What If Humanity Was A Type III-Minus Civilization? | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio WRITTEN BY: Dylan Musselman
Welcome to the Barrow Scale! Join us... and explore!

The Kardashev Scale isn't the only way to rank advanced civilizations! In this video, we take a closer look at John D. Barrow's system for Microdimensional Mastery... and we ask, what if humans were a Type III-minus society? Get ready to explore the subatomic world... it's a weird, weird place!

What If Humanity Was a Type III-Minus Civilization?

When we think about the future of civilization, we know that technological development isn’t always a straightforward path. And, naturally, it can be tricky to visualize anything that’s further along it; anything that’s more advanced than us. Our brightest minds have given it some thought, though… and for one John D. Barrow, the key is to strive for mastery over smaller and smaller worlds.

This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; What if humanity was a type three-minus civilization?

The most famous scale toward advanced civilizations is, of course, the Kardashev Scale. It was invented as a means to quantify and measure the degree of advancement that any civilization could hypothetically achieve… and has therefore become an influential tool when we consider the possibilities for extraterrestrial life. By making predictions about what technology different levels (or Types) might be capable of, we can guide how to better search for them in space. Nikolai Kardashev - the scale’s creator - focussed on energy potential. A type one can harness all the energy of its home planet; with type two, it’s all the energy of its home star system; with type three, it’s home galaxy; and there are extensions for types four, five, and so on… the universe, multiverse, et cetera.

However, though the Kardashev Scale is certainly popular, it isn’t without its drawbacks. For example, it doesn’t apply equally to all prospective groups… i.e., planets in the same star system will all reach type one at different times, based on their individual size, orbit, distance from star, and so on… but the parameters for all those worlds to reach type two are, then, the same again. There’s also some criticism of the seeming rigidity of the Kardashev Scale, when in real life it seems as though the levels should inevitably mix… so that a civilization might use some type two technologies before fully becoming even a type one, for instance. Again, technological development isn’t always so straightforward a path.

As such, a number of different scales have been put forth as alternatives. The popular physicist Carl Sagan, for one, thought up a revised model based on the information content any given society is able to store… and Sagan ranked his arguably more nuanced scale from A to Z. However, in this case, humanity is already past the halfway mark in Sagan’s alphabet… so perhaps it’s too limited. Elsewhere, the science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke also created a scale in his writing, based this time on what forms of technology a people can use - moving from stone, to metal, and so on. But Clarke’s model has never truly rivaled the Kardashev Scale in real-world, academic study. That breakthrough has been achieved with John Barrow’s scale, however.

An acclaimed astrophysicist, Barrow proposed an almost reverse Kardashev Scale where civilizations are ranked based on how small of an object they can manipulate. It’s called the Micro Dimensional Scale and it measures advancement in type-minus categories. A type one-minus, for example, is like base camp… it can manipulate the world around it (as we see it) by digging tunnels and constructing buildings; a type two-minus delves deeper, though, into the unseen, so that it can control genes and biological bodies. And today’s focus, a type three-minus can manipulate molecules on a fundamental level.

Again, pigeonholing any civilization into these types is difficult, not least with humanity. We’ve clearly passed Barrow’s type one-minus already, but at present we haven’t conclusively completed any of the next types along. We share some capabilities with both a type two and type three-minus without having totally mastered either of them. Being a full type three-minus would still essentially mean doing things that are only possible in science fiction. A type three-minus human will have completely mastered gene editing, for example, which means that it would be able to essentially customize human beings, and any other biological creature. Genetic code and DNA can be fixed, altered, or even created anew. We’d have immunities against most major diseases and cancers; effective cures for anything that did get through; and quick fix responses whenever a new germ or pathogen appeared.

