Observing the progress of technologies, science and medicine more and more often you come to the idea that to the end of the XXI century humanity will gain a power of ancient gods. But where are we going and when we will reach the Olympus?
All the technical revolutions that are happening around us can be considered as steps of a high ladder towards the one great goal: the creation of a planetary civilization. This transition should probably become the greatest event in the history of mankind. Moreover, the generation of people living today can be safely considered the most significant of all that ever lived on our planet. It is up to us to determine whether humanity will achieve this great goal or be plunged into the abyss of chaos. Since the moment when our ancestors first left Africa about 100,000 years ago, about 5000 generations have passed, but only one generation - present - will determine the fate of our world.
Unlike professional historians who learn the history through social movements, wars, acts of kings, spreading ideas and so on, physicists learn the history through the prism of energy consumption.
For many thousands of years, man was limited to one-fifth of the horsepower, i.е. strength of his hands. For many epochs, in fact, it’s difficult to distinguish a human life from the life of wild animals in a harsh and hostile world. There were no books, all information was passed from mouth to mouth around lonely bonfires. The average life expectancy was about 18-20 years. All the property of man was limited to what he could carry on his shoulders. For most of the life people suffered from hunger and after death disappeared completely, leaving nothing behind. But the last ice age ended and they managed to domesticate horses and bulls, thereby increasing the energy that they could use of up to 1 hp.
The surplus of resources appeared as the result of the agricultural revolution gave birth to new, non-trivial ways of preserving and multiplying wealth. Arose mathematics and writing allowing to organize the account of well-being. Calendars were required to determine the timing of planting and harvesting; scribes and accountants were required to monitor capital and tax it. Due to the surplus, large armies, kingdoms, empires were created, slavery and ancient civilizations arose.
The industrial revolution proved that capital can create machines, and mass production can bring fabulous wealth. Peasants, exhausted by hard work in the fields and constant hunger during bad harvest years, fled to the cities and turned into industrial workers. Then auto mechanics replaced coachmakers and blacksmiths, and the internal combustion engine gave the humanity hundreds of horsepower.
And today, finally, we see another wave: now the source of capital has become information. The wealth of countries is now measured by electrons running around the world via wires. Already we see how are used around us everywhere and develop Internet payments, electronic currencies (including game currencies, crypto-currencies, such as, for example, the well-known Bitcoin, and various payment systems. Science, commerce and entertainment today travel at the speed of light. A person, wherever he is, at any time can get all the necessary information.
Really advanced civilization is based on advances in energy.
But where does this exponential growth in energy consumption lead the humanity? Can we answer the question: what will happen to mankind in a hundred or even a thousand years of such development? Physicists classify civilizations on the basis of the laws of thermodynamics and consumed energy. Scanning the sky in search of extraterrestrial civilizations, they seek not biological forms of life, but objects with energy production corresponding to civilizations of type I, II and III. For the first time such a hierarchy was proposed by the Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev in the 1960s to classify radio signals from possible civilizations in outer space.
He understood perfectly well that civilizations could radically differ in culture, social structure, the principle of government, and so on, but the laws of nature are inexorable and therefore even the most highly developed civilizations are compelled to obey them. It is clear that from the Earth we can register and measure only one thing - energy consumption, and the classification of civilizations follows precisely this criterion. According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, any highly developed civilization will create entropy in the form of used heat, which inevitably goes into space. Therefore, even if this civilization tries to disguise its presence, it will be impossible to hide the weak glow created by their entropy.
Type I civilization is a civilization that uses all the energy that comes from a star to the planet or more precisely 1016 Watts. With the help of this energy, such a civilization can control hurricanes, correct weather, build cities even in the oceans. Their spaceships travel around the space, but their energy sources are mostly limited to their native planet. Such civilizations are the real masters of their planet and are therefore called planetary.
Civilization type II uses the energy of the entire star, or approximately 1026 W. They, probably, could even control solar flares. Beside the stupidity of the inhabitants of the planet, nothing known to science can’t destroy such a civilization: comets and meteors can be deflected in another direction, ice ages can be prevented changing climatic conditions, even the threat of an explosion of a nearby supernova can be avoided by simply leaving your home planet and transporting civilization away from danger.
Type III civilization has already exhausted energy of their solar system and colonized vast areas of their native galaxy. The power consumption of such civilizations is estimated at a value of the order of 1036 W - such energy is given by 10 billion stars. A civilization of the third type can perhaps be called The Empire from the saga "Star Wars" or, perhaps, The Borg from the "Star Trek". Both of them colonized a significant part of their galaxy and occupied millions of star systems. They can travel the galaxy as they wish.
Thus, these types differ by 10 billion times, i.e. energy consumption of civilizations of the type III is 10 billion times greater than that of type II civilizations.
