This article by Paul Gilster, 'What Kardashev Really Said," which was sent to me by a few of you, is well worth looking at, for it outlines the various ways in which different people - the present author included - have construed Nikolai Kardashev's classification system of civilization types:

"What Kardashev Really Said" by Paul Gilster

As the article notes, the scheme was used by Carl Sagan and many others, each adapting it and in some cases, deliberately modifying it or, in my own case, developing what I call "corollaries," which we'll get back to. But for Kardashev, the types emerged from his consideration of radio astronomy, and of projects like SETI:

"Kardashev is a radio astronomer and among the pioneers of SETI, and his idea of classifying civilizations according to their ability to harness energy was directly related to his experience in radio telescopy (thus I find myself again in this post verging into the territory of SETI, METI, and Existential Risk). Kardashev asked himself how powerful an extraterrestrial radio signal would have to be in order to be detected, “by conventional radio astronomical techniques.” [1] The numbers he came up with were quite high, and this furnished the basis of his tripartite division of civilizations into Type I, Type II, and Type III.

"If a civilization could radiate EM spectrum emissions at the energy levels of naturally-occurring astronomical radio sources, such a civilization could be detected as easily as we detect pulsars, radio galaxies, and the like. For a civilization to radiate at such levels of energy, however, would require technological capacities beyond our current abilities...Thus from a Kardashevian perspective, the existential risk of METI is negligible, as only very advanced and powerful civilizations would be able to transmit to the universe at large, while younger, less advanced, and therefore more vulnerable civilizations are restricted to passive listening, for all practical purposes."(Emphasis added)

There are a number of nuances to Kardashev's classification system, which Mr. Gilster points out, including the fact that while many people think that in the scheme of things, we are not yet at a Type I level of civilization (I and many others have made this mistake), in terms of his actual scheme, we are already at the level of Type I civilization,do to the level of our energy consumption. The reason why is Kardashev's actual definition of the three levels:

"Here is Kardashev’s original formulation of the three types of civilizations he recognized:

"I – technological level close to the level presently attained on the earth, with energy consumption at ~4 x 1019 erg/sec.

"II – a civilization capable of harnessing the energy radiated by its own star (for example, the stage of successful construction of a “Dyson sphere”); energy consumption at ~4 x 1033 erg/sec.

"III – a civilization in possession of energy on the scale of its own galaxy, with energy consumption at ~4 x 1044 erg/sec."

Thus, as Mr. Gilster points out, this has led to some confusion over his definitions of levels or Types I and II, and much confusion over the Type Two level exists because Kardashev himself drew attention to the different types of stars themselves:

"Note that there is an ambiguity of the Kardashev metric in terms of actual vs. comparable energy usage. A carefully constructivist account of Kardashev would insist that a Type II civilization is “a civilization capable of harnessing the energy radiated by its own star,” and that all of this energy must in fact come from that particular star and from no other source. In other words, given a strict conception of a Type II civilization, a civilization utilizing energy quantitatively equivalent to but not identical to the actual energy produced by a single star would not constitute a Type II civilization."

Thus, if one defines Type II as the actual use of a star rather than the use of "equivalent energy," one arrives at the ambiguity inherent in the definition of a Level or Type II civilization, for this would depend on the type of star in view: it is a "regular" yellow star of modest size, as our Sun? or a brown dwarf? a red giant?

As Mr. Gilster observes, it was Dr. Michio Kaku who suggested the "corollary" view that the ability to manipulate systems of planetary scale that might be an equally plausible way to classify civilization types:

"Michio Kaku is even more imaginative than Sagan and others in drawing out the implications of Kardashev’s civilization types as he sees them. For example, here is how Kaku defines a Type I civilization:

'Type I civilizations: those that harvest planetary power, utilizing all the sunlight that strikes their planet. They can, perhaps, harness the power of volcanoes, manipulate the weather, control earthquakes, and build cities on the ocean. All planetary power is within their control.'

"Kaku goes into much more detail in Chapter 8, “The Future of Humanity,” in his book Physics of the Future [9], most of which chapter is an exposition of Kaku’s interpretation and extrapolation of Kardashev civilization types.

"There is something intuitively attractive and plausible about equating a type I civilization with planetary energy resources, a type II civilization with stellar energy resources, and a type III civilization with galactic energy resources, and it would further be intuitively attractive and plausible to equate planetary energy resources with the burning of fossil fuels that are the result of a planetary biosphere (and are not to be derived from stars and are not found in space). This is Kaku’s approach. But this is not what Kardashev said.

