May 19, 2007

Conservation as Barbarism

As part of my tech reading I go through Good Morning Silicon Valley regularly. Today, I was jolted by this interview pull:

I personally think that SETI is looking in the wrong direction. If, for example, we’re walking down a country road and we see an anthill, do we go down to the ant and say, “I bring you trinkets, I bring you beads, I bring you knowledge, I bring you medicine, I bring you nuclear technology, take me to your leader”? Or, do we simply step on them? Any civilization capable of reaching the planet Earth would be perhaps a Type III civilization. And the difference between you and the ant is comparable to the distance between you and a Type III civilization. Therefore, for the most part, a Type III civilization would operate with a completely different agenda and message than our civilization.

My first question was what is a Type III civilization, which quickly brought me to the Kardashev scale, a common measure of technological advancement where the metric is raw energy use. The more you use, the more civilized you are.

As soon as I got to Carl Sagan's contribution of fractional values (he calculated Earth as a 0.7 type) it struck me that in this framework, energy conservation is a priori defined as a retrograde action. The more energy you save, the less you use and thus the lower you drive your Kardashev scale value, thus conservation is barbarism. I think it's kind of catchy.

Posted by TMLutas at May 19, 2007 10:27 PM