the future and execute on them positively.

      Consider the following idealistic visions;

      Imagine 660 satellites in sun synch polar orbits that each use phased array antenna to create stationary doppler corrected virtual cells throughout the Earth – providing IEEE compliant hot spots anywhere on Earth. Each satellite communicates with its nearest neighbor in space using an open optical line of sight connection – capable of 100 trillion bps operation. In this way the world is made into a global wireless hotspot at a cost of pennies per channel per year.

      Imagine 50 sq km of solar collectors in orbit 3 million km above the surface of the sun beaming infrared laser beams to reforming satellites in geosynch orbit around the Earth. These satellites then beam the reformed energy to receivers owned by end users anywhere on Earth on demand -even receivers that move. Built at a cost of $2 per sq cm, this is a means to provide abundant energy at $0.05 per barrel oil equivalent. (and a lot of technical questions are resolved)

      This provides sufficient energy to provide a per capita use rate of energy equivalent to today’s millionaires for 8 billion people at very low cost.

      Or imagine the world’s stockpile of fissile material being converted to harmless triggers for tiny nuclear fusion pulse units. And half the world’s military budgets being used to build a large fleet of massive nuclear pulse spacecraft. Imagine that these are used to drive the richest small bodies throughout the solar system into sunsynch polar orbit above Earth. Imagine that when thhere, solar powered tele-robotically operated factories that end unemployment and underemployment by allowing anyone anywhere to have a job anywhere else – to operate smelters, farms in pressure vessels on orbit and forests in pressure vessels on orbit, to make whatever is demanded without any impact on Earth, and once made is sent directly to end users via GPS guided rail guns in minutes after a satellite phone call.

      To most people this all sounds like science fiction. Many respond with something like, why not have anti-gravity? or replicators? or why not send people to the stars faster than light? and so forth. These visions require no new technology, and no new science. These visions can be implemented at less cost than our nuclear arsenal and global expenditures on military. These visions provide substantial return for investors and the community of ‘man’ alike. Yet they cannot be acted on by a population who isn’t able to critically analyze them. Critical analysis involves more than saying no. It involves saying yes to the right vision because one has deep seated reliable understanding of the science involved. Most lack this, and this more than any system or lack of system is the root of our problem.

  15. Beast of the lake says:

    I submitted a comment, and the reply was something like, “diplicate cometing, you seem to have submitted your commente previously” or that´s how I interpret it in muy undoubtedly faulty english. As far as I know, barring a sudden bout of amnesia, someone may have written something similar, but it certainly wasn’t me. Do I have to think it’s been banned or something?

  16. Beast of the lake says:

    Oh, you idealists, take into account that a capitalist sysyem based on non-redistribution, competitivity, and, essentialy, on continuous growth is a scarcely viable evolutionary form of parasitism, where the parasite kills its host. Thus, as long as Capitalism rules (which, seeing the way things are going, may have to be on a different planet, once ours is exhausted), there’s not much hope for humans (two thirds of whom are condemned, anyway, at least to hunger). And yes, a feir redistribution is a must, but, do you believe capital will relinquish its power which extends to media, propaganda, misinformation and education, of course? Imprinting takes place from the momento of our birth, so we accept that we’re living in the best of possible worlds. Of course, a pessimistic approach is that such an idea might be right. Capitalism and justice, democracy, brotherhood and all those lovely ideas is an oxymoron. We live well at the expense of others, and we feel very tighteous and kind. Study your facts, try not to be misled by the all-powerful, and I don’t mean any superior being.

    • JGB says:

      WTF *is* capitalism?

      The problem is it has different meanings to different people. Some say it is a *philosophy* about making as much money as possible. Some say it is synonymous with free market economics. Others say it’s a economic system in which people with money can invest it with people who can use that money productively.

      Also – are laws restricting pollution anti-free market? If so, does the free market require allowing people to dump whatever they want into resources which extend beyond their property (air, water, the radio spectrum)?

      • William Mook says:

        Capitalism is the ability to create and buy and sell capital stock in companies and organize their affairs for profit without torturous interference by outside parties. Since capital is freely invested investment are made only when all benefit. Likewise, in a free market, when makers of a product or providers of a service freely gain their purchase price from a knowledgeable and prudent public, both must benefit, otherwise the transaction would not take place. This is only possible when wealth is CREATED. This is what separates a free-market transaction from one that is not free. For example, someone taking money from you under threat of violence, or by lying to you. When you are not free, that is robbery. When you are lied to, that is fraud.

        Now, sometimes markets fail. Actually some experts tell us markets cannot do what we believe they do due to deep seated underlying shortcomings. Even without this bit, it is generally acknowledged that markets fail, when people are not free, or when knowledge is broadly available in the market. When people are not free, free-markets necessarily produce robbery. When people are not knowledgeable, free-markets necessarily produce fraud.

