Suppose you will look at evidence of the most technologically advanced civilization in the Universe. In that case, you should start by looking at what it is, which you are probably looking for. In a NASA-sponsored program to divide Atmospheric Technosignatures, my colleagues and I spend a lot of time thinking about this. But there is a question that worries me as you challenge this project: How far can civilization go as it progresses?
This question is directly related to the Kardashev scale, an article we discussed earlier. Kardashev’s scale is about harvesting power. The civilization of Type I in Kardashev’s program could capture all the power that falls into the homeworld. Type II civilization can catch all the star-generated energy, and Type III can do the same across the galaxy. Harvesting energy from all galaxies seems to have significantly improved, yet we can further this vision. Could there be a Type IV civilization or a V-type civilization? Are there any restrictions on the development of technology – and if so, where are those limitations?
Any attempt to think of these lines is a guess of pure form. Today, however, I will do just that. Why? First, because it is fun. But also because this is the route some of the best science fiction has ever been before, in books like Stanislaw Lem’s His Master’s Voice and the film Interstellar.
Interference and dark story: Kardashev saw a civilization that still exists under the laws of physics. The Universe gives them these rules just as they were given to us. We cannot change these rules – we can only apply them more or less efficiently.
But what if civilization progresses to the point where it can change those laws? This civilization would do more than harvest power. The Nature of energy itself, with established rules such as energy conservation, could be subject to review within engineering.
Astronomer Caleb Scharf explored this question in an article entitled, “Is Physical Law an Alien Intelligence?” This work is a work of creative art, and Scharf examined the laws of physics and asked what might have been rewritten for the well-developed species.
Another factor that can raise eyebrows is black matter. When astronomers track the movement of galaxies and clusters of galaxies, they discover a problem: There is not enough force to produce the energy needed to drive the visible action. To solve this problem, astronomers think that there must be many invisible things. This means that it does not emit light, which means it does not interact with light objects that we see other than gravity. So the claim that the Universe is full of “dark” things. But because of speculation, Scharf wondered if the lack of interaction with blacks might not be the result of natural law but rather the result of the interference of advanced civilization.
Perhaps, Scharf asked, the best way of life to avoid catastrophic events such as floods or explosive rays of exploding stars would be to cut across almost entirely the Universe. Using a “normal to black” 3-D printer, you can, as Scharf puts it, “load your land on a large number of real estate on the black side and finish it.”
Scharf had other ideas, such as a highly developed civilization that accelerated the expansion of the Universe – something we now call black power. Scharf thought that a civilized society could cause acceleration. Perhaps they used it to prevent heat in the event of the death of the Universe and to ensure that disruption does not strike the Universe.