Part 3 of World Building for Science fiction:
This is the definition of the Kardashev Scale. Since it is a measure of the power generated by a civilization, it is titled: All about Power.
In case you’ve missed the previous posts in the thread, Part 1 begins here.
The previous post in this thread, Part 2 is here.
The Kardashev Scale
The Kardashev scale measures the technology of a civilization. It expresses the details in one parameter: the power generated by the civilization. The power delivered to the Earth from the Sun (approximately 1016 W) is equivalent to 1 on the scale. We call this a type I civilization. Since the power level is planetary equivalent, a type I civilization refers to a planetary civilization.
The type II civilization results in number 2 that generates the energy from a typical star (1026 W). Another ten billion times more power is the equivalent of a small galaxy. This type III civilization has number 3 on the Kardashev scale. The current level of humanity is about 0.7 on the scale. (We provide the detailed mathematics of the Kardashev scale here.)
An advancing civilization generates more power. This means it can build bigger things. Animal power allowed humanity to grow more food. Excess power evolved into a transportation system that distributed goods to larger distances. This is true for advancements over the history of humanity.
In Science Fiction
For our science fiction world building, we assume that the same. Admittedly, there are other means of measuring the technology of a civilization. For instance, science fiction role-playing games use a different scale of tech level. Some use the capabilities of the computers, others use the capabilities of the faster-than-light star drive as the measure. The Kardashev scale provides a means to scale all of these measures to the power generated by the civilization.
We expand on the idea to make another definition. We define a scale of power per individual. This scale shows that a Type I civilization and roughly Earth population has about 1 MW per individual. We set this level 0 on this new scale. Positive numbers show more power per individual and negative numbers show less (see the mathematical supplement here).
As part of the Drake-Kardashev-Fermi concepts, the Kardashev scale sets the speed limits in the Fermi paradox. It measures the civilization’s ability to change the limits in the Drake equation. We will explore this idea in future posts.