        Medical care fails as a free-market operation on both counts. People requiring medical care do not engage in this service freely for the most part. They also lack the requisite medical knowledge to make the necessary negotiations successfully. On this basis, other solutions seem desirable. Since we already have public education and public mail delivery, it seems reasonable that we should have some form of public medical care, with private care augment.

        The general failures outlined by Arrow are more problematic. Arrow showed in the 1950s, and received a Nobel Prize in the 1970s, for showing that money and voting don’t work. They don’t work because money and votes are scalars, and human values are properly tensors. This creates cycles in voting, and a means to manipulate both markets and votes in seemingly impossible ways.

        Markets and voting fails whenever a preference loop is formed. Take three things A,B,C – apples, berries, cherries. Say you like berries better than apples, and you like cherries better than berries. So you like cherries best right? Wrong! That’s because if you happen to like apples better than cherries, you have a preference loop! So what? Well, then you can set it up, starting with berries, and you end up saying you like apples best. Or starting with cherries, you end up saying you like cherries best. See how a preference loop can be navigated by someone who knows the loop exists to get their way, even though YOU make ALL the decisions? Systems of voting and buying and selling fail with this sort of hiccup. There is a solution, it involves building an input output matrix and constructing a preference tensor, and processing THAT – and we can do that instead of markets and contracts. But, so far, we haven’t. We have instead gotten better at finding loops, and special interests have gotten better at exploiting them for their own purposes.

      • Max says:

        And people say that academics are out of touch with reality.

      • William Mook says:

        Anyone in touch with reality is out of touch with consensual reality promulgated by special interests through the mass-media. That is WHY the mass-media was created. Central of these special interests are the national security interests of the USA, which overtly states that the USA *must* control the ‘global information environment’ (GIE) to maintain ‘security’ in the modern world. Since this control seeks to control the very epistemology of the world’s population, this control is largely invisible.

        Of course, someone not accepting of consensus is easily marked as ‘different’ and ‘out-of-touch’ which is done if those folks are not essential to whatever effort is being undertaken.

        Now, since nearly all people would agree that global thermonuclear war is a bad thing, this control is not overly burdensome. However, things tend to grow and morph over time, and eventually become burdensome. In that instance, this burden may arise in unusual and surprising ways – and since it involves the epistemology of our emerging global culture, it will also be mysterious and paradoxical.

  17. Ian says:

    I agree with lots of this article, but to be honest even if i didn’t agree with the methods I’d still agree with it; it’s a change to what we have now and that I believe could be a good thing. I cannot for the life of me think why anyone would defend the politics of today and how the economy is run; governments are inefficient and nations and people hate each other leading to larger walls and less freedom. What a mess. It’s actually very sad, and yet people continue to defend it. Amazing. Bring in a new ideology!

  18. Beast of the lake says:

    Dax says “But the problem is that the alternative that is given us limits us in our own freedom and right to from and develop ourselves as individuals… our self is lost in the sea of conformity for the greater good”. Well, I respectfully (and I’m serious, I do respect people who think) disagree,or at leas, I don’t see the point. What freedom/s do you refer to? What developent as individuals? Our development is only partly in our hands, we as privileged, may think ourseleves free, but are we really? Is there really freedom of chice? Exactly of what? Do you really think that in a system where being the first, the strongest (actually the most wily, astute, and so on) is the objetive to achieve, there can be anything more than just formal justice? Can all humans have what might be alled “equal opprotunities?” Sounds a bit naïve, but please, don’t take it as an insult . As for Ian, I couldnt agree more, and not only becuase od his “backing” but especially for the ending. “Bring in a new ideology” I would have preferred “a new citizenship” or even “a new system” but I get the point. If we’re prevented from creating a net of concerned citizens (which will be opposed to, tooth an nail, by the powers that be), we will never be able to even think of an alternative way o managing our lifes, both economically and socially. We need a different imprinting, and for that we would need a new society, ando for taht we would need a control we don’t have over what is taught en families, schools, etc. To put an example, private schools are not going to teach against their very foundations, are they? Citicenship is a more complex concept than just belonging, by chance, to a given society and system. And that’s why it’s ever more difficult to act as one, to be one.

  19. William Mook says:

    Kardashev invented an exponential ranking system based on energy use. Earth intercepts 1.74e+17 Watts. This is ‘type 1′ on the Kardashev scale a technical civilization that controls the energy resources of an entire planet.

    The sun generates 3.86e+26 Watts. This is Kardashev 2 a technical civilization that controls the energy resources of an entire star.

    The galaxy puts out approximately 4e+37 Watts. This is Kardashev 3 a technical civilization that controls the energy resources of an entire galaxy.

    The ratios are 2e+09 – between 1 and 2 and 1e+11 between 2 and 3.

    Since galaxies, stars and planets vary over wide range, we can normalize these numbers. A normalized Kardashev scale, using a constant base of 2e+16 with 1 equal to 2+17 Watts we can extend the scale and generalize it to a normalized function;

    Power = 10,000,000*2e+09^(Kn)
    = 2e+09^(Kn+0.7526)

    K1 1.74e+17 2.00e+17 Kn1
    K2 3.98e+26 4.00e+26 Kn2
    K3 4 e+37 8.00e+36 Kn3

    Kardashev’s papers conclude there appear to be no K3 (or greater) technical civilizations in this galaxy. Freeman Dyson postulated that a K2 civilization could exist and from the outside it would look like a super-giant star with a 72F (22C) surface temperature. The cloud would consist of a collection of non-colliding space stations. This is the famous Dyson sphere.

    Our civilization is uses energy at 1.7e+13 Watts. When Kardashev wrote his paper we uses 4e+12 Watts. On the normalized scale just devised humanity is currently a Kn=0.6699 type civilization.

    The use of industrial energy grew exponentially from 1850 through 1950. Over this period the cost of energy dropped exponentially. In this way, industrial life spread through agrarian cultures changing life and improving it, in much the same way low cost computing has spread through our culture since the 1950s. Over this period low cost energy has displaced low cost labor as the driving force in our economic engine. Because of this displacement we have been able to reduce working hours and end the institution of slavery. Low cost information has taken over the role of lower cost energy in the period beyond 1950 and because of advances in information processing we have continued to expand our standard of living in the face of rising energy costs since about 1970 onward.

    This suggests there may be many scales on which to measure a civilization. The Kardashev scale measures energy relative to the cosmic scales of energy. Jacob Bekenstein measures entropy or information on an atomic scale to the cosmic scale. One might imagine a normalized Bn scale for information processing – cellular, organism, planet, etc. Both are important. There are likely other scales – the most interesting ones are likely those we haven’t thought of yet – for example, a scientific measure of human happiness, or ‘value’. Nobel prize winning economist Kenneth Arrow says there’s a fundamental disconnect between scalars and human values that cause our economic and political systems to come up short of expectation. The new sciences of emergence and ecologies suggest multi-dimensional solutions to this dilemma. These are at present open issues, and likely relate to what we’re really talking about – organizing our affairs to achieve bliss for all – whatever that means.

    There are also interactions among various scales.

    Since in the 1950s we were about 10% efficient in our overall energy use, we can only increase thermodynamic efficiencies by 10x by being clever before we must address in a very basic way the cost of energy.

    Some form of nuclear energy is needed. We’ve known this since Hubbert reported that he finally solved the logistic production curve for oil in 1956 at an American Petroleum Institute conference in New York when working as chief geologist for Shell. In that seminal paper he spoke of nuclear power.

    We also note that the sun operates by nuclear power – and so, nature seems to have provides a wide range of nuclear options for us, if we’re clever enough to develop them sanely.

    Back to the logistic curve. Any time you look for a thing in a field of other things and remove that thing – quarters from a jar of change – it gets harder to find the next thing. You get a logistic curve. This operates for quarters in a jar of change as it does when looking for the next big oil strike. By 1956 Hubbert merely noted that with 106 years of drilling data available he was able to finally predict the logistic curve of North America, and of the world. He was able to show that oil production would peak in North America by 1970 and for the world by 2010.

    This created a flap.

    When AEC chair Louis Strauss attended a news conference later that year people asked him about this matter. Strauss made his famous statement, that by 1970 the US will produce power that is too cheap to meter.

    Strauss and Hubbert left their posts by the end of the year. Both were marginalized. GE and Westinghouse designed nuclear reactors to operate at precisely the same temperatures as their coal fired boilers – despite the fact that the cost of a reactor is inversely propportional to the fourth power of the temperature by the operation of laws. Since that time high temperature nuclear reactors have been talked about but not built despite the fact they can be made far more cheaply than low temperature nuclear reactors.


    • William Mook says:

      It is interesting that Kn0=10 MW. A nuclear thermal rocket with a 10,000 m/sec exhaust velocity mas a mass flow rate of;

      P = 1/2 * mdot * Ve^2
      mdot = 2*P/Ve^2 = 2*10,000,000/ 100,000,000 = 0.2 kg/sec

      This implies a thrust of;

      F = mdot * Ve = 0.2 * 10,000 = 2,000 N ~ 221.7 kg

      With air drag and gravity drag losses typical of an optimal Goddard trajectory it takes 9 km/sec to achieve orbit from Earth’s surface and 13 km/sec to achieve escape from Earth.

      this implies 59.3% propellant mass and 72.7% propellant mass using the rocket equation;

      Vf = Ve*LN(1/(1-u) —> u = 1 – 1/EXP(Vf/Ve)

      Finally, using calculus of variations we can obtain optimal thrust at lift off – which for reasonable structural fractions is about 1.2 gee. So, our Kn0 power level rocket engine producing 2000 Newtons of thrust lifts a vehicle massing 184.7 kg

      Plugging in the propellant masses we have 112.4 kg of propellant for the rocket to attain orbit, and 138 kg to attain escape velocity.

