It was Friday on MUNI that I found myself again reflecting on ever longer term goals, a mostly philosophical exercise that usually terminates with confronting the inevitable heat death of the universe.^1

But this time I wondered, could humanity (or whatever we evolve into) prevent the heat death of the universe? Is that even on the Kardashev scale?^2

I looked it up once my MUNI train exited the underground Market street subway offline-zone and the answers were: no, and sort of an extension. No, the original Kardashev scale only goes up to Type III, a civilization controlling energy on the scale of its host galaxy, an insignificant fraction (less than half a trillionth)^3 of the observable universe.

Yet extensions to the Kardashev scale^4 describe proposals for a Type IV, to refer either to beings who can use or control the entire universe, or to a civilization that can use an extragalactic energy source such as dark energy. If a civilization could control dark energy, they could perhaps redirect it to reduce, avoid, and possibly even reverse the accelerating expansion of the universe.^5 They would only have to manipulate enough dark energy to allow gravity to counteract the accelerating expansion, or if they could invert dark energy’s effects, half that.

So on the one hand we have the inevitable heat death of the universe (perhaps only ~22 billion years until a hypothetical "Big Rip"^6), and on the other hand, the theory that one or more civilizations (hopefully including ours) may evolve and/or merge, advancing sufficiently to control enough of the universe’s energies to avert that inevitability, and prosper in unimaginable ways.

That’s a lot to work backwards from, back down to galactic, solar, earth, cultural, and personal lifespan goals. It’s still quite useful for longer term thinking, implying a need for continuously increasing efficiency in both the use of energy sources and the pace of innovation (especially to tap into more sources). The latter, innovation, in particular complex problem-solving, apparently works best with both high levels of collaboration and parallel independent creativity, mixed intermittently.^7

Both of those civilization-level needs (energy efficiency, innovation efficiency) seem like goals incrementally pursuable (and achievable) both on small (personal, social) and larger (civic, state, national, global cultural) scales.

Posting just as a long note for now, perhaps worth expanding into a longer blog post later with specific actions, routines, and patterns towards those goals.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_death_of_the_universe
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale#Extensions_to_the_original_scale
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerating_expansion_of_the_universe
[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Rip
[7] https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/08/collaborate-on-complex-problems-but-only-intermittently/


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