The Kardashev Scale, Civilization Change, and the Science Fiction Debate About Economic Growth

An increase in the monthly estimated economic activity (EMAE), in construction or in the use of installed capacity? Cherulas. Double-digit GDP growth in Chinese rates? Please: change the boy. In the economic debate that crosses exponential techniques with future growth, there are those who use somewhat less traditional measurement schemes, but are more powerful by several orders of magnitude. Like the “Kardashev Scale,” which ranks civilizations (on Earth or from another planet) according to the energy they can capture from nearby stars or from the entire galaxy.

The scale was proposed in 1964 by a Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev. A “Type 1” civilization in this analogy is a civilization that can capture all the energy emitted by the nearest star to its planet of origin, and “Type 2” adds those of the entire planetary system and “Type 3”, the entire galaxy. We are currently a “0.7” type civilization (every day you learn something new), we can have a “Type 1” civilization in 100 to 200 years, a “Type 2” civilization in a few thousand years and one “Type 3” In a period of 100,000 to 1 million years, according to the estimation of the futurist and physician of physics and mathematics, Michio Kaku.

What is the relationship of the Kardashev scale to the current dynamics of economic growth? Let’s go back a few paragraphs to planet Earth and today, or at least the near future.

The most cited article on the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on growth to date in academia was published in 2018 in the US National Bureau of Statistics (NBER), and its authors are Philip Agion, Benjamin Jones, and Charles Jones, of LSE, Northwestern, and Stanford, respectively. Titled Artificial Intelligence and Economic Growth, it is subject to the disruptive practical innovation literature over the past 200 years (Acemoglu, Restrepo, Nordhaus, and other economists) to question whether, as many believe, ‘Technical Optimists’, ‘This time is different’ At some point in the century, we may be accelerating toward something like “singularity.” Economically, a track unprecedented in history.

There are several areas where AI is already “discovering” and “innovating” new areas: shutterstock – shutterstock

To speculate on these questions, the authors analyzed them Scenarios in which artificial intelligence gradually replaces the tasks of humans in the production of goods and services. More importantly, what will happen when machines gain a relevant role in the production of new ideas and scientific and technological knowledge.

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Reworking this theoretical framework, weeks ago, economist Matt Clancy, an innovation specialist at IFP (The Institute for Progress, based in Washington), began speculating what would happen if we could automate the process of scientific invention and discovery. This is a force operating in the opposite direction to two other secular trends that tend to hold back growth today: Increasingly slow population progress and the increasing difficulty of the problems we face, making results in terms of innovation and new developments increasingly difficult to achieve (this is a finding that already has a lot of evidence in the field of innovation economics).

At least in part, this isn’t a science fiction question, but rather There are several areas where AI is already “discovering” and “innovating” new areas: From prediction of Alpha Fold protein formation (from Deep Mind) to complex transcripts generated by GPT-3, through images generated by Dall-E (and soon videos of words), automated tests of mathematical theories and various other methods.

That’s where Russian astrophysicist Kardashev comes in from 1964. Clancy takes this to run the Agion, Jones, and Jones model and see what happens. To get an idea of ​​the dimensions: The differences between a “Type 1” civilization and one of “Type 2” or “3” are enormous. One of the “Type 2” consumes about 1010 times more energy than the “Type 1”, and the other of the “Type 3”, 1010 times more than the “Type 2”. Clancy assumes that all the inhabitants of the planet are dedicated to invention (this assumption is not decisive, it could be a lower percentage), that the population is growing 0.7% per year and that innovation is increasingly cumbersome: each 0.1 increase on the Kardashev scale requires twice as many hours of invention as the previous one .

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If we start from a low degree of automation of the invention process, such as the current one, and presumably 100% automation will be reached at some point, the magic of exponentialism will emerge: It would take 20 years to reach 0.8 in Kardashev; then four years to go from 0.8 to 0.9; And less than a year to be a “Type 1” civilization. How long does it take from level 1 to 3 intergalactic? Less than three months!

But the model’s most interesting prediction is that If there is a non-automable part of the invention process (even if it’s a very small, 1%), which is still critically dependent on humans and their limitations, then “crazy” growth speeds don’t show up. Clancy believes that this is the realistic scenario of the twenty-first century: one in which AI triumphs over low population growth and increasing difficulty on the fringes of innovation, but without reaching a singular case in which machines do everything, “it will always be around the corner, but it will never come.” “.

Putting the Kardashev scale into an economic model is a spice that undoubtedly points to Science Fiction, But the reality is that these kinds of discussions about rates of automation, productivity, and higher-than-expected growth are increasingly coming to the fore in economic discussions.

The same thing happens in the various branches of change and transformation: In the discussion of aging, radical life extension scenarios are no longer part of a marginal conversation, Instead, it exists as something on the medium-term horizon of possibilities for any biotechnologist or physician working today on frontier issues in the life sciences. Obviously it’s not a sure thing, but it’s also not impossible, and it no longer “pushes” points on an academic level if one starts investigating it (because it’s something “not so serious”), quite the opposite. The incentive scheme has been reversed.

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Something similar is happening in the area climate change: A descriptive study published on August 10 by a team from Lute University (from Lappeenranta, Finland, where the Sorjonen series was filmed) found that the volume of academic research that considers 2050 to be reached with a 100% global energy matrix based on renewables has grown by 27% per year since 2010: It has gone from being highly skeptical at the time to being in the mainstream that it already considers likely. Even the astrophysicist Kardashev in his youth from the Muscovites of 1964, in the Soviet Union, Leonid Brezhnev, could not dream of such an acceleration.

Aileen Morales

"Beer nerd. Food fanatic. Alcohol scholar. Tv practitioner. Writer. Troublemaker. Falls down a lot."

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