      Average body mass of all people of Earth is 55 kg. So, a 10 MW nuclear thermal rocket

      221.7 kgf thrust
      184.7 kg mass
      112.4 kg propellant
      55.0 kg payload (person)
      17.3 kg structure

      A laser thermal rocket heating hydrogen, or using a laser in detonating heavy plastic – would provide this sort of rocket.

      I think it interesting that 10 MW is K0 – power is the rate of energy use. Since it only takes about 10 minutres to place something in orbit, 6 people per hour could be orbited. 180 per day. 52,596 per year – about 1 million people in a generation.

      So, this is an interesting number.

      Of course using the normalized formula for Kardashev values we can figure out negative powers of Kn and relate them to power levels typically used.

      225 Hp = -0.191
      1 hp = 746 watts = -0.444
      1//3 hp = 1 human = -0.495
      1 cell (1e-12) = -1.785

      Given the large base Kn is calculated with, we can span large power values with small exponents. Our civilization is around 0.7 on the Kn, but when you race your Audi down the autobahn, you are a -0.2 civilization all by yourself. Single animals are -0.5 on the scale. Organizing 30,000 people or animals to a single prpose puts you in as a Kn0 civilizatoin, as does taking a personal spaceship to orbit. Individual cells are -1.785 – individual atoms (dividing by Avogadro’s number (6.02e23) obtains -4.23 – which would be the energy content of a single atomic transition in a living cell.

      Since the Kardashev scale is approximate with changing base throughout its definitions, we can reasonably extend the scale with the following definitions, after looking at these normalized values;

      K4 = cosmos
      K3 = galaxy
      K2 = solar system
      K1 = planet
      K0 = 10 MW ~ preindustrial 100,000 animals/people
      spacefaring = minimum rocket power
      -K1 = multi-celled organism (single person)
      -K2 = single celled organism
      -K3 = individual nuclear reaction
      -K4 = atomic chemical transition

      • epicurus says:

        Interesting calculations. In about 7 billion yrs. the sun will expand and engulf earth. That will end all life on earth. I presume a Type 2 civilization can harness sufficient energy to build city-sized spaceships and colonize another planet in another star system. But the universe itself will end either in a Big Crunch or through ‘Heat’ (entropy) Death. How much energy do you need to manipulate space-time and prevent the breakdown of the universe? Can Type 4 civilization do it?

      • William Mook says:

        The SUN shines by converting hydrogen to helium. Helium is heavier than hydrogen, so it sinks to the sun’s center. Helium then ignites, and is converted to Lithium… Lithium to Beryllium, and so on – until you reach Iron. Then, the energy per nucleon is at its nadir. No more fusion is possible.

        As the heavier elements accumulate in the solar center and ignite, the temperature of the sun increases. As the temperature increases, so too the brightness. This is WHY the sun will grow to engulf the Earth.

        But, BEFORE that happens, life will end on Earth when all the oceans boil away from the increasing brightness (no this is NOT the cause of global warming in the present age) – in about 900 MILLION years. Far shorter than 7 billion you mention.

        No worries, we HAVE the technology to change it.

        One team at Santa Cruz University in California has proposed capturing a passing asteroid and using its gravitational effects to “nudge” Earth’s orbit outward. A continuous asteroid passage every 6,000 years or so could keep Earth at a comfortable distance and give life another 5 billion years on the planet.

        This is one way to change the game.

        Another is to break the sun down into a collection of smaller stars through a process called star-lifting – so that it lasts about 1 trillion years – and then build small Dyson like spheres around each of the long lived fragments, and augment the dim starlight with artificial fusion to illuminate the interiors of the star encompassing space station network.

        Life has evolved on Earth over the past several billion years despite the sun’s brightening to twice its original levels over that period. This led Michael Lovelock to propose the Gaia hypothesis – that said basically any self replicating system tends to alter itself and its environment to continue its replication activities. In this view, humans and their technology is the natural consequence of this continuing change within the sun. It also provides selective pressure to BECOME K2 civilization. K2 or Die I can imagine the t-shirts reading.

  20. Beelzebud says:

    And this whole topic has what to do with skepticism?

    When you peel away the candy coated shell, it’s just yet another “Libertarians Are The Best” post.

    • Tim says:

      It’s a blog.

    • William Mook says:

      Nobelist Ken Arrow showed that money and voting don’t work. This is the first problem. I’ve addressed this in a video on the subject. Basically, we create an emergent system of tensor based values that are traded electronically. This has been worked out by Wasily Leontief another Nobelist and the basis of decision making algorithms in distributed networks.

      The second problem is psychological. We are insensitive to violence and feel the need for violence because we were treated violently as children which shapes the emotional centers of our brains a certain way. Thus, everything is shaded by this shared madness – sports, comedy, sex, power, money politics. We don’t see the madness because it is shared. As a result, we are faced by mysteries and madly believe things having nothing at all to do with the problem are at fault. That is why we eagerly spent $15 TRILLION wiring our world for nuclear annihilation and felt we were too poor to take care of the problems that cause problems. That’s because defending ourselves and enlarging our sense of self-importance makes sense to everyone while solving our problem by helping another – makes us feel used and taken advantage of – even if doing the latter costs 1/1000th as much and is done more easily. We come up with bullshit reasons not to do it. This is part of the madness.

