I was having a lengthy philosophical discussion with a good friend of mine last night about the types of civilizations on the scale of the universe. Some guy posited that there are 4 types of civilizations. Type 0 is the type we're in right now, where the people of a planet are not united under one banner. It's many factions of the race that are constantly vying for power and dominance over the others.
A Type 1 civilization is like how alien races are generally portrayed in movies. The dominant race of the planet is part of one system of government. All of the peoples are united under one banner, and they don't compete against each other for power, but rather they expand out into space as one giant, planetary nation. Type 2 spans multiple planets. If we were to colonize other planets, then our boundaries would be decided by the planets we control. Instead of states like Ohio, we would have provinces like Mars.
Type 3 is like what we see in Star Wars, i.e. government is galaxy-wide.
With that background, the question arose between us: will we as a civilization ever progress past Type 0? I think not.
There are a lot of barriers to becoming a type 1 civilization. Right now, it seems as though people are trying to resist the idea of globalization, or growing interconnectedness. We see this with diversity movements. People want to distinguish themselves from others, which is a good thing, but I think that many have it wrong. Instead of just saying, "I'm an individual with my own heritage," it seems like people are constantly trying to cast themselves as "I'm other."
I don't want a planet full of boring cookie-cutter people, but too often do people have the attitude that one culture is superior to another. It's not that we want people to recognize our individuality, we want people to see that we're part of a "better" culture. Fundamentalist Christians never want to be mistaken for being Muslims. Conservative Americans never want to be mistaken for Europeans.
And this is where all the war and suffering has come from. It's all about what Germany wants for the German people. It's all about what Britain wants for its great British empire. It's all about what America can do to keep America on top. And because there are large groups of people constantly struggling against one another, because they think that their particular group is superior or more deserving of Earth's resources than the other groups, we engage in conflict that prevents us from progressing as a civilization.
"But Jack, it's okay that we're different. One world government is a bad thing, because people are so different." Yes, people are different. As a species, we are sharply divided by cultural differences, but this sharp divide is not a good thing. If we stay a type 0 civilization, I strongly believe that we will eventually destroy ourselves.
There are now 7 billion people on this planet, and I'm not sure how many of you realize this, but Earth's resources are finite. Fossil fuel, rare earth metals, copper, food, shelter, land: all of these things are in finite quantity, and they are things we depend on to survive. As the human population swells, the struggle to control these resources will only increase in intensity and frequency.
Because humans can be ridiculously stubborn, and because everyone is always right, I think that we're destined to be in perpetual struggle for as long as humanity exists. Hardly anyone ever admits that they're wrong, and because people are still willing to die for their beliefs, we've become intellectually stunted as a civilization. It's not that we lack the capability to intellectually progress, it's that we lack the will.
Ask yourself this one question: when was the last time you changed your mind about a major belief that you held? What I've noticed over the past 8 or 9 months that I've been blogging is that both sides produce very compelling arguments. Both sides pull out factoids, statistics, and theories that actually support what they're saying. Unless the facts are complete lies and fabrications, then by all accounts both sides are right.
But few of you would be willing to admit that, because few of you realize that you're only right because you're trying to argue a particular point of view. You're not trying to discuss the larger picture. That's why all of you always go back to money when trying to prove your points. "Education is broken because there's not enough money being spent on the kids!" "Education is broken because bad teachers are overpaid, and good teachers are underpaid!" You all fail to realize that there are deeper problems underlying all of our ails.
Humans are more concerned about being right than actually fixing a problem. Until we can learn to get over ourselves, we're going to be intellectually stuck forever. And as long as we're intellectually stuck, we will never progress to a type 1 civilization. We will perpetually remain in conflict, and we'll likely destroy ourselves. The guy who articulated this idea suggested that we may not have come into contact with alien races, because type 1 civilizations are extremely rare in the universe. Most civilizations likely destroyed themselves, and if we had the capability, we'd likely discover their ruins on other planets.
Is that what we're destined for? Will an alien race visit Earth one day, only to find the crumbled remains of a once thriving civilization?