According to this scale, our Earth civilization belongs to type 0, because we still get energy from the remains of dead plants, that is, from oil and coal. Even the controlling of hurricanes, which carry the power of hundreds of nuclear bombs, is beyond our technological capabilities. However, the American astronomer Carl Sagan proposed interpolating the values of the scale to denote lower orders. Sagan used the following equation:
`K = (log_(10)W - 6)/10`
where K is the rating of civilization, and W is the energy consumption in watts.
As of 2015, the value on the Kardashev scale is approximately 0.7239. It is important to note that according to Sagan's formula, the value of 0.7239 means that mankind uses about 0.16% of the total energy budget of the planet. So we still need to go a long way to the planetary civilization of the first type, because in relation to the production of energy, the first type civilization still exceeds the civilization of type 0.7 by a thousand times.
To understand how much time we need for this transition, we can make simple calculations. The bigger the economy, the more energy it needs, and since the GDP of many countries is within 1-2% per year, you can expect the growth of energy consumption at about the same speed. With such modest indicators, we will need 100-200 years to achieve the status of a planetary civilization. To achieve the level of civilization type II will take from 1000 to 5000 years. And, finally, for the III type, from 100,000 to an incredible 1,000,000 years.
Stop pursing a future in which technology and biology combine leading to the promise of a singularity - would mean to deny the very essence of who we are.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Every day when you read news on the internet or watch TV we constantly see all the new evidence that humanity is on the verge of a transition from a conditional type 0 to a type I. Planetary civilization is is arising right now and here are the evidence:
Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.
So, now you are convinced that humanity is at a turning point in the history of the development of our civilization - the transition to the first type. But what is concealed in this transition? It is now being decided, whether humanity will prosper or die by its own stupidity. This transition is incredibly dangerous, because we are still hostages of primitive savagery and barbarism, but with the difference that now we have nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. In our society, as before, there are racism, sectarianism, intolerance, hatred - human nature has not changed during the past millenniums.
The path to the first type will be accompanied by ever-increasing entropy (greenhouse effect, pollution, nuclear wars, diseases), which in the end can kill us. Cosmologist Martin Rees gives a sobering assessment of the chances of successfully overcoming this problem: fifty to fifty. Terrorism, the creation of bacteria and viruses, the achievements of bioengineering and other technological nightmares - one of the most difficult problems of mankind.
Perhaps, because of that reason we do not observe other civilizations in our galaxy. They were destroyed by internal contradictions or their own pollution, while they sought to attain the status of a planetary civilization. So, this transition will be a fire test for our entire civilization and the main role - the role of the blacksmith belongs to our generation. If we survive, we will become stronger - just as steel is tempered.
In this electronic age we see ourselves being translated more and more into the form of information, moving toward the technological extension of consciousness.
The information revolution has forced scientists to pay attention to the fact that not only power capacity can show the level of development of civilization, but also the amount of information that a civilization is capable to process.
The conditions of development for different civilizations in the universe cannot be the same. You can imagine a planet where the atmosphere conducts electricity well. In such conditions, any computer will quickly burn out, so that the inhabitants of this planet can use only the most primitive electrical appliances. It will be difficult to create the Internet and it will prevent the development of science and economy. Ultimately, such a civilization can rise on the Kardashev scale, but this process will be very long and painful.
Sagan suggested to apply a criterion of information for another classification. He defined types A to Z, where type A refers to primitive civilizations in which there is no written language, but there is already a spoken language. To understand how much information such a civilization can contain, Сarl Sagan suggested to use the game "20 questions" when you need to guess the hidden object, while asking no more than 20 questions, and the answer is only "yes" or "no" (for example, the question: "Is it edible?"). As a result, we divide the world into 220 parts (or approximately 106). That is the information content of a type A civilization equals 106 bits of information.
Ancient Greece was a civilization with developed writing, rich literature and contained about a billion units (109) of information, which corresponds to type C.
Approximately estimating the current number of books in libraries, the approximate number of pages in each book, the number of photos, video recordings, Sagan came to the figure of 1015 bits. So we can be classified as type H. Considering our energy consumption, we are a civilization of type 0,7H.
When the earth civilization develops to type 1.5J or 1.8K, it will master the technology of interstellar flights - perhaps, then our first contact with extraterrestrial civilizations will occur. But up to that point, we still have at least several centuries or even millennia ahead of us. Information assessment of the third type of galactic civilization is possible if we multiply the number of planets in our galaxy, favorable for life, to the information content of each planet. Sagan estimates such civilizations as type Q. While type Z corresponds to a civilization capable of using the information content of a billion galaxies, that is, practically the entire visible universe.
The road of civilization is paved with tin cans.