      This has been fully explored by Alice Miller in her book DRAMA OF THE GIFTED CHILD.

  21. Paul says:

    Before we can move on to any use full world, we need (the whole planet) to change the way we deal with each other, Put others before our selves “There for everyone is looking after each other, that’s personal, Business, Politically, “.
    There are a lot of clever people out there but they put it to the wrong use, that is to use it for crimes, Steal, con, do any wrong to any one they can, and what happens to all that energy it turned into negative forces, the world has to use precious resources to combat them, which could be used for other benefits.
    Even the so called GOOD guys, of Business, politicians’ & charities to name just a few, so hell bent on make more profit for the few run it or own it, look after number one “I know of some business that say they can’t afford to pay the staff more or improve their working conditions, but the same owners buy a new cars, top of the range, or buy a another holiday home or yacht. If you own a business yes you have the right to make more that your workforce but not at their expense.
    All the people of the world need to be on the same footing, with wealth, health, accommodation, food, and a voice that be heard by all of the world, otherwise we are doomed regardless of Type of civilization we have.

    • JGB says:

      We are likely doomed anyway. Even if we harness all of the energy on the Earth we will not necessarily be able to handle every ‘natural’ disaster coming our way. I’ll leave you with two plausible ones:

      If a virus like Ebola (for instance) mutated so it was very lethal, communicable airborne and had a longish incubation period (all that has to happen is for Ebola to infect a cell with another viral infection and swap some DNA – and poof!) – it could be spread across the globe and wipe out 90% of humans before we could get started on medical treatments.

      Consider if a large comet (> 20km) were on a collision course with the Earth. By the nature of their orbits we couldn’t nudge it gently off course over many orbital periods – and by time it got into the inner solar system it would be traveling far to fast to rendezvous. Poof – incandescent air and we go the way of the dinosaurs!

      As has been mentioned above, energy and economics are NOT silver bullets.

      • AnthroPhilo says:

        HIV is hypothesized to become exactly what you describe. AIRBORNE!!

      • William Mook says:

        # 1960’s: Howard Temin knew that retrovirus genomes were composed of RNA and observed that replication was inhibited by actinomycin D (inhibits DNA synthesis therefore he proposed the concept of reverse transcription (Nobel prize awarded to Baltimore and Temin, 1975).

        # 1969: Huebner and Todaro proposed the viral oncogene hypothesis – the transmission of viral and oncogenic information as genetic elements (rather than as a pathogenic response to a virus) – explains the vertical (germ line) transmission of ‘cancers’, first observed by Gross, 1951.

        # 1970s: Richard Nixon’s ‘war on cancer’ (post Kennedy space programme – the race to the moon) – failed to find any retroviral agents which cause human cancer (many false alarms – but did pump a lot of money into biomedical research).

        # 1981: Human T-cell leukaemia virus discovered, the first pathogenic human retrovirus.

        # 1983: Human immunodeficiency virus discovered.

        Retroviruses which have been around for as long as humans have existed become a serious problem the very decades humans discover them and come to understand them.

        This suggests some sort of causal connection between our understanding and the existence of these diseases.

        What would motivate such a development? Why would anyone create such a STD?

        Humans are facing a die off due to resource depletion and over-population. A new disease that sweeps through society and reduces population levels to 1/10th their current level might be considered a godsend – if one controlled the disease.

        Society is facing fundamental shifts due to changing sexual mores rising from the ability to control reproduction at will. Many of these ancient mores find a new meaning in an era when sexual license runs the risk of certain death.

        Obviously this isn’t proof of anything. Just interesting ideas related to the recent spread of this important retrovirus among humans.

  22. ejdalise says:

    The original scale dealt primarily with technology and energy use. There are social/political/economic implications associated with increased population (i.e. energy need/use), but to the best of my recollection there was no value judgment as to an ever-increasing number being an improvement over the previous.

    As to the proposed political/economic scale in the above article . . . I’m sure I will be corrected, but every political/economic “transition” listed came about mostly because of conquest, and not peaceful conquest at that. The list also implies an improvement from one to the other, but that depends on one’s point of view.

    It could be argued each of those transitions represented incremental loss of personal freedom and greater control from a central authority, often one which is not very tolerant of dissenters.

    And while theocracies are presented as a hindrance to progression, and they are, the same could be said for many Democracies, most of which – if not all – are engaging in exercising more and more control over their citizenry . . . all in the name of said citizenry’s benefit, of course, typically to appease the majority, even if said majority is a very slim advantage.

    The implication said Type 1 society will accommodate the political and economic needs of its citizen, presumedly in a near utopia of consensus and good will, is unlikely in part because people are diverse and have widely different perceptions of their needs past food and shelter.

