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October 25, 2010

Approximate Per Capita Wealth of Kardashev Civilization using Energy Intensity and Relatively Stable Population Assumptions

The Kardashev scale is a method of measuring an advanced civilization's level of technological advancement.

Type I — a civilization that is able to harness all of the power available on a single planet — has approximately 10^16 or 10^17 W available. Earth specifically has an available power of 1.74 × 10^17 Watts (174 peta watts, see Earth's energy budget). 31.54 million seconds in a year. 5.488 * 10 ^ 24. 5.488 million exajoules.

Type II — a civilization that is able to harness all of the power available from a single star, approximately 4 × 10^26 Watts. Again, this figure is variable; the Sun outputs approximately 3.86 × 10^26 Watts. 1.22 * 10 ^ 34. 10220 trillion exajoules

Energy intensity is a measure of the energy efficiency of a nation's economy. It is calculated as units of energy per unit of GDP.

* High energy intensities indicate a high price or cost of converting energy into GDP.
* Low energy intensity indicates a lower price or cost of converting energy into GDP.

It has historically been a slow process to change energy intensity and coordinated national programs are needed to lower energy intensity (increase efficiency).

U.S. energy consumption in 2004 was estimated at 99.74 quadrillion Btus (1.05 × 10^11 GJ) (referred to as 'quads') from all sources (US DoE). Total GDP was estimated at $11.75 trillion in 2004 and US GDP per capita was estimated at roughly $40,100 in 2004 (CIA Factbook). Using a population of 290,809,777 (as per US Census Bureau). This would produce an Energy Intensity of 8,553 Btus (9 MJ) consumed to produce a single dollar of GDP (about 9,023 kJ/$).

The USA cut energy intensity in half over 55 years (1949-2004) from 1.55 to 0.7.



List of countries by energy intensity.

Japan and Italy are developed countries that have about half of the energy intensity (double the energy efficiency) of the USA.

The current population trend is slowing population growth and population would stabilize at around 10 billion people if demographics did not change.

Energy intensity and population assumptions can be used to back into a calculation (guess) of the per capita wealth of future humanity at Kardashev levels 1 and 2.

1. Assuming energy intensity of 10 megajoules/todays dollar and 10 billion people for a Kardashev level one civilization would mean $5.5 million dollars per person per year. Energy usage would be 55 terajoules per person (15.28 million kwh, 100 GW at 90% capacity factor produces about 800 billion kwh. 1.9 megawatts to generate the 15.28 million kwh)

2. Assuming energy intensity of 1 megajoules/todays dollar and 10 billion people for a Kardashev level one civilization would mean $55 million dollars per person per year. Still 1.9 megawatts to generate the power for the GDP per cap. Efficiency just went up 10 times.

3. Assuming energy intensity of 10 megajoules/todays dollar and 10 billion people for a Kardashev level two civilization would mean $10220 trillion dollars per person per year. 355 terawatts per person. About 1000 times more than the current world fleet of nuclear reactors per person.

4. Assuming energy intensity of 1 megajoules/todays dollar and 10 billion people for a Kardashev level two civilization would mean $102200 trillion dollars per person per year. 355 terawatts per person. About 1000 times more than the current world fleet of nuclear reactors per person. Effiency up ten times over case 3.

5. Assuming energy intensity of 1 megajoules/todays dollar and 10 trillion people for a Kardashev level two civilization would mean $102 trillion dollars per person per year. 355 gigawatts per person. One thousand times more people than case 4.


Uses your own assumption of energy intensity and population. Easily can use order of magnitude adjustments on energy intensity and population to get to different numbers.

Molecular nanotechnology and artificial general intelligence and other technology and changes could greatly alter the energy intensity of future civilization.

Kardashev level one only involves increasing current energy generation by about 10,000 times, so the first two assumption scenarios are better guesses. Nuclear fusion or advanced factory mass produced deep burn nuclear fission or radically improved solar power would make Kardashev level one to two civilizations sustainable.

A not too advanced level of nanotechnology could be used to create the Hall Weather machine which would enable Kardashev level one.


Every person on the planet could easily be a multi-millionaire in a Kardashev level one civilization. Kardashev level two probably makes everyone trillionaires or quadrillionaires.

Looking at Past GDP and Energy usage

Based on a request in the comments, here are some charts of past energy usage and past GDP. The US figures for energy usage and its share of world GDP can be used to approximate world energy usage and there are estimates of world energy usage.


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