Featured image by Julian Aguilar Faylona
Barring a mass extinction of the human race–which, of course, is completely plausible–our technological progress will likely continue to grow exponentially, making the chances of a technological Singularity quite good. This Singularity will fuel unimaginable change on the Earth–the development of androids, strong artificial intelligence, posthuman entities that combine machine and human intelligence, megaengineering in space and self-replicating nanotechnology.
However, without an additional–nay, inexhaustible–source of energy, this progress, particularly megaengineering in space, will hit a wall. It will be necessary for the posthuman/AI civilization to harvest more energy from the sun than we currently do–about 33 trillion times more, in fact.
image by Kerihobo
This will require the construction of a Dyson sphere. It’s a theoretical concept, but one that is virtually a prerequisite for the evolution of any Kardashev Type II civilization. According to one of our favorite websites, FutureTimeline.net, the human race will achieve this milestone near and about the year 3100 CE.
Variants of the Dyson Sphere
There are several theoretical variations on the Dyson sphere, and even more fictional ones. Some involve complex matrices of overlapping panels, as opposed to mere circular shells. There’s the Dyson swarm, the Dyson bubble, the Dyson net, the O’Neill cylinder, and the Matrioshka brain (a series of overlapping Dyson spheres modeled on the Russian doll).
image by Donald Davis on Wikimedia Commons
Construction of these unimaginably vast structures will likely have to wait until, at the very least, we have graphene and carbon nanotubes in working order. Until then, we can fantasize and read mindblowing descriptions of them in Larry Niven’s Ringworld and Charles Stross’s Accelerando.
The Search for Extraterrestrial Life
Interestingly, the Search of Extraterrestrial Life has recently accomodated the Dyson sphere as a way of searching for alien civilizations. Previously, SETI astrophysicists have stated that we should be looking for signs of vast artificial energy sources and structures in space as signs of advanced alien intelligence.
A recent theory by Clément Vidal posits that irregular energy flows from certain binary stars may be evidence of Kardashev Type II or III civilizations–which Vidal calls “starivores”–who are feeding on the energy of their parent stars. Read his Ph.D. thesis on it! It suggests there may be around 2,000 starivores in our Milky Way galaxy alone.