    One can theorize all one wants, but human nature has not changed one iota from the listed Type 0.2 social/political/economic groups. OK . . . perhaps one iota, perhaps even two.

  23. John B Hodges says:

    Forgive me, but Shermer is making use of Kardashev to promote a hobbyhorse of his own (libertarianism) that really has nothing to do with what Kardashev said. “Type 1 can harness all the energy of its home planet”. K. did not mean by that, capitalism and free trade, with no govt regulation of the energy industries. He meant, the whole surface paved over with 100% efficient solar collectors, the whole sea filtered for deutrium, the whole depth plumbed for geothermal, and so forth. By Type 2, all the energy of its star, he meant a Dyson Sphere or equivalent, so that our sun becomes invisible to anyone outside the system, except perhaps in the infrared, from radiation of waste heat. Neither Kardashev’s vision nor Shermer’s has taken the measure of the challenge of sustainability.

    • William Mook says:

      1.74e+17 watts is what Earth intercepts from the Sun. This wattage may be controlled in ways not involving the entire Earth being covered with solar panels.

      For example, a strip of solar panels in geosynchronous orbit that is 338 miles wide collects 1.74e+17 watts if perfectly efficient. If 40% efficient, the strip must be 846 miles wide.

      Another example, a strip of solar panels in orbit 3 million miles above the solar surface, totally encircling the sun only 12 feet wide, intercepts the same amount of energy. At 3 million miles an object will get hot, but stabilize at a temperature below the melting point of most substances used to build stuff today.

      If the 12 foot wide strip is only an inch thick, and masses about that of water – its total weight is reasonable. 1 trillion tons. We burn about 10 billion tons of fossil fuels each year to generate 1/10,000th this amount of energy – So, the efficiency of this process is interesting. We organize 100x as mch mass in say 10 years – to get a 10,000 fold increase in energy usage. Obviously most of this energy would have to be used off world since its use ON Earth would disrupt the biosphere. With this sort of energy, and the resources of the asteroid belt say, we would find it very easy to organize our affairs to radically increase our living standards from that enjoyed today. A 10,000x increase in energy use, with an only 10x increase in material processing (assuming a 10 year life span of the ring elements) means we spend 1/1000th on energy per unit output, and we output 10,000x as much as we do today. $60 trillion grows to $600 quadrillion. With 10 billion people this is an average income of $60 million per year – and with the same disparity of income seen in the world today, there would be 10 million trillionaires, nearly everyone earning a million dollars a week, and the poorest of the poor – fewer than 10 million of those – earning less than 1 million dollars a year. (all in 2007 dollars)

      At these levels of income most would live in personal space colonies the size of a county – orbiting the Earth and beyond. The meek would inherit the Earth and live modestly there on their $1 million per year.

  24. epicurus says:

    The types of civilization as originally defined by Kardashev are entirely based on technology. Shermer’s classification from Type 0 to Type 1 is more political and economic. The two ‘scales’ are different. Using Kardashev’s scale, a Type 3 civilization can be a galactic empire ruled by a totalitarian emperor like in Star Wars. Using Shermer’s scale, this civilization would be Type 0.6 since it is not even a democracy. Conversely, a Type 1.0 in Shermer’s scale can be Type 0.7 in Kardashev’s scale as when our civilization attains globalism but still unable to harness all of earth’s energy.

    Technology is progressing so we can predict that our civilization will continue to progress in Kardashev’s scale. But I cannot say the same for politics and economics because they are heavily influenced by human behavior, and this does not change as fast as technology. And the direction of change may not be as Shermer predicted towards libertarianism (global free markets without interference from governments).

    I predict democratic societies will move toward social democracy because democracies are ruled by the will of the majority. Since there are more poor and middleclass than rich people, societies will move toward a more equitable distribution of wealth (presumably through more social welfare and progressive taxation). I’m not advocating this or saying it is right or wrong. I’m simply making a prediction regardless of my personal moral judgment.

  25. AZ says:

    Dear Mr. Shermer

    Regarding your thoughts for a Type I Civilization:
    We of the developed world have great faith in technological achievement. With it, over time,
    things do get better for many people. The rest, a majority, will be gotten around to eventually
    we earnestly hope.

    Striving to manage global politics to produce Utopian Globalism would be futile. Politics isn’t
    science it is a process. Like the weather – it just is – nothing you can do about it. Globalization is
    an inevitability that has, enabled by technology, been underway for centuries. It seems much
    more likely to me that Kardashev’s original technical Type 1 could occur before utopian
    Globalism Type 1. He paints a more values neutral picture. Imagining free unlimited energy
    leaves far more interesting possibilities. Free trade and democracy do not, and seem quaint and
    pedestrian – almost biblical in ambition.

    I muse:
    If it’s a Type 1 Civ you want I’ll wager that Informed Despots would get ‘er done before the
    Simple Majority comes. Damn the 49.9% Minority! Let’s see, today that would be almost four
    billion voters. Sorry dudes.