To comprehensively estimate the development of a civilization, it is not enough to know only about energy and information. The more energy a civilization consumes and the more information it produces, the more the environment suffers. And it's not just garbage. Wastes of type I and II civilizations can simply destroy them.
If we imagine a type II civilization that consumes all the energy radiated by the star, we can assume that the efficiency of the engines used by this civilization is 50%, then half of the energy consumed goes to the atmosphere in the form of parasitic heat. The temperature on the planet will grow until life on it becomes simply impossible.
Something similar was depicted in the cartoon "WALL-E", where mankind so heavily polluted the Earth, and eventually left everything as is and moved to a giant spaceship.
It turns out that an uncontrolled increase in energy consumption means suicide. We need a new scale that takes into account the effectiveness, pollution of the environment, the release of parasitic heat.
We can come up with two types:
As for our own civilization, since space flights will be insanely expensive for several centuries, and terraforming of nearby planets and moons will be a huge scientific and economic problem, we can potentially suffocate in our own excess heat, if we fail to miniaturize and rationalize the processing of information.
The human brain contains about one hundred billion neurons (the number of galaxies in the visible universe) and practically does not produce heat. Now scientists are trying to simulate the work of the neural network of the brain with the help of a supercomputer (Simulation of the brain activity of 1% of the neural network took 40 minutes on the cluster of 82,944 processors), but apparently if the task was to create a computer capable of computing at a rate of quadrillion bytes per second - a task that the brain performs without any problems - then such a computer would probably take several blocks, and to cool it would have required a whole reservoir. People can think about very difficult things and at the same time do not sweat at all.
Of course, the brain is not a computer, there is no CPU or operating system. The brain is a neural network in which models of memory and thinking are distributed throughout the brain, rather than concentrated in the central processor. And electrical signals between neurons are essentially chemical so that the brain cannot perform fast and complex calculations, but compensates it with the possibility of parallel processing of data and can fantastically quickly take on new tasks.
Today scientists are trying to apply ideas borrowed from nature. There are many works on the development of DNA computers and quantum computers. Along with the development of nanotechnologies, we will be able to find more effective ways of development rather than creating huge amounts of excess heat that threatens our existence.
Although space flights in most of the 21st century will remain to be a possibility for the richest people and states, the creation of a "space elevator" can change everything. Carbon nanotubes are strong and light enough to fulfill the function of a cable for such an elevator. The creation of the elevator is estimated at 7-12 billion US dollars. NASA is already funding the relevant developments of the American Institute of Scientific Research, including the development of a lift capable of independently moving along a cable.
But even if such a technology becomes a reality, the lift will be able to deliver cargo or astronauts to near-earth orbit, and not to other planets. All the problems of space colonies rest on the fact that the cost of flying to the Moon (not to mention flying to other planets) is many times higher than the cost of flying to near-Earth space. Placement of a human colony on the Moon or Mars will bankrupt any state without bringing any income.
In addition to economic problems, it is necessary to take into account the danger to people on board: cosmic radiation, prolonged exposure to weightlessness, the possibility of a catastrophe (we still use liquid fuel rockets, and the probability of catastrophes is one to seventy) - all these problems for a long time will prevent us from exploring the Solar system.
Of course, in a couple of centuries everything will change: the cost of flying will decrease enough to actively support and develop the colonies on Mars that we will be able to create, perhaps in a couple of decades. The landing of first people on Mars, according to the plans of SpaceX will take place in 2024.
The creation of a solar-ion engine can be a kick-off for interstellar flights. Such engines will have a small thrust, but they can support it for years. They will concentrate solar energy, heat gas, for example cesium, and then release it through a nozzle, which will provide a moderate acceleration that can be sustained almost indefinitely.
Although while we are heading to Type I civilization, we are less likely going to explore other stars, most likely we will remain on Earth for many centuries, overcoming nationalist, fundamentalist, racist and religious problems, struggling with rising temperatures on the planet, the greenhouse effect and a countless number of other problems.
Science has allowed humanity to raise cities and countries from the ruins of war, to ensure peace and prosperity for billions of people. The true power of science is that it increases our capabilities and gives strength, giving us a choice. On the one hand, science encourages ingenuity, creativity and patience of mankind, but on the other hand - enhances our obvious disadvantages. It is very important for mankind to gain wisdom and to direct the sword of science in the right direction.
It is difficult to find wisdom in our society. Isaac Asimov once said: "The saddest thing in today's society is that science accumulates knowledge faster than society acquires wisdom." Martin Rees warns: "If we kill each other, we will destroy truly cosmic opportunities. So if someone believes that life on Earth is a unique phenomenon, it does not mean that life should always be an imperceptible detail of this universe."
Well, we live in a very interesting time. Science and technology open up new worlds for humanity, which we could only dream of before. It is our generation who decides whether humanity will perish or become immortal, taking a step towards a planetary civilization.