"The ideas of Sagan, Kaku and others for a typology of civilizations are worthwhile, but they aren’t what Kardashev said. Nevertheless, as the idea of Kardashev civilization types becomes further elaborated, many writers routinely refer to Kardashev types, but this only compounds the ambiguity because one never knows if they are referring to what Kardashev actually said, or to subsequent embroidering upon what Kardashev said."

Picking up on Kaku's suggestion, that it is the ability to manipulate systems of planetary, stellar, or galactic scale, in my own books I have called them "corollaries" precisely in order to distinguish them from Kardashev's actual views, and I have elaborated these "corollaries" in order to analyze or "reverse engineer" the thought-and policy-forming culture of "the breakaway civilization," in order to see how it would have approached and responded to the problem posed by the UFO and some of its apparently hostile but paradoxically not "immediately threatening" behavior. In Covert Wars and Breakaway Civilizations and Covert Wars and the Clash of Civilizations I have essentially argued that this breakaway group would have concluded that it would be necessary to demonstrate human capability to manipulate systems of planetary scale(weather and so on), and perhaps even our local star, in a kind of "gunboat diplomacy" designed to convince "the others," whoever they may be, that human capability exceeds mere nuclear and thermonuclear weapons, a sort of "interplanetary 'Don't Tread on Me'" banner.

Whatever the value of such an analysis or recasting of Kardashev's system, however, it is worth noting, as Mr. Gilster points out, that Kardashev himself viewed his formulations as tentative, a feature which invites others to "revise and extend" his ideas:

"Kardashev concluded his famous paper with this reflection:

'…we should like to note that the estimates arrived at here are unquestionably of no more than a tentative nature. But all of them bear witness to the fact that, if terrestrial civilization is not a unique phenomenon in the entire universe, then the possibility of establishing contacts with other civilizations by means of present-day radio physics capabilities is entirely realistic.'

"These are the sage words of a scientist who expects (or at least hopes) that others will take up his work and expand upon it. Tentative formulations invite others to revise and extend them, and certainly many have sought to do this with Kardashev’s civilization types. I don’t wish to suggest that the extrapolations and extensions of Kardashev’s idea are illegitimate, only that they aren’t at all what Kardashev said, and we ought to be clear about this."

As indicated above, I think Kardashev's system has merits both as a scheme of classification of any non-human civilizations as might exist, but equally importantly, can perhaps serve as a valuable tool in extrapolating or "reverse engineering" the thought-culture of  technocratic elites tasked with formulating analysis and responses to the UFO phenomena since the end of World War Two, and perhaps may even serve as a useful tool for the examination of very ancient structures and ideas in ancient texts.

But howsoever one modifies or revises and extends Kardashev's system, Mr. Gilster is right, few of those modifications actually note their departure from Kardashev's own definitions, and we all stand corrected.

See you on the flip side.


Posted in

Joseph P. Farrell

Joseph P. Farrell has a doctorate in patristics from the University of Oxford, and pursues research in physics, alternative history and science, and "strange stuff". His book The Giza DeathStar, for which the Giza Community is named, was published in the spring of 2002, and was his first venture into "alternative history and science".


  1. terminally skeptical on April 2, 2014 at 8:21 am

    How about a relevant rating scale, one for the Kardashian Civilization, a phenomenon by which the degree to which our free press is feeding us the latest bits of must-have info on those glamorous celebrities we all secretly envy. On days we’re being doled a full blown preemptive Type 3 blitz where, for example, Elvis and Michael Jackson are reported to have been seen together leaving a Kardashian pleasure palace under the cover of darkness we can be sure there’s other subterfuge, malfeasance and mischief at play.

  2. RAJM on April 1, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Could there be other levels of classification of technology here, perhaps a civilization that controls the output of a number of planets but not a star, or a number of stars but not a galaxy?

  3. Enlil's a Dog on March 29, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Whilst Gilster’s interpretation may be the correct assumption of Kardashevs’s assessment, does it really matter?

    I actually like Kaku’s interpretation of Kardashev’s work, even if it is not ‘technically’ a true ‘Physics’ interpretation of his work. The reason is simply because before a civilization can increase its energy output to the levels described by Kardashev to fit his model, one must have the technology base in place beforehand and Kaku’s ‘layman’ interpretation fits the bill perfectly.

    Not all of us have an indepth knowledge of the type of physics that Gilster is referring to which makes it very difficult to be able to relate to Kardashev’s theory in the real world – Kaku’s interpretation takes away the ambiguity for the layperson and I don’t have a problem with that.

  4. marcos toledo on March 29, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    No self respecting type two or three civilizations would allow their communications to be ease dropped by warring barbarians like us. And if they have the power to control stars wouldn’t they have the power to up grade a class M star to a class K star to prevent a tidal lock of a potentially habitable planet in those star systems. Or down size a type G star like ours to a K star to prolong the planet life habitability and control the life cycle of a red giant star to extend it life to protect the planets habitability orbiting them.

  5. QuietRiot on March 29, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    When I read K’s paper, the thing that struck me was the analogical model of connecting energy output to the civilization level of the group of people in question. I was also struck by the genius of applying a geometric model of energy output to the advancement of civilization another analogical scenario. I was never confused about there being a specific true definition of the Kardeshev model. I always thought of it as a rule of thumb. So Joseph I don’t think you have anything to apologiz for. That it’s more of a notion than a law. If there was anything wrong what you did, then Michio Kaku is equally guilty. If anything you both gave him too much credit, when the credit really belonged to Michio Kaku and you.

    • emlong on March 29, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      My favorite theory is that planet Earth is actually a high level civilization and has been for many eons. The highly advanced races have been living here all along and alongside the sapiens sapiens. There was no need for them to vault though wormholes from some distant star system – they developed here. Just because they are so stealthy doesn’t mean they aren’t living here in complete freedom or rather “enough” freedom to suit them. Why then do they tolerate such a messy species as ours? We fascinate them – the same way we are in turn fascinated by mountain gorillas and bonobos. We watch them from afar and with minimal intrusion. Humans may in fact be regarded as extremely advanced if only they can pass through the cultural/emotional/psychological impediment that is deeply challenging them now. Enlightened humans may be the ultimate aim of the ET “project” – their pride and joy experiment going through a very rough patch it is true but still worth a try. A human that is both animal and saint would be a wonder to behold – is a wonder to behold in the few examples we know of in human history who outshine and outdo the most advanced ET we know of. A creature with a foot in the mud and a foot in heaven – that is the ultimate galactic species.

  6. Aridzonan_13 on March 29, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    My guess would be that a civilization capable of inertia-less powered vehicles would be able to transmit a signal via sub-space. Where the MEST (Matter, Energy, Space and Time) are warped to provide instantaneous transmission. You’d have to have complimentary rxcvr at our end to pick it up.. So, SETI, METI is our deep look into the universe to search for Terran style radio smoke signals. Which compared to a 1st Order Civ, is the level of technology we operate. What the Break-Away group is using is probably centuries past what we are allowed to own.. Not to mention, the level of education has been throttled back to allow only status-quo monopolies to flourish.. After all we’re still using gasoline after 100 yrs. My best guess is if Tesla’s work had been main streamed we’d have had our flying cars in the 80’s.

  7. emlong on March 29, 2014 at 11:37 am

    The huge scale of the planetary chemtrail project argues for it being an ET project. The immense number of aircraft kept aloft on any one day and the fact that some of them can bee seen disappearing into thin air bespeaks a very high tech. It’s true that humans already have cloaking technology, but if you watch chemtrail aircraft with some attention you will see planes disappearing rather carelessly as though in guidance by a technological entity that is not much concerned with publicly airing or giving away technological secrets.

    • Don B on March 29, 2014 at 12:02 pm

      They seem to throwing it our faces with all the patterns being made such as checkerboards, Xs, crosses and in some cases making right turns in midair. I was watching a PBS show about a river in Ireland, and just overhead were… you guessed it, chemtrails and the guy was just talking away. Funny in a way.


    • sagat1 on March 31, 2014 at 2:38 am

      I’m of the train of thought that a lot of these craft that are spraying in our skies are not commercial airliners at all but drones. Like you said, they’re far to concentrated on specific areas (urban usually) and air bourne far to long to be simply commercial flights. The idea that commercial flights are fitted with all manner of spraying equipment is probably to focus peoples attention away from the truth.