    Praise be Adam’s Invisible Hand and Long Forked Tail. Households shall accumulate wealth
    trading phantom container vessels full of phantom Hammacher Schlemmer goods. Sargasso Seas
    of Nikes and rubber duckies shall be parted to make way for the Win Winners.

    Ship has sailed already:
    Solving the Climate Change problem is not rocket science though it might be brain surgery and
    require a lot of lobotomies. The Climate change dilemma is a global political stew of despotic
    regimes, non-sovereign entities, and quasi-democracies. Some sort of heroic A-bomb or Get to
    the Moon First effort can’t work in that world. There are plenty of strategies and sophisticated
    technologies available that could have maintained the climate ecologically anthro-free. I say
    “could have” because, sorry Charlie, the inevitable tipping point HAS been reached.

    Human social evolution is driven by win-loose patterns of social organization. As it does with
    biological evolution stress is what moves a species to another state. The much admired
    cockroach, horseshoe crabs, and opossums survived from deep in evolutionary time because of
    their win, winning attitudes! Unlike natural selection social evolution can be nudged ahead with
    small measures of success but not enough (herding billions of cats) to reach a goal like Type 1

    Third rock:
    I enthusiastically agree that now is the time for optimism about human potential. We hear Littlel
    kids, mostly informed and enthralled by their video media’s dystopic visions of the sorry state
    we’ve got ourselves, say we must go to Mars because we’ll need a new planet to move to. Well
    guess what kids – much of this planet is well on it’s way to being Mars-like. Awesome! Your
    challenge is to learn how to live right here, not to terra-form (What a laugh!) Mars.

    Our species is a sort of extremophile with brains able to inhabit most if not all of Earth’s climate
    zones. In a couple of generations the mal-evolved climate will seem normal to the data hunter
    gatherers. As for the 98% remainder of bio-mass… ?

    Optimistic Rationalist

  26. With any luck, an asteroid lay three days off Earth’s port bow, closing fast.

    Very Tired Realist

  27. Ramon says:

    I really doubt a “Global” in the sense described will help.

    “…complete open economic borders and free markets where anyone can trade with anyone else without interference from states or governments…”

    Now that is a harbinger for total annihilation of the human race.

    “…and where all states are democracies in which everyone on the planet has the franchise” Mmm.. I guess some kind of socialism. Or the Federation in Star Trek. Capitalism will mass produce untill the total exhaustion of the planet. Note that the other planets and our moon are eyed as sources of cheap raw materials.

  28. Vie says:

    “But now we have the opportunity to live in a win-win world and become a Type I civilization by spreading liberal democracy and free trade.” Do we? This statement seems to be based upon the idea that win-win is a viable possibility, but taking the skeptical point of view, I ask you if you have any objective evidence that such a scenario is possible. In my opinion, the reason why a Type 1 Civilization does not exist and never has is because it can’t. Human nature seems to point to a tendancy towards social stratification and division, which is the whole reason why they have persisted since early paleolithic culture. The win-lose dichotomy is a thread in the fabric of our very being, and I wonder if it isn’t integral to the nature of our species. New technology has never been able to alter that basic, competitve urge. Egalitarian hunter-gather peoples, such as the Aborigines and the Yanomama, have been cited but the common denominator for these societies is a lack of storable wealth. Whenever something can be stored and accumulated, we have seen throughout the course of human history that it is. It’s then competed for and defended, like any other resource.

  29. Patrick says:

    If you have an economic system whereby the government can manipulate the economy is it not reasonable to assume that the government can manipulate the economy in such a way as to make war cheap?

    Furthermore, if you have a political system whereby people cannot express their concerns, especially if the concern is war then you have a system where the people who must pay for war and suffer the costs of war have ways to prevent war from happening.

    Which returns me to the first point, the people must be able to fully understand the costs of war…and that means no government manipulation of the economy through regulation, trade barriers, taxes, wage and price controls etc.

    That is, capitalism, free trade, and a constitutional republic make war expensive, the cost of war visible, and give people the means to express a disinterest in paying, fighting, and suffering from war.

    This isn’t religion, its reason.

  30. AnthroPhilo says:

    What your paper suggests is impossible. In regards to the civilization types, a type 4 civilization is basically a singular collective consciousness in which progression will cease. Like an emperor with his servants, progress will not be possible in that stage. Even though you didn’t mention that part. Even a type 1 civ will require perfection, and the only way for it’s advancement would be to have everyone’s needs met, and by that I mean 0 poverty, 100% of the population working to attain a single goal, THE DYSON SPHERE. But that arises the question of who is in control of the world’s free energy?. Without complete cooperation (no ill will, no business for profit, everyone helps, everyone knows, and everyone reaps the rewards) this would be impossible.

    • William Mook says:

      The Smithsonian funded a number of cosmic surveys of galaxy distributions. They discovered that the cosmos was arrayed like soapsuds. Bright matter formed shells around dark spheres. Is there matter in the darkness? Perhaps, there IS a missing mass problem. But there might be other explanations.

