Our species is facing a pivotal moment in its history: either we develop the technology to safely and sustainably harness the energy needed to escape our planet, or we are killed in a major cataclysm, says a new study. If this dilemma is positively resolved, then humanity could become a truly interplanetary species in as little as 200 years.
A new study recently published in arXiv analyzes the use and consumption of energy as an indicator of development of a civilization: in this context, he concludes that humanity is facing a culminating moment, in which it must choose between two possible paths. One way out would be sustainable energy management that allows you to access other worlds with relative ease, while the second option is a catastrophic self-destruction scenario. Apparently, in about 200 years it will be possible to appreciate which alternative we have chosen.
the big decision
For Jonathan Jiang, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and lead author of the new research, our current understanding of physics tells us that we are stuck on a small rock in the middle of the dark cosmos and with limited resources. If we want to break away from this notion and become an interplanetary civilization, or even leave our planet forever when this is an obvious need, we need to drastically increase the use of nuclear and renewable energy while protecting those energy sources so that are not used for malicious purposes.
As Jiang explains in an article published in Live Science, the next few decades will be crucial: if humanity can make a safe transition away from fossil fuels and use energy in a sustainable way, it could have a new opportunity. Everything indicates that the technologies to do so are within reach or close to being developed: the great unknown is the direction we will take as a civilization.
The key is the production and use of energy
In the new study, Jiang and his colleagues take as their parameter a measurement scheme developed in the 1960s by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev and later modified by Carl Sagan. This model estimates the technological ability of an intelligent species: The scale is based on the amount of energy from any source that a species can use for its own purposes, whether it is to explore the cosmos or for video games.
In that framework, a Type I civilization it can use all the energy available on the planet of origin of the species and that which it receives from its parent star. Type II civilizations, on the other hand, multiply their original energy production by 10 and can exploit all the energy of a single star. By advancing to type III, civilizations can go even further and use most of the energy of an entire galaxy.
two possible paths
Although we know that humanity is far from reaching level I at this point, research maintains that it is actually possible to do so. It would be essential not only to guarantee the continuity of our species on Earth, but also to make it possible develop stable bases and then independent cities in Other worlds.
The key is that, in the next 20 to 30 years, more sustainable forms of energy displace fossil fuels. Nuclear and renewable energy sources have the potential capacity to continue to grow in production without putting further pressure on the biosphere, as long as they are managed properly. If this change is possible, according to our current rate of energy consumption, we could reach the Type I state. in the year 2371according to scientists.
It is worth noting that the researchers concluded that their estimates can vary in an approximate range of 100 years: a favorable scenario can anticipate conditions for positive change at a civilizational level, while a chaotic environment can delay progress or even lead us to self-destruction.
Avoiding the Great Filter: Predicting the Timeline for Humanity to Reach Kardashev Type I Civilization. Jonathan H. Jiang et al. ArXiv (2022). DOI:https://doi.org/10.48550/arXiv.2204.07070