  8. LSM on March 29, 2014 at 9:54 am

    makes one wonder how the history (what little is known) of the N. American mound-builders might’ve fitted into this scenario, if at all-

    according to their discovered skeletal remains they were any extremely diverse people(s): some skeletons were as short as 3 ft. (verified adults!- sort of puts the labeled ‘legend’ “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” into a different light) and others up to 12 ft; many of them had coned heads and some were verified blonds/redheads-

    just for starters do read Rick Osman’s highly underestimated/under-heralded “The Graves of the Golden Bear” (+ his RedIce interview)

    so I’m just wondering if Kardaschev’s classifications might’ve been slightly different if/IF he was aware of much suppressed archaeology (thank you, Smithsonian Institution; we love you, too!)-

    please stay well all,


  9. LGL on March 29, 2014 at 9:11 am

    One presumes that the corresponding energy levels were meant to be represented as :

    Type I ~ 4 x 1019 erg/sec.

    Type II ~4 x 1033 erg/sec.

    Type III ~4 x 1044 erg/sec

    • Anthroposophe on March 29, 2014 at 10:53 am

      I’m assuming those are powers of 10: 10 to the 19th, 10 to the 33rd, 10 to the 44th.

  10. Robert Barricklow on March 29, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Sort of on topic and off topic/The average G-type star shows a variability in output around 4%. Our sun is a typical G-type sun yet it’s observed variability in our brief historical period is only 1/40 of this. When or if the sun returns to a typical variation in energy output, this will dwarf any other climate concerns.

    There is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, when it comes to splitting “hares”(Alice reference).

    And what is the classification of a system that manipulates dimensions?

  11. Frankie Calcutta on March 29, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Kardashev’s classification system from the perspective of stars:

    I– Life forms in the star’s solar system are antagonistic, reckless and irreverent toward the star they orbit. They are oblivious to the symbiotic relationship between stars and life forms which nurtures their DNA and sustains both of their lives. These primitive life forms see the star up above their heads not as a conscious entity which serves to guide them in their spiritual evolution, but as a big ball of fire that hurts their eyes when they look directly at it. This type of class I civilization is characterized by extremely abhorrent behavior such as murder for possessions, circumcision, cannibalism, and worship of inane gods. In the civilization of stars, the star is likened to a new teacher in an inner city public school.

    II– The life forms in the solar system are aware of the symbiotic relationship they have with their star. Therefore, all life forms regularly pay homage to their Star to give it power and stability and in return their Star reciprocates by bestowing on the life forms higher states of consciousness and ample amounts of the life force. From a physics perspective, it is the achievement of harmonic resonance between star and life forms. A circuit has been created whereby star and life form draw power from one another in a mutually beneficial loop. To use the radio analogy, the two are now tuned into the same station. In the civilization of stars, that solar system has achieved synchronization and becomes an asset to the galaxy at large. The star and life forms are now in a beautiful tango dancing through the galaxy and admired by all other stars.

    III– The entire solar system achieves harmonic resonance with the galactic center. At this point the life forms become like gods with the power to create and dissolve material things at will including their own forms. It is usually here where the life forms discover the inescapability of their own egos, be they carbon based life forms or big balls of fiery plasma. Fissures tend to erupt as some seek immortality in a universe which does not provide for it, while others seek to create universes of their own which they can then lord over. The remaining dissenters seek to preserve the harmonic resonance with the galactic center and continue to delight in their fleeting but harmonious existence. The discord inevitably leads to disintegration. The solar system, spinning at such a high vibration, then blows apart and spews its debris throughout the galaxy. But somewhere in the far reaches of the galaxy, unoccupied space will receive some of this debris in the form of meteors, DNA and star dust and life will take hold once again– ready to climb up Kardashev’s classifications.

    • Frankie Calcutta on March 29, 2014 at 9:09 am

      We have a long way to go before we we become a class II civilization:

      • DanaThomas on March 29, 2014 at 12:44 pm

        Maybe but “time is relative”…

    • rich overholt on March 29, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      See u in San Francisco in June. Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. I’ll be wearing a khaki colored t-shirt with, “Made in California” logo. Ciao

      • Frankie Calcutta on March 30, 2014 at 3:14 pm

        I suggest everyone dress as their favorite nazi. Because it is in San Francisco, I will either go as Ernst Rohm or Eva Braun.

        • rich overholt on March 30, 2014 at 7:30 pm

          Hah! Good one.

Help the Community Grow

Please understand a donation is a gift and does not confer membership or license to audiobooks. To become a paid member, visit member registration.

Upcoming Events