How exactly would a Type II civilization, according to the Kardashev scale, have to structure its economy in order to be a viable system?

For more information on the Kardashev scale and a Type II civilizations, you can go here

This query ties into another one, covering a broader scope, that you can find here

in short, A Type II civilization is a civilization capable of harnessing energy, among other ways, directly from its solar systems star, by means of a Dyson sphere. This method of energy production implies a capacity for energy to matter as well as matter to energy conversion, in layman's terms, make anything out of "electricity" and turn anything into "electricity" (E = mc^2 and all that). So basically, as long as you can keep harnassing solar energy, you can create anything, thus eliminating any form of scarcity.

For the purposes of this query, I will also assume that that level of technological advancement implies an equal level of sophistication into many other branches of science, medical (organ or appendage regeneration/reconstruction, longevity, cloning, genetic engineering etc), space travel (interstellar, at the very least), industry from the macro (robots) to nano scale (nanobots), and the capacity for many other scientific breakthroughs.

Furthermore, health care, food, education and housing are literally free in this theoretical society due to the technologies developed to automate the process (everything is "solar" powered and everything is "solar" made, at the very least a maintenance service is provided by human workers or a robot programmed to do such). The human element is not eliminated, just reduced, automating tasks that either requires long-term repetitive work or high precision operations. Basically assembly lines of objects that are either too big or too complex to convert from energy and high precision operations that require a level of attention to detail unattainable to any human . . . or both. Also, some form of mandatory service right out of school is implemented so that all citizens contribute a bare minimum to their society, everybody must work somewhere, do something, education, healthcare, military, industry, research, media, entertainment etc.

So, keeping all that in mind, how would the economy work, if it could still be called an "economy" if any demand could be met, and all the supply was provided by the sun?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm unsure what the 'reduced' human workload would be doing in this model; what would require a human's attention that a factory made robot couldn't handle in terms of maintenance? More importantly, what would a human be producing in this scenario? The simplest answer to your question is that the working humans get first access to the products only accessible by human effort, as these are the only products relevant to your economy. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 5:39
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    $\begingroup$ Any sufficiently advanced civlization is indistinguishable from socialism. (Well... from the view of socialism that socialists have of course.) Economy is a method of managing scarcity. Market economy or planned economy doesn't matter, the basic function is the same. The only difference is which elite gets the best and the most of what's scarce. Remove scarcity and you remove the need for economy as we understand it. $\endgroup$
    – Doomfrost
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 8:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Doomfrost Even an advanced civilization would require some method of valuing projects and work to allow efficient allocation of resources. And there would still be projects that were very costly in terms of resources - e.g. which plan options are most likely to take us from Kardashev II to Kardashev III. You might note I M Bank's Culture novels where is essence intelligent computