We often get questions about whether (my civilization) can do this or that. While they are fun to answer, there is the tedious and seemingly inevitable bit about asking the OP about the desired technological level of the society.

I'm thinking of a community wiki post whereby we create a finely graded Kardashev scale, with examples at each interval of the presumable (science-based) capabilities of such civilizations. So going from Type 0 to Type 3 (or even 4) in .1 increments using the Sagan logarithmic scale interpretation.


where K is a civilization's Kardashev rating and P is the power used by that civilization in watts. Thus humanity cca 2011 would be

${\frac{log_{10}(17.4\times10^{12})-6}{10}}=\frac{13.24-6}{10}\approx0.7$ on the continuous Kardashev scale.

There is already at least one place on the internet where this was done, but not rigorously and only with literary examples in mind.

I was thinking of adding in some extra help-factors, like easy conversion tables between $BTU/day$, $J/yr$, $W$ and other measures of energy magnitude and output, the energy required to power a spaceship to fractions of the speed of light and projections at various linearized growth rates of humanity's energy usage growth, and the time to reach various thresholds under those conditions, and perhaps estimates of the power output of humanity or specific civilizations at some point in the past.

While admirable, the scale of this question is likely beyond my current time commitment capacity. Would there be interest in participating in a wiki page for such an endeavor?

Before unleashing this on the Main, I would love feedback on the general feasibility of such a wiki, things that I'm missing out on, and other general thoughts and advice.

EDIT: Under severe time constraints at the moment, will try to build this up in here in preparation of posting on main in a few days' time

  • $\begingroup$ While it might work for advanced civs, is it for the type 0 civs as well? Can we have a Type 0.4 civ? I think the problem is that they cannot be defined precisely by using their energy consumption? $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Vincent That's what the big formula up there is for. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ Several studies have shown that we can link energy consumption with the GDP. We have more data on GDP than on energy consumption. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ If I had to understand that formula before asking a question, I'd probably never ask another question. The goal is admirable but we're going to need some easy-to-use aids if we want people to use it. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio, indeed! I was thinking of putting some helpful tables with values for, say the Roman Empire, Medieval Europe, Modern Humanity, some fictional examples... $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ @SerbanTanasa that would definitely help! $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ A large part of the problem is in finding reliable data. I've found this skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1578952 I tried to find how developed the world was in 1700: I got like 0,341 and I have no idea if it, ok. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 6:04

1 Answer 1


This is fairly similar to your other question on the magic scale and the answer given there by TimB is just as relevant for this.

Again and again people have talked about having language for worldbuilding. If you look on the area51 proposal and at the earlier meta questions you will see that it was suggested (admittedly mostly in less well defined ways). However again and again the answer is a resounding no from the community.

This seems to be trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist. You should be specifying the power of your civilisation in a way that a layman can understand. The result from your formula the result would be meaningless to me. At that point I would never be able to answer a question that used your formula.

In short, while it sounds good, we don't actually have a problem that this needs to solve and it makes our site much less friendly to people who don't know how much power a civilisation uses.

You mentioned in the comments about tables with helpful examples of what each level is like. Why do we then need the formula if we can just use those descriptive terms?

  • $\begingroup$ Mourdos, thanks for your feedback. I'll scale the project down a bit and turn in into a Reference-post, with lots of tables to show what sort of things would require what energy levels, etc... How does that sound? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 20:35
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    $\begingroup$ @SerbanTanasa Yes, that sounds like it could be very useful for people. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 12:02

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