      How did the cosmos get to be like this?

      Some have speculated that early in the history of the cosmos superstrings exploded and swept matter up in shock waves where galaxies formed.

      But there might be other explanations.

      Here’s one;

      Assuming continuous technical progress, what is the most reasonable thing for alien technical civilizations to do?

      This is a highly speculative question, and assumes many things about intelligence we don’t really know in a scientific sense. However, just for fun, here’s an answer;

      Turn off the stars.

      Stars burn out in about 10 billion years – and if anyone wants to organize their affairs for the long-haul, they’d want to turn off the stars, disassemble them – and use the hydrogen to power industrial processes. HOW this is done is left as a homework problem for the reader. That it is useful if it can be done is clearly true.

      So, cosmic conditions enforce a sort of cosmic survival paradigm.

      What would such a civilization look like? (assuming life were common in the cosmos, but perhaps rare on the scale of galaxies)

      Well, a TC (technical civilization) would expand from its homeworld, and over time, command more and more resources, and find itself with an embarassment of riches. This is true as long as economic growth exceeds biological growth. At some point, long-term strategic thinkers would enforce a paradigm to stop the cosmos from wasting resources the TC will eventually make use of. They’d turn off the stars. So, there would be a growing sphere of darkness centered on the home world – which would remain brightly lit in the dark like a city at night. There would also be a movement of materials inward, and perhaps an expanding ring of brightness growing outward. So, this would be something to look for.

      Now, the same physics that gave rise to life and technology on Earth operates throughout the cosmos. Also, we know that for over half the life of the cosmos, there were insufficient heavy elements to allow life as we know it to form. We also know that for over half the life on Earth life was single celled – and its hard to think how intelligence can form without bodies and brains. So, it may be that life in the cosmos is a recent phenomenon, and that it is very likely less than 1 billion years old.

      Already we have identified workable means to travel about 1/3 light speed (Bob Forward’s laser light sail)

      So, using this as a lower limit, and looking at the diameter of the dark spheres discovered by the Smithsonian surveys, we can see that all the spheres, if they were formed by the processing of the cosmos by TCs – are less than 1 billion years old. Also, this explains the missing mass. Dark matter is matter under the control of intelligence – organizing to survive a trillion years or more on the hydrogen of stars they took apart.

      We also know how WE would do such a thing – in general. VonNeuman machines


      And we may already have detected them.

      Like the ants at a roadside cafe, we may not know the difference between natural and artificial structures we see around us.

      • William Mook says:

        Finally, haha – you can tell I spent WAY too much time thinking about these things when I was younger! – Hawking’s discussion of mini-universes got me thinking about K5s

        What if at some point in the future TCs could spawn ENTIRE UNIVERSES on demand?

        That way individuals would command the resources of a K4 civilization by definition.

        So, I don’t see the sort of outcome you do on that basis as well.

  31. Vie says:

    Galaxies aside- the idea that civilization moves in a linear progression from simple societies to more complex ones is not merely arrogant and ethnocentric- it is simply incorrect. That notion characterized early anthropology, and it was known as Evolutionism. It proposed that all societies go through the same basic stages, progressing from savagery, to barbarism (big leap yeah?), and then to civilization. As the base of knowledge available to cultural anthropologists grew, it became obvious that Evolutionism was riddled with holes. It didn’t explain why some societies regressed, others didn’t change at all, some moved forward, and yet others became extinct.
    In fact, one anthropologist, Leslie A. White even suggested that the amount of energy a civilization could harness somehow determined the evolutionary status of a society. Yet this theory alsoo fails to answer the questions of why some societies don’t move through linear stages.
    In addition to this, there are just some really obvious flaws. Namely, Shermer states that we have the opportunity to live in a win-win world through globalization, but by it’s very definition globalization is a win-lose scenario. If we assume Western values and technology represent the most evolved state of a civilization to date, then what becomes of indigenous cultures in Shermer’s model? Well, they’d have to lose wouldn’t they?

    • Tim says:

      The economy is not a zero-sum game. Globalization is a win-win game, a world of trade and fair exchange. I recommend Mr. Shermer’s book “The Mind of the Market” on this topic.

  32. Running Gag says:

    William Mook, I thoroughly enjoyed your posts. Thank you for being a shining beacon of intelligence in a tumultuous sea of utter nonsense.

  33. Benjamin says:

    Considering the individual and small-group orientation of human psychology, our ‘nature,’ combined with wealth accumulation and power dynamics I wonder if ‘Democratic Capitalism’ can ever truly steer us towards a Type 1.0 civilization?

    Does ‘Democratic Capitalism’ evolve significantly if 100% of the world adopts it? When I picture today’s DC countries duplicated and supplanting everyone else it’s very hard to imagine ‘free knowledge’ or the political will to solve survival issues requiring resources and focus spanning multiple generations.

  34. Rohitassa says:

    There is a website promoting Type 1 Civilization. Please join this movement ….