Abusing the Kardashev Scale For Fun and Profit
"Your race hasn't even reached Type 1 on the Kardashev scale. It doesn't control the resources of this one planet, let alone a solar system or a galaxy. The Time Lords were the Type 4 civilization. We had no equals. We controlled the fundamental forces of the entire universe. Nothing could communicate with us on our level. Most races pray to lesser beings than the Time Lords."
Technology Levels has some actual reference in the real world in the form of the Kardashev Scale, which indicates how much power a civilization uses. This was originally used in the context of astronomy, speculating about what advanced alien civilizations might look like from afar, particularly the implications of enormous energy demands. It has since been used to compare the Power Levels of fictional civilizations and, sometimes, individuals.
Note that the Kardashev number of a civilization indicates only its power use: it is at best just a proxy for the scale of technological capabilities at play, and it can become less proximate the softer the Sci-Fi gets, which also makes it harder to evaluate where a civilization rates on the Kardashev scale if no hard numbers are given. As an example, consider the human civilizations of Avatar and Ender's Game. Both use relativistic craft and travel between fairly local systems. Though there are world-destroying weapons and much larger scale space travel in Ender's Game and its sequels, the phlebotinum involved is specifically said to use enormously less energy than normal physics would suggest for accomplishing those tasks. In Avatar, the necessity of brute-forcing relativistic travel may put that civilization higher on the Kardashev scale, despite the largely inferior technology and scale of development. Keep this in mind when placing examples, and try to include some explanation. After all, a hallmark of improving technology is increased efficiency, which would actually lower a civilization's Kardashev rating, all else equal.
The problem of pinning down these various entities to a nice level could imply a nice subtrope. Most Soft Sci-Fi is powered by a Large Convenient Energy Source (LCES), which in theory provides as much energy as the plot requires without refueling ("Scotty, I need more power"). Meanwhile, since they are using magic, anti-matter, dark matter, white holes, or black holes, the theoretical power that these devices provide to our protagonists does not result in the expected megascale Dyson Spheres, ring orbitals, or space elevators. Unfortunately (or fortunately for the sake of comprehensible story telling) we relate "better" to this soft Sci-Fi even though it does little to represent the actual technology needed to power replicators, transporters, shields, and artificial gravity on grand scales.
A bit on numbering. Kardashev himself only outlined discrete numbers for levels I, II, and III, with power values corresponding to 1964 humanity, the Sun, and the Milky Way respectively. Later discussions of the topic have generally fixed the value of a Type I power level as that of the Earth's insolation. Carl Sagan proposed a revised scale based on a logarithmic formula rather than the specific values of celestial objects. It might be less intuitive, but it allows easy interpolation and extrapolation, with a .1 difference representing a 10x difference in power. Extensions to the scale above Type III are not universally agreed upon, so Sagan's formula is used for the purposes of categorizing things in this article, with various real phenomena listed for scale in the appropriate subcategories. Don't expect references to the Kardashev Scale in fiction to necessarily correspond to this formulation, as the page quote implies.
Unmarked Spoilers Abound From This Point Onward.
Type 0: Less than Type I. Clear cases go here. If it looks like a large fraction of a planet's power, it's borderline.
Anime and Manga
- Japan in Neon Genesis Evangelion diverts its national electrical output of 180GW into a Wave Motion Gun.
- The civilization in EYES of Mars appears to have tried to go for Type 1, and destroyed their primary planet in the process. This also made their secondary planet uninhabitable, except for a small biosphere. They eventually migrated to a third planet.
- Earth in Power Rangers is probably here. While it does have some nifty technology, it is in the hands of the government or can only be afforded by the very wealthy, and overall development seems to take up a pretty small fraction of the planet's energy budget. Other civilizations might be a bit higher.
- The human civilization on Earth is currently hovering around a 0.72, with a power level of about 1.6×1013 W, the vast majority extracted from high-density chemically stored solar energy (fossil fuels), with some nuclear fission on the side and other direct and indirect solar energy harvesting methods contributing a small fraction.
- A very, very powerful car could achieve about 1 MW at its peak, yielding a personal 0.00. As the scale is logarithmic, anything lower would generate a negative rating.
- The Sandia National Lab in the U.S spikes to 0.85 for about 95 nanoseconds on the scale (3.5×1014 W) each time it activates the Z-Machine, a thermonuclear bomb simulator. Said lab intends to eventually increase the power of the machine to 1×1015W for 100 nanosecond pulses to operate as an experimental pulsed power fusion reactor (1 petawatt being the input for one very short Z-pinch pulse - not the output) - hitting a rating of 0.9 on the scale.
- The National Ignition Facility at the U.S Lawrence-Livermore National Lab is another pulsed inertial fusion experiment, with its massive laser system capable generating nanosecond-scale flashes of 5×1014 W on the fusion target, making a spike up to about 0.87 for a very, very short time.
Borderline Type I: Power use roughly equivalent to a terrestrial planet's insolation. 1E16W
Anime and Manga
- Cowboy Bebop displays a multi-planetary civilization that has gotten banged up quite a bit. Populations are small by today's standards, but interplanetary travel is fairly common. Probably somewhere around this level.
- Battle Angel Alita is probably around here, considering the power of individuals at the Zenith of Things Tournament. Jupiter seems to have a Dyson sphere variant, and a laser that can cut a shield that can block nuclear blasts. Zekka has an internalized anti-matter reactor of sorts, and Don Fua has a black hole generating technique.
- Transmetropolitan explicitly references the trope—or an older version of it, anyway. Type I is described not only as harnessing all the power, but having eliminated internal conflicts. The other two types are largely the same. Spider notes that they can perform miracles with engines too small to be seen and have turned all of Mercury into a solar battery enough to power the entirety of Earth continuously... but they are still divided. Approximately 1017W if 60% or so of Mercury's light is harnessed.
- Ender's Saga. As the typical interstellar travel time is tens of years at close to light speed, we can assume humanity still inhabits a relatively small patch of Galaxy after thousands of years. The shown planets have smaller civilizations than our current one, but they are numerous. It is hinted that nearly all of them were conquered in the Third Invasion, and that means no more than a few a day during a few years. Some of the more impressive technology, like interstellar travel, is noted to take relatively little power. So probably less than 1.5×1017W.
- Triplanetary, the prequel(-ish) Lensman novel, covers humanity going from a Type 0 to a Type 1. At the end, relatively easy interstellar travel has been achieved, and power is generated through (almost) completely efficient matter-to-energy conversion.
- Farscape seems to have dozens of civilizations at around this level, depending on just how much power the phlebotinum uses.
- Firefly might just be Type I, depending on its population. Serenity (considered old in-universe) takes minutes (say, 1000 s) to get out of an Earth-like gravity well (Earth's gravity well has a depth of 6×107J/kg), and is capable of carrying herds of cows (say, 50 cows weighing 700 kg each); putting all that together, Serenity herself has a power output of at least 2×109W. So, if Serenity's engine represents one part in 108 of that civilization's power output, the total civilization's output is at least 2×1017W. (For comparison, note that 1:108 is roughly the ratio of a car engine's power output to the power output of our entire civilization.)
- The 12 Colonies of Kobol in Battlestar Galactica (prior to the Cylon nuclear bombardment), given that they used at least a fraction of the power available on 12 planets, and have a decent fleet in a setting where nukes are plentiful and considered powerful.
- The sub-Vorlon/Shadow civilizations of Babylon 5 seem to be in this neighborhood.
- The major races in Mass Effect (the turians, the asari, the salarians and arguably mankind) are probably meager Type Is, with highly developed homeworlds and numerous yet sparsely populated colonies. The remaining races inhabiting Citadel Space are somewhat less, maybe high Type 0.
- Debatable. They were able to reverse-engineer technology from the Reapers (below), quite fast, and put them onto their Fighters and Frigates. Also, it's only humanity's colonies that are sparsely populated; the turians had colonies big enough for several wars to be fought between them millennia ago.
- In A Miracle of Science, most of the people live on incompletely utilized planets. However, Mars is completely harnessed and the Martians are doing some interesting things with all that power, though Mars gets quite a bit less sunlight than Earth. All told, probably about Type I.
- Earth receives about 1.74×1017W from the Sun.
Solid Type I: Clearly more than a single planet's energy budget, but less than a star's.
Anime and Manga
- The Zentradi of Macross are the slowly decaying remnants of an ancient (perhaps Type II) civilization. At the time the series takes place, they are probably mid-to-high Type I. In the course of the various series and movies they become progressively assimilated by humanity, which is itself an upwardly mobile Type I.
- The Krell, the (extinct) inhabitants of the Forbidden Planet. They left behind a facility of enormous power (described as 9,600 thermonuclear generators occupying 33,000 cubic kilometers), and "harnessing the power of an exploding star" though the purpose was initially unknown. It doesn't display a whole lot of power in the movie, but estimating a reasonable power density for the generators would put the Krell in this range.
- Delphons were an alien race in The History of the Galaxy series of novels by the Russian science fiction writer Andrey Livadny. They had a civilization spanning several star systems, and were likely here.
- The Consu, the most advanced race in the Old Man's War series, are explicitly described as "having a white dwarf yoked to the wheel" (a Dyson sphere). While Dyson Spheres are normally the territory of Type II and up, white dwarves typically radiate much less power than the Sun, putting the Consu here unless they possess an unusually bright dwarf.
- The United Federation of Planets of Star Trek is composed of a whole group of Type I-ish civilizations banded together for truth, justice, and
the American Wayinteresting plotlines.
- In one episode, the power output of the Enterprise-D is given at "12.75 billion gigawatts", which is the same power output of an entire Type 1.3 civilization. So either the Enterprise-D alone uses an appreciable fraction of the Federation's resources, the Federation is well into Type 2 territory, or the writers just picked a really big number that sounded impressive.
- For comparison, a Nimitz-class carrier's output is about .001% the total global output, and a Saturn V's was about 3%. So, assuming a similar ratio between the Galaxy-class and the Federation, the whole civilization would be between 4×1020 and 1×1024W, solidly in Type I territory. This seems to be in line with the widespread use of fusion and bulk antimatter for power.
- The Borg Collective probably weighs in as a pretty hefty Type I, with galaxy spanning communications networks, massive fleets, extensive space installations, hundreds of civilizations assimilated, and a fairly decent ability to beat up other Type Is.
- The Stargate SG-1 Asgard and their enemies the Replicators are tough to call. They are among the most powerful active civilizations (if the Replicators can really be called that) in the setting, but they don't do a whole lot of big, Kardashev-Scale-bumping stuff on screen, and the actual power use of their tech is largely not shown. Still, they're active on a scale that would suggest something in this category.
- The Tau, Orks, and non-Imperium human factions of Warhammer 40,000 are probably here. Compare with the Imperium, probably a borderline Type II, the Eldar, a clear Type II, and the Tyranids and Necrons in Other.
- The Tau have probably the smallest civilization of the playable factions, but fairly dense development.
- The Orks are extremely widespread, but they don't care much for the large industry needed to climb the Kardashev Scale. Hence, their most populous worlds don't remotely approach a Type I level of development, and they only make it here due to occupying so many.
- The non-Imperium human factions have somewhat similar technology and infrastructure, but typically operate on smaller scales than the Imperium, probably putting them here.
- The human civilization in Freelancer, a system-spanning bunch of colonies with lots of stars and planets at their disposal. They also have Jump Gates that interconnect their systems by carving holes through spacetime. Space travel is fairly cheap and common.
- The Terrans of Starcraft have Fairly rapid travel within their pocket of the galaxy and have colonised a significant portion of it, although the bulk of their tech seems to be borderline Type I at best. Mind you, the game only deals with one millionth of the humanity, the rest is quite open to WMG.
- The Tsar Bomba, the most powerful device ever built by humanity, achieved about 5.3×1024W, near the top of this category.
Borderline Type II: Power use roughly equivalent to a G type star's radiant output. 1E26W
- The various human groups in Hyperion are very much capable of building living Dyson Spheres/rings around stars, but seem to generally stick to single planets. By way of comparison the AIs are considerably more advanced (they can teleport planets) and are considered God-like by most people, and probably use rather more power. Likely scenario is a decent number of partially utilized stars for the humans, maybe somewhat more for the AIs.
- The unidentified builders of the Dyson Sphere in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Relics".
- Vorlons of Babylon 5 are possibly this high based on some demonstrated planetary bombardment, but they're rather mysterious, so it's hard to say for sure. This is even more pronounced for their rivals the Shadows, which, though their superweapons seem to be considerably less powerful, are apparently in a stalemate with the Vorlons.
- The Imperium of Man from Warhammer 40,000 probably goes here. It possesses myriad hive worlds, each probably rating about Type I, and countless Type 0 worlds across much of the galaxy. Their more powerful weapons can blow up planets, indicating transitory mid Type II scale power use, though that happens fairly rarely.
- The Dom Ka'vosh from Freelancer, who built an almost galaxy-wide empire long before Humanity colonized the Sirius sector. You must enter a Dyson Sphere in the last mission, and nothing contradicts the possibility that there may be more of them.
- The Ascent to Transcendance victory text of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri indicates that building a structure intended to mimic the theoretical effects of the Dyson sphere is a project currently being undertaken and which will be completed relatively soon.
- The elusive Geth of Mass Effect may be in this territory. The small amount of their space shown features low to mid Type I scale development per system, with tens to hundreds of thousands of ships and orbital platforms, especially around gas giants. If they control a good part of a galactic arm, which they may, they'd be around here.
- The Sun puts out about 3.86×1026W, as a largish G type star using mostly proton-proton chain fusion, converting slightly over 4 million metric tons of mass into energy every second.
Solid Type II: Clearly more power than a single star, but less than a galaxy.
- The unseen aliens in The Space Odyssey Series have the ability to make stars. This might indicate midlevel Type II power use, depending on just how they go about it.
- The Instrumentality of Mankind controlled a significant region of the Milky Way, including several Type I worlds, had effective immortality (though they limited lifespans to 400 years for most its history) and could intimidate other interstellar empires with
balloonsstarships an AU in diameter.
- It's explicitly stated more than once in-universe that creating a tachyon bubble (the faster-than-light travel method of the Lords) "consumes" a star. Whatever that means, precisely, it's almost certainly a lot more energy than simply using its entire power output, and is arguably sufficient to categorize them as Type III, though they don't seem to continuously require this amount of power. It's also possible... no details are really given... that the technology is extremely inefficient and most of the power is actually wasted.
- In Known Space, Puppeteers are pretty solidly Type II. They (claim to have) disassembled at least one entire solar system to build their Fleet of Worlds and accelerated it to a reasonable fraction of the speed of light. They bought the technology to do so from Outsiders, but they were still able to implement their plans on their own.
- The Eldar in Warhammer 40,000 were, at their height, capable of birthing and destroying stars. Much of their technology was lost with the Fall (such as the ability to maintain and expand the Webway, a pocket dimension used for safe interstellar travel), they are still able to "capture" stars to use as power sources.
- At the maximum tech level in the Space Empires games, you are capable of creating and destroying stars, nebulae, black holes, Ringworlds and Sphereworlds.
- The Protoss in StarCraft have Warp Gates, shields, the ability to distort localized space, and no small amount of Frickin' Laser Beams. Even individuals and their robots can create local spacetime distortions. However, it is mentioned they are not a prolific race, so that may play with their measurements somewhat.
- The Combine in Half-Life 2 has most of their technology operate on exotic matter. Their Citadels are powered by dark energy reactors that screw around with physics to power themselves and generate infinite amounts of dark energy plasma. Said plasma is used for a number of purposes including portable power sources and ammunition as well as being fed into a dark fusion reactor that can literally tear a hole in the fabric of spacetime and tunnel into other universes. While this already makes them Type II, the Combine has already conquered an unknown number of worlds which makes them a solid candidate for Type III.
- In Schlock Mercenary, the F'sherl-Ganni Gatekeepers were a Class II Civilization, utilizing Dyson Spheres (or 'Buuthandi' as they call them) widely. Their recent defeat in the Teraport Wars, and the destruction of several of their Buuthandi, however, may have kicked them down to borderline II, or even lower if all were destroyed, but that situation isn't clear. They're dependent on protection from the local superpower—the Fleetmind, a gigantic AI network led by 'Petey', an Unfettered AI. Petey controls a gigantic reactor that surrounds the very core of the galaxy. Originally built by the F'sherl-Ganni in an attempt to ascend to Class III, the reactor nearly destroyed the galaxy due to a flaw which Petey later corrected—allowing him to not only wield tremendous energy, but actually move the entire galaxy at will.
- It is probable that Petey is not yet at Type III. A mid-high Type II, maybe, but it isn't clear that he has harnessed the power equivalent of a whole galaxy from just the core. While the core of an active galaxy can outshine the rest, the Milky Way's core emits only a tiny percentage of the overall energy output, so the Fleetmind is probably here unless they're force-feeding the black hole.
- Whether the Andromedan Darkmatter Entities are classifiable as Class III, Class IV, or even classifiable at all, is another matter entirely... but for their sake, you'd better hope they're pretty high, seeing as Petey is dedicating most of his available forces to fighting them.
- Referenced in the Alt Text for this xkcd strip.
Borderline Type III: power use roughly equivalent to a galaxy's radiant output. 1E36W
- The Galactic Republic/Empire of Star Wars, a galaxy-spanning society with very fast FTL and at least a million heavily developed planets, is a very high Type II, possibly a Type III (at least when the guy with the underbite helmet pulls the lever).
- See http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Superlaser for details on the Death Star's power output, possibly as high as 1×1038W -- which would put the civilization well into Type III for as long as it was firing. After all, reducing a planet to a 4 July firework takes some doing.
- The first Death Star charged up for a planet-buster in about a day, which would give its power core a sustained output of around 3 million of our Suns. And the second one charged in a couple hours.
- Star Destroyers, given their very impressive planetary-bombardment capabilities, may generate as much power as stars, and almost` certainly generate more power than the Earth has generated to date—and they're big for a starship in the setting, but not ridiculous.
- The Executor-class Star Dreadnought has a power core that puts out the same energy as class G star. Regular old Star Destroyers are said to exceed the total energy consumption of some planetary civilizations over their entire history (potentially hundreds of thousands of years in Star Wars) when they jump to hyperspace.
- The aliens in Contact engage in galactiforming. It's implied they're pushing the limits of their capabilities by doing this, though the extent of their works isn't very clear.
- The Culture is an interstellar civilization that draws most of its power from the "hyperspace Grid" rather than from the visible universe, and its demiliatarised diplomatic ships are capable of destroying whole planets. Their theoretical power level might be even higher; they are stated to be a "post scarcity" society and could have the capability to harness energy that might possibly qualify them as a Type IV, but if so they deliberately choose not to.
- The Galactic Union of E. E. Smith's Lensman series has starship engines (combined total-conversion nuclear power and Zero Point Energy devices) generating hundreds of exawatts (roughly 5×1020W) at peak power. A starship can have anything from one or two to hundreds of these engines. And most fleet battles engage thousands or millions of these ships, if not more.
- That's child's play next to their weapons of mass destruction. Which include antimatter bombs of Earth-like mass. Oh, and they throw those around by the thousands, too.
- The Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. The stellar energy output of the whole galaxy is utilized by the Galactic Community of Worlds -- about 1×1036W.
- A rare single being example, Nuklear Man from Brian Clevinger's Nuklear Age is capable of using half the power of every star in the Milky Way to kill Nihilus.
- Human civilization in the Xenosaga series and to its extent, Xenogears, by proxy, have come very close to this level thanks in part to the Zohar Engine, which in and of itself is a relic of a type IV or above civilization. or, as some have suggested, just a well placed deus ex machina. The ships seemed to be powered by zero point energy units called "Logic Drives". In addition, the device shown at the end of the series, Zarathustra, is a extreme example of something that would be a type IV...being able to "reset" heat death.
- The Pa'anuri of Schlock Mercenary designed a gadget that overwrote the Milky Way galaxy with a pocket universe (ok, so they didn't build it themselves, but they provided the plans and 'observers' to the F'sherl-Ganni), and use entire star systems as projectiles, so they might be here, though that's highly dependent on the efficiency of their phlebotinum. Given that they're fighting over a single galaxy, they're probably not higher or much lower than this.
- That's their expeditionary force though, the combined 'power' of their population in Andromeda...
- The Milky Way shines with about 4×1037W.
Solid Type III: More power than a single galaxy, but probably less than a galactic supercluster.
- Manifold Time by Stephen Baxter. In the distant future, descendants of humanity maintain vast Dyson nets around the supermassive black hole remnants of galaxies until they evaporate via Hawking radiation, accessing the power equivalent of multiple galaxies.
- A star puts out a lot more energy from fusion than a black hole of the same mass would from Hawking radiation. Also, the more massive the hole, the lower its effective temperature. This might be more of a Type II or borderline Type III, depending on exactly how many "multiple" is.
- Though the details are a bit sketchy, some remarks in HP Lovecraft's Whispers in the Dark suggest that the Mi-go could be here, since they've mastered interdimensional travel and apparently rule entire galaxies in their native dimensions.
- An offshoot of the Caeliar species in the Star Trek: Destiny series. They had been shunted back in time nearly fourteen billion years into another galaxy. In the intervening years, they constructed a Dyson Sphere around every star in their new galaxy, knowing that such overt technology would attract the attention of their past selves living in the present, which would let them destroy them for investigating and send a few meager remnants into the past, completing a Stable Time Loop. They fact that the Caeliar as a whole are borderline Reality Warpers who have ridiculously advanced technology that makes them functionally immortal and can teleport away entire planets and civilizations that come bothering them probably pushes them close to a Type IV.
- The Danannians from L.E. Modesitt's The Eternity Artifact were at least Type III, but it's entirely possible they were a borderline type IV+.
- Established powers in Orion's Arm do things like suck entire stars through wormholes called grazers (over a period of many decades) and convert their mass directly to energy. A star's mass is in the 1×1030 kg, just under 1×1017 J per kg, "decades" is around 1×109seconds... you do the math.
- Quasars vary, but 1×1040W is a ballpark.
Borderline Type IV: Power use approximately that of one to many superclusters. 1E46W
- The Virgo Supercluster (where we are) emits about 1×1042W.
- A gamma ray burst is around here, 1×1045W.
Solid Type IV+: Universe-scale power use/control.
Anime and Manga
- The somewhat hazy physics of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann make judging tech levels somewhat difficult, but the Anti-Spirals are easily a Type IV, if not above that: they can manipulate probability to ensure their weapons always hit, they can dodge attacks by casual time travel, and they can create a galaxy-sized Humongous Mecha that can use the Big Bang as a Wave Motion Gun. And it's suggested that that's nowhere near the limit of their abilities: in Lagann-hen, they one-up their galaxy-sized mecha with a universe-sized one. The heroes of the story use Spiral energy to achieve similar abilities (it's likely that the titular Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the good counterpart to the aforementioned galaxy-sized mecha, is likely a Type IV on its own), but their civilization is never shown above Type II.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann by pretty much a moon sized mecha and the will power of ten people. Tengen Toppa stands on galaxies, is powered by mostly one man's spirit, and moves at at the speed of billions of light years.[context?] When Lordgenome dies, he turns the energy of a big bang into a drill, which is then consumed by Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (or Tengen Toppa Lagann). In Lagann-Hen's case, then proceed to make an even bigger "mecha" made entirely of energy, and then that energy being makes an energy drill the size of the universe.
- The Time Lords of Doctor Who.
- Their ultimate weapon was so powerful that only the Time Lord president could wield it and it requires a hidden key only the president knows about to operate. The weapon in question is the Demat Gun. It doesn't just destroy a target, it erases the target from time and space so that the target never existed in the first place with nobody even remembering what the target was.
- The Doctor probably ranks as his own personal Type IV. He uses supernovas when needed, which produce 1×1045W (100 foes over 10 seconds) during the stellar collapse.
- The Master with his 100,000 Black Hole Converters also gets this distinction, assuming they harness the same energy conversion of the gravitational potential energy to neutrinos.
- If you are wondering why they have so many headaches, Time Lords have a big thing about not interfering. You see, the Silver Nemesis, the Time Scoop, all of these things are ludicrously powerful. In "The Three Doctors", they seem to have a monitoring station capable of keeping track of all of the energy in the universe. They are, however, an indolent bunch of bureaucrats and politicians and rarely use any of their power. The Osirians were said to be able to defeat even the Time Lords. As for the Black and White Guardians, they appear to be personifications of universal concepts, effectively gods, so they are probably beyond even a type IV.
- One of the Expanded Universe novels states that their stunning lack of personalities is a cultural defense to make sure no Time Lord gets Drunk with Power. It works. Mostly.
- The People, from the Doctor Who New Adventures novel The Also People, are described as being roughly on par with the Time Lords (to the extent that they actually have a non-aggression pact with them). The technology we see is at the "magic" level, but there's not enough specific information to pinpoint it. They seem to use it only for personal sensual gratification, however.
- Considering the Daleks were able to fight the Time Lords to a draw in the Last Time War before the Doctor consigned both of them to seeming oblivion, the Dalek civilization at some point had to be at least within an order of magnitude of the Time Lords, a level of power not even hinted at in the original series. Note, however, that most of the Doctor's encounters with them occurred during Davros' (first?) lifetime, which, even if it extended into the thousands of years, would still be pretty insignificant over the whole of time. Considering the Timey-Wimey Ball nature of the Whoniverse, the idea of the Daleks developing over a period of thousands or millions of years from a postapocalyptic Super Soldier race to one of the biggest threats in the universe during the assumed real world time period of ~50 years isn't even remotely unbelievable.
- One has to allow for both Davros having spent considerable time in stasis, along with the fact that time travel is involved. Dalek history may not be linear. It is also worth noting that Davros individually and the Daleks generally (the Doctor once referred to them as "scavengers") seemed to have a strong desire to acquire Time Lord technology, and possibly the necessary intellect to at least marginally understand it. That they may have stolen most of what they had is reinforced by the fact that in most instances the Doctor seems to understand how their technology works.
- The Overarch Bedeckants, the civilisation in The Culture that built the probe in Excession travel between universes so as to avoid extinction by being trapped in one when it undergoes heat death. Their lone probe brushed off the most powerful weapon the Culture wielded without any apparent effort. However, most of the information about the Excession comes from Intelligence report suppositions and a single largely incoherent rambling rant from the Excession itself.
- The Xeelee from the novels of Stephen Baxter's Xeelee Sequence have absolute mastery over the entirety of all baryonic matter in universe. Entire galactic clusters are just bricks to these guys. Future humans make it to Type III and try to attack them by shooting a whole neutron star at near light speed at them like a bullet, and they all but ignore it as insignificant. In the same universe are the Photino Birds, creatures of dark matter against whom the Xeelee fight a multi-billion year existential war and lose , because the photino birds have absolute mastery over all the dark matter in the universe, and dark matter outmasses baryonic matter by about 9 to 1.
- Humanity in The Dancers at the End of Time series: they abused the universe so much that the heat death of the universe is on the verge of happening merely one million years in the future, instead of several trillions. The worst part is that they could fix it, and the only thing preventing them is... intellectual laziness.
Religion and Mythology
- Traditional view of a God creating the universe ex-nihilo means you need to take the current mass-energy content of the universe (4×1069J) and have expelled it in the time before time existed (one unit of Planck time, or 5.39124×10−44 seconds), coming up with 7×10112W. This would put God, at a bare minimum, as a Type X.
- A bizarre example in the Family Guy episode "Not All Dogs Go To Heaven"—the Earth and all the galaxies in the universe are shown to be part of Adam West's bedside table lamp.
- For the denizens of the Futurama universe, traveling to the edge of the universe and back is a trivially easy task. As is killing everything everywhere. They also posses the ability to alter universal constants and other physics across the whole universe (scientists changed the speed of light in 2208), which can also be used to power technology (changing the properties of dark matter, 200% efficient engines). Planet exploding weapons are operated by single person demolition companies, the use of which is considered mundane. Multiple universes can be created by a lone inventor on the budget of a small delivery company (said delivery company having made only 100 deliveries in 10 years, as of 'The Mutants are Revolting'). In said delivery company, interstellar/intergalactic spaceships are as mundane as small pieces of wire.
- And consider that in the Futurama universe, Earth/humanity is a pathetic third-rate wannabe power, only able to bully the very smallest and weakest other cultures - comparable to fascist 1930's-era Italy.
- The observable universe glows with about 2×1049W.
- The highest possible transient power output for a point source is about 9×1051W based on Relativity predicting the formation of an event horizon around anything more. The final word on this will probably have to wait for a working theory of quantum gravity, however.
Other: Unconventional or hard to quantify in watts.
Anime and Manga
- In the Neon Genesis Evangelion verse, it's never revealed specifically if there's an upper limit to just how much power an S2 organ can generate. As shown in End of Evangelion, at least ten of them put together has the power to terraform Earth. In fact, Fuyutsuki's monologue about the Fruit of Knowledge (a human mind) plus the Fruit of Life (an S2 organ) equaling what is essentially God sounds like a borderline type I.
- The holder of the Infinity Gauntlet in the Marvel Universe possesses pretty high order omnipotence, capable of moving multiple universes and effortlessly deposing the living incarnation of all matter, energy and time in the universe.
- The Beyonder from Secret Wars is probably unmeasurable. In his first appearance, he effortlessly destroyed a galaxy to provide an empty corner of the universe for the various metabeings to battle each other.
- That was more or less retconned away later.
- The Arquillians from the first Men in Black movie possess "the galaxy" which is stated to be a power source. The creatures playing marbles with galaxies at the end don't really fit on the scale, at least from our reference point.
- The Precursors in Contact are anyone's guess, since even the (Type III-ish) aliens don't have the foggiest idea when or how (or if) the Portal Network was made. It's strongly implied they can even leave messages by manipulating the value of pi.
- Fridge Logic: If pi is "normal" (has an infinite decimal expansion, is non-repeating, and is not patterned), then any sequence you can imagine occurs eventually, simply because that's how infinity works. (It is, however, implied that these sequences occur suspiciously early in the expansion.)
- The Tar-Aiym and Hur'rikku from the Humanx Commonwealth series developed superweapons that, respectively, could annihilate an entire star system by broadcasting gravity waves through subspace, and could punch a hole into Another Dimension to release an anticollapsar (or "white hole") as massive as an entire galaxy. While that sounds awfully impressive, there isn't enough real physics there to get them into a ballpark. The Xunca have them beat hands-down, however, at one point in their existence being capable of transporting an entire galactic civilization to an alternate dimension and turning a galactic supercluster into a superweapon.
- It's hard to put a protector - or group of protectors - into any category, given the time, resources and incentive to cooperate instead of trying to kill each other. In the original "Protector" story, Brennan and his childless protectors converted the entire colony planet of 'Home' into a Trojan Horse deathtrap for an incoming fleet of protectors. (Although it's never explicitly outlined what they did to it. The fact it was later colonized implies that it wouldn't have been substantially deterraformed. The fact that Known Space is not later populated entirely by Pak implies that whatever they did allowed Brennan to win.) Protectors also built the Ringworld, which was theorized to require kind of energy/matter conversion, and the atomic-level engineering technology needed to create a Ringworld-sized amount of building material. Not to mention the shadow square system and the energy to spin the whole thing up to the required 770 km/s to create the artificial gravity. In Ringworld's Children, we see a single protector develop technology to almost entirely redesign and rebuild the Ringworld "from the ground up" with captured nanotech - and turn the entire thing into a Bussard ramjet powered spaceship.
- Also from Niven's Known Space, it's not clear where Outsiders fit. They seem to have a nearly unlimited range of technology at their disposal, at least up to inertialess spacecraft engines, which would imply being able to manipulate the (known) laws of physics. However even asking questions about the kind of technology they may have access to is prohibitively expensive, much less getting access to any of it. Despite the availability of super-advanced technology, they enjoy taking their time, travelling from the core to the rim of the galaxy at sublight speed.
- The Markovians from Chalker's Well World series are here, given that they built planet-sized megacomputers that could freely revise physical laws, edit the course of history, and indeed kept the universe stable. Specific estimates of energy usage are probably a moot point, as they were the ones deciding how much energy there is in the universe.
- Human civilization in Walter Jon Williams' novel Implied Spaces is at a similar level, and indeed features pocket universes full of anitmatter being used as weapons.
- The neutron star dwelling cheela from the hard sci-fi novel Dragons Egg are difficult to classify as they have accelerated development. When humans first make actual contact with them, they are roughly equivalent to the late Middle-Ages or early Renaissance. After we give them the basics of science they begin developing on their own at approximately a million times the speed our civilization did. By the end of the novel (a matter of days our time) the cheela have mastered anti-gravity, faster-than-light travel, the creation of stable singularities, the manipulation of natural singularities (as a favor to their former teachers they remove several small black holes from our sun that were shortening our star's life), and manipulation of matter at the subatomic level. It is uncertain to what extent they have developed as they stop giving us knowledge once it becomes clear they are beyond our achievements (technically they give us the information, but they encrypt it so it cannot be read; the encryption key is always something related to the information itself, so that humanity will have to make the discovery on its own, but will be able to "check their answers" once they get them). Additionally, every 29 of our seconds is another year of advancement for them. If they are not a Class III by the end of the book, they will be shortly thereafter.
- Or at least they would have been if not for the titular event of the sequel Starquake. They're probably there by the end of that, though.
- The Ancients from Stargate SG-1 invented a machine to harness all the power of this universe and other universes, by using Zero-point energy. Unfortunately it never worked properly. Also there was that whole Ascension thing. Of course they will not lift a finger to help anyone now, and their activities aren't very quantifiable.
- However, one of their primary power sources was a miniature universe in a bottle, which were probably mass-produced before they fell.
- The Ori of Stargate SG-1 are probably comparable, though since they actually do stuff in the physical universe, they probably could be rated if more information were available.
- In Star Trek, the Q Continuum are hard to judge based on technology, since by all accounts they appear to be, in their natural forms, transcendent beings with no fixed shape who exist in another dimension called The Continuum. They may have outgrown the need for technology, as they can reshape reality around themselves, reverse time and entropy, teleport to any point in space and time, shapechange themselves and others, tweak natural laws (Q: "Simple. Just change the gravitational constant of the universe, thereby altering the mass of the asteroid.") so their powers can pretty much be described as "magic".
- Magratheans from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. They constructed entire planets in hyperspace, as well as the biggest and most advanced computer in all existence. The blueprints were given to them by a hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional race, i.e. those whose "protrusions" in our dimension are mice. The blueprints were in turn the output of the second most advanced computer in all existence: Deep Thought. As for the construction zone, the Guide says it's a spherical/spheroidal "fold" in space-time with a radius of around 13 light seconds. Assuming hyperspace construction zones in a folded space-time and that planetary engineering was a fun hobby, you get a really powerful civilization, albeit one that's hard to classify.
- Pre-Mending Planeswalkers from Magic: The Gathering tended to have enormous reality-warping power, frequently creating entire planes of existence by themselves. The entity Yawgmoth was powerful enough to overlay multiple realities over one another for the purpose of invasions, and apparently survived the detonation of his personal plane of existence, caused by the essence of several god-level beings being fired at him. This would probably indicate Type IV+ if anything like real physics applied.
- Post-Mending 'walkers are still powerful, but much less so. Still, they probably would easily exceed Type III.
- To put the sheer power of the typical
MtG playerPlaneswalker, a crossover with Dungeons and Dragons would be nearly impossible, or at least hard to make sense of, since even achieving epic level (level 20 or above in 4e) is still only a fraction of the power MtG planeswalkers are capable (probably level 25 and above, in D&D terms).
- The Tyranids of Warhammer 40,000 are an interesting case. If the statement that they've consumed multiple entire galaxies is true, they might be an unconventional Type III, though that depends greatly on the dormant metabolism of Tyranids drifting through space, as even if they have that much mass available, actual power use is what counts. Their typical MO of removing a good chunk of terrestrial planets' mass and draining the heat from what's left operates fairly slowly, so probably represents a mid Type I power expenditure per planet being consumed. They may consume up to few planets at any given time, though hive fleets take a while to travel between systems, so this output probably isn't sustained. A full hemisphere-darkening invasion force probably represents about a Type I expenditure for each planet under attack.
