Dr. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist often interviewed on shows such as NOVA, has a good overview of the limitations on civilizations imposed by the basic laws of physics. He discusses the classic three types of civilizations based on energy consumption and control, the potential use of Von Neumann machines, and he covers some of the reasons why SETI isn’t detecting anything beyond static. I hope that the reason we don’t hear anything when we turn to the stars is simply that we’re not listening the right way, and not that nobody is out there.
5 thoughts on “Galactic Civilizations”
I think this a hopelessly crude and outdated classification. We don’t see any evidence of Type-3 civilizations, so the described evolution does not occur in the field or (the most terrifying) idea hasn’t occurred to far.
if anyone has read any stephen baxter you will be familliar with everything in this article.
George Dvorsky at Sentient Developments talks about this sort of stuff quite frequently from a more critical perspective; seems counter-intuitive coming from a self-confessed Singularitarian, but he’s a smart bloke who isn’t afraid to get busy with Occam’s Razor on the subjects he holds dear.
Sending out millions of probes which over time create and send many billions of probes into the galaxy to explore is a similar approach to my exploration of the Amazon when flushing a large stool containing huge numbers of my intestinal fauna whilst flying over it. I’m not sure how it’s exploration at all. Individual surviving probes may get to ‘see’ a tiny fraction of the galaxy but how does that help us? Are expecting some sort of superluminal telegraph from them? In which case it’s a great idea.
Any advanced civilization must grow in energy consumption faster than the frequency of life-threatening catastrophes (e.g. meteor impacts, ice ages, supernovas, etc.).
Oups.. I just wanted to ask regarding the previous quote, how would one draw up a chart showing growth in energy use to see if it’s faster than catastrophe frequency? I have an intuitive feel of its rightness, but it’s on the edge of making actual sense or simply being a category error.
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