On the flipside, type three-minus humans would likely be part-cyborg, with artificial body parts in place of antiquated biological ones. The human capabilities of today will’ve been enhanced so that, on some level, we’d have what the modern world considers to be superpowers. With the most fundamental parts of our own bodies under scrutiny (and open to re-interpretation) the road is short toward things like super-strength via modified skeletons, or super-intelligence via custom-designed cerebral stimulants. This is also the long-prophesised world of designer babies, where parents can customize exactly how they want their child to look and be. It’s also a world where reviving previously extinct species should be simple… so something akin to “Jurassic Park” might be possible for a type three-minus society.

A type three-minus would have more than just a mastery over biology, however. Although not yet able to manipulate individual atoms, their general molecular control opens countless opportunities for their species. Consider only the reality of temperature, for example. Temperature is based on the motion of molecules… so, by controlling the speed of molecules, you could precisely control the ambient climate. One of the key, everyday conditions for a comfortable life is totally adjustable for this civilization. On a smaller, less general, home-by-home basis, we can visualize it by imaging that today’s air conditioning units are universally replaced with molecular control panels… devices infused with microdimensional knowhow so that they enable the user to interact with the very molecules in the room, extracting or adding heat when needed. Combine tech like this with the biological enhancements, and the machines themselves might not even be necessary… with a type three-minus capable of simply thinking molecular manipulation - in this case, room temperature - into life.

While the Barrow Scale perhaps isn’t as outwardly expansionist as the Kardashev Scale, it’s still firmly geared towards space travel, as well… suggesting various possible solutions to a group’s interplanetary goals. For modern day humans, it’s all eyes on Mars… but we know it’s inhospitable, not least because it lacks an abundance of water and a breathable atmosphere. These aren’t major problems if you’re type three-minus, though, as you can easily produce and manipulate the greenhouse gasses needed to kick start the creation of water and atmosphere. It’s another example of how a type three-minus can effectively customize their key surrounding conditions. If the air isn’t immediately breathable when they arrive somewhere, they can move the molecules around until it is. If the water isn’t instantly drinkable, they can filter and purify it until it’s one hundred percent good for their health.

This ability to both control genes and create new materials out of molecules would change how so many industries function. There’d be a revolution in construction and building work, for example, with custom-made “unbreakable” materials that are as strong, durable, light, and efficient as possible. Perhaps there’d be inspiration taken from the natural world, here… with homes and buildings made out of something similar to spider silk, for instance, due to its incredible strength. Elsewhere, a similar approach might be used in healthcare settings, where nature again inspires. We know that shark skin is perfectly designed to deflect as many things as possible - like algae, debris, and even bacteria - so type three-minus physicians and healers could translate that into either a technology or body enhancement to help them in their line of work.

Sticking with sea life but moving away from the workplace, a type-three minus could potentially generate their own gills, and so breathe underwater… or manipulate their own eyes to be more like those of the mantis shrimp, which can famously process many times more colors than a human eyeball can. If, say, you wanted to climb walls… you could change your body (or the wall) to make it happen. Even if you wanted to float or fly, you could theoretically move molecules to push you upwards, to literally walk on air. As well as water, food can be controlled and regulated at the molecular level… which means only the healthiest and tastiest meals, all the time.

There are potential downsides. In theory, a type three-minus society should be equal, but what if it’s not? What if some can manipulate food and water, but others can’t? What happens if the ability to change the molecular base layer of reality continues on forever untapped? Perhaps a type three-minus would need some level of specific policing or governance… but then, would that take away the very freedom that this future reality is built on?

For now, we can say that John Barrow didn’t end his scale at type three-minus. He envisioned that groups could eventually learn to control even smaller worlds. At type four-minus, it’s mastery over atoms; at type five-minus, it’s an atom’s nucleus; with type six, it’s elementary particles like quarks; and there’s even an omega civilization, that controls the very fabric of spacetime itself. On Barrow’s third rung, then, there would still be goals ahead of us and improvements to make. It still might not be the perfect world, but we’ll have massively progressed along that path of tech development. And that’s what would happen if humanity was a type three-minus civilization.