- The Necrons and their masters the C'tan are also hard to pin down. The C'tan feed off stars, so might individually approach Type II, though they're not usually very active. The Necrons have the goal of separating the Warp from physical reality, a universe scale goal, though they seem to confine their efforts to one galaxy for now. They have the most advanced technology in the setting, and have fought on galactic scales in the distant past, but virtually all now lie dormant in buried tombs. Though their technology is very potent, they may be low on the Kardashev scale of the major factions of WH40K in the present setting due to their extremely small active numbers. Like the Tyranids, all bets are off if they become active en masse, particularly since they are known to possess at least one Dyson Sphere.
- The 4-D beings from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time could be considered an example, if a very strange one. Sure, our entire universe is just an MMORPG that they created, but by our standards, the energy output needed to manage our universe as well as all their own affairs would be absolutely incredible.
- The Forerunners of Halo at the height of their power were more or less masters of the galaxy, though it's hard to put a number to their power use. They built rather large structures around the galaxy, which might indicate low to mid Type I depending on how fast they did it. Their higher-end stuff, like the "kill everything sapient in the galaxy" function of the halos could potentially get them into Type III, though its actual workings are pretty sketchy on the power needed, especially since it doesn't appear to be a brute-force effect, and the halos would appear to not have nearly the mass-energy available to fuel Type III power use.
- Turns out they successfully built an actual Dyson Sphere (and contained it within another dimension to be only a couple meters wide in normal space), so at least Type II.
- The Reapers of Mass Effect are the most militarily powerful faction in the galaxy. They "farm" the galaxy for intelligent life, letting civilizations develop and periodically culling them. However, they are not so much more powerful than the Citadel civilizations as even a few tenths of a Kardashev point would suggest, and when not actually reaping, they seem to float around their own territory doing pretty much nothing. If their standby systems are pretty efficient, they might even rate Type 0, but there isn't much to indicate what they do when fully active. It seems that they don't reach Type II, however.
- The villains in the Callahan's Crosstime Saloon video game create and operate entire universes as scientific experiments, including ours.
Multiple: For the upwardly/downwardly mobile.
- Civilization in the Lensman novels progresses from what's probably a low Type II (a significant portion of the Milky Way colonized, FTL travel, 'super-atomic' and energy weapons) at the beginning of Galactic Patrol to a probable Type III (two galaxies colonized, travel between parallel universes, faster-than-light planets used as weapons powerful enough to cause supernovas) by the end of Children of the Lens. The Children of the Lens themselves are near-godlike beings.
- Each portion of Isaac Asimov's science fiction short shorty "The Last Question" takes place in a human civilization at a different point on the scale—each time the Last Question is asked, man is so much more advanced yet still powerless to answer it. It finishes by outlining a possible Type V scenario: reversing entropy even after the apparent heat death of the universe.
- Isaac Asimov's stories, in chronological order, begin with mankind as a type 0 or a borderline type I. Then they establish Spacer colonies, invent faster-than-light travel and eventually colonize almost an entire galaxy, having reached a Solid II level.
- The Millennial Project is a Speculative Documentary / "Faux To" Guide to reaching Type I, Type II, and Type III.
- An update is published online as The Millennial Project 2.0.
- Michio Kaku talks about the Civilization Levels a fair bit. Might want to look up his books.
- There's another scale as well, though of course it's rather less scientific...that found in D20 Future. In it, there are Progress Levels, at least eight or nine.
- Level 1 is stone age, prehistoric...Basic stone tools, agriculture, and so forth.
- Level 2 is Bronze/Iron age
- Level 3 is the 'Age of Reason'. The Renaissance, though basic slugthrower weapons are available, if rare.
- Level 4 is the Industrial Age. Around the level of technology of the 1960's.
- Level 5 is the Information Age. Pretty much current earth technology level...the 'Modern Age'.
- Level 6 is the Fusion Age, energy weapons becoming more likely, especially on larger vehicles, cybernetics are starting to appear as more than just inferior replacement parts. Invention of an efficient, nonexpendable energy source.
- Level 7 is the Gravity age. Gravity has become the civilization's plaything, interstellar travel becomes viable, energy weapons are becoming small enough to be man-portable, true powered armor appears.
- Level 8 is the Energy Age. This is the level that we see in many Science Fiction shows attributed to many of the 'elder' races...zero-point energy, powerful personal energy weapons, force fields, intergalactic travel, starbases the size of moons, true starfighters have finally become viable, and may or may not include functional immortality.
- Level 9 is essentially, the Q Continuum. If they aren't Omnipotent and Omniscient, they're close to it, and can fairly safely be considered living gods.
- Still, one funny thing. Functional immortality is probably enormously easier to achieve scientifically than FTL travel, as it likely hinges on a mixture of nano, cyber and/or biotechnology already theoretical by our science (just tricky to achieve) as opposed to nudging the laws of physics in ways that we don't even have any idea how for FTL travel.
- The PL scale being lifted wholesale from TSR's defunct RPG Alternity which Wizards of the Coast inherited and then let die.
- GURPS also has its own Tech Level scale, and may have been one of the earlier games to quantify progress thus. (The game's designers have credited a similar scale in Traveller as an inspiration.) This list is from the Third Edition, but later editions don't change it much, other than the addition of "superscience" for things that blatantly break the laws of physics. Present-day (early 21st century) Earth is TL8.
- In 2000, Steve Jackson Games officially announced that we had reached TL8 and that they were forced to rewrite the old Tech Level scale from the 1985 rulebook because science had progressed faster in some fields (like biotech) than expected and slower in others, which affects the Tech Level descriptions in the current 4th Edition rulebook. This article from March 2006 lists another example that modern bio-science is close to breaking through to TL9.
- Interestingly, even a TL 12 civilization doesn't have much in the way of technology above Type II. This is likely a problem of game balance (when handguns can take out a planet it doesn't really matter what Advantages characters have).
- The GURPS tech level scale, as of the first printing of the Fourth Edition rules:
- TL 0 — Stone Age: Clubs and loincloths.
- TL 1 — Bronze Age: Alphabet and the wheel.
- TL 2 — Iron Age: Waterwheel and iron working.
- TL 3 — Medieval: High Fantasy is set here. Steel invented. Sailboats.
- TL 4 — Age of Exploration: Guns invented. "High-Tech" begins.
- TL 5 — Industrial Revolution: Steam engine.
- TL 6 — Mechanized Age: (c. 1900-1950) Very first TVs and mechanical calculators.
- TL 7 — Nuclear Age (c1951-2000): Computer invented. Lasers, miniaturization, mature fission technology.
- TL 8 — Microscience (c2001-2050?): Gengineering, longevity, micromachines, early fusion technology. Beginnings of AI.
- TL 9 — Nanoscience: Environmental engineering, nanomachines, intelligent AI, mature fusion technology. "Ultra-Tech" begins.
- TL 10 — Robotic Age. "True" AI. Hand held lasers, particle beam weapons. Gravity control.
- TL 11 — Exotic Matter. Altering atoms. FTL technology (with superscience). Space Opera.
- TL 12 — Age of Miracles. Near total control of time and space. People can buy pocket universes.
- GURPS is also notable among RPGs because it gives rules for mismatched tech levels. An enlightened and peaceful civilization might have figured out bodily immortality (TL 11) yet have no weapons more advanced than "mere" 20th-century nukes (TL 7).
- GURPS also allows fantasy/alternative technology forms, For example, a Steampunk world like Girl Genius would be TL 5+4 (Steam engine/Victorian with flight, death rays, and mechanical AI), while The Flintstones would be TL 0+6 (Stone age with TV and cars.)
- Human civilization in Warhammer 40,000 merits mention here. Humanity's technology level is ridiculously schizophrenic thanks to tens of millenia of war and upheaval. At its height, humanity had true AI, rapid interstellar travel, controlled the vast majority of the galaxy, is implied to have mastered matter-energy conversion, and bent the laws of the universe to its whim. Twenty thousand years of devastating galactic war later, scraps of technology from that era are worth destroying star systems over. Though the Imperium of Man and Adeptus Mechanicus don't understand how much of their most advanced technology works anymore, they still show hallmarks of a borderline Type III civilization, notably whenever the technologies of war come into question. Meanwhile, any given Imperial planet can range from the Stone Age to high type II. Schizo-Tech at its finest, folks.
- In the Master of Orion games you can arguably build a civilization from a borderline Type I to a well developed Type II civilization.
- In Master of Orion 2 the weapon Stellar Converter is capable of destroying planets in matter of seconds (debatable as it takes a turn to do so), meaning their energy output has to be in order of 1030J - give or take few magnitudes - in order to overcome the gravitational binding energy of a planet sized object. Also, you can also construct Earth-like planets from asteroid belts and gas giants. This would suggest mid to high Type II power use.
- Star Ruler: You start at star-faring. Galaxy-sized ships are possible, if ridiculously lategame.
- "TECH LEVELS OF SCIENCE FICTION GROUPS AND CULTURES" is a list of Sci Fi civilizations ranked by tech level. You could disagree with at least a few placements, but it's there.
Schizo-Tech: For cases that appear contradictory.
- Supreme Commander, considering that you field forces that seem representative of much less than a Type I resource base to fight over tiny areas of individual planets in a conflict between empires that supposedly extend across sizable chunks of the galaxy, powered by nanomachine assemblers that ought to be capable of more impressive mobilization.
- The UNSC and Covenant from Halo. From the scale of the fleets and other combat forces, the development of planets and industry, they look borderline Type I or so. From the usual figures cited for MAC cannons and the efficacy of Covenant ship weapons, they look like maybe a solid Type I. However, the claimed power of the "Super MAC" cannons and the Covenant's ability to "glass" the surface of planets is several orders of magnitude larger than anything else either side does, getting into borderline Type II territory.
- As revealed in the Data Pads of Halo: Reach, the ability of the Covenant to 'glass' planets is propaganda devised by a group of human-created artificial intelligences. True, the Covenant COULD turn an entire planet into a hunk of glass...provided they had millennia to do so. However, the thought of an alien empire 'glassing' entire colonies certainly galvanized humanity to fight back.
- On the other hand, according to Lord Hood in Halo 3 the Heretic Elite supercarrier Shadow of Intent glassed half the continent of Africa in about an hour... while he watched it happen with his own eyes.
- However, for the Covenant, it should be noted that much of their tech is taken from Forerunner ruins, and is mostly set up by the Engineers, possibly explaining the gaps.
- As revealed in the Data Pads of Halo: Reach, the ability of the Covenant to 'glass' planets is propaganda devised by a group of human-created artificial intelligences. True, the Covenant COULD turn an entire planet into a hunk of glass...provided they had millennia to do so. However, the thought of an alien empire 'glassing' entire colonies certainly galvanized humanity to fight back.
- Where the Transformers fit on the scale depends on the continuity. But in the Movie-verse, they have devices that can suck the energy from stars, destroying them in the process. Though that would suggest Type III-IV, their on-screen activities look far below Type I. Though other continuities aren't necessarily entirely consistent, they do better than an apparent forty orders of magnitude mismatch.
- They also have FTL, warp gates, personal subspace storage and gravity control, portable weapons which interdimensionally draw power from black holes, force fields, invisibility, time travel, and can fall from Earth orbit to the surface without burning up or being killed by the impact. And they fight by punching each other, and can be demobilized by a flat tire. Apparently their Mileage Varies.
- Some features of the Movie-verse (such as the apparent condition of what we see of Cybertron) strongly suggest that the Transformers have destroyed their technology base through the course of their civil war. This means that while they may have individual pieces of tech that are appropriate for Type II+ cultures, they may well be limited to Type I or lower simply because the hardware for better no longer exists.
- (rated at 1350 horsepower or so)
- (Each activation uses a bit more than 33 megajoules in 95 nanoseconds, which works out to 350 terawatts.)
- (actually more, because she has to lift her own weight as well as that of the cows, but since she could be made of some random ultralight futuristic material that's harder to estimate)
- though that was very likely hyperbole given that an exploding star uses far more energy than the mass-energy of a terrestrial planet
- a fist-sized plasma capsule can power a wall-mounted shield generator
- said plasma capsule acts as a Disintegrator Ray on contact with organic matter and Combine pulse weaponry fire plasma blasts that put bullets to shame
- which the writers should know would require breaking time symmetry of the laws of physics, i.e. changing them and exploiting that to extract more power than was put in
- the nine MP EVAs plus Yui who got hers from Zeruel; Adam surely doesn't have one after being regrown into an embryo
- questionable even then, as they seem to only assimilate parts of planets rather than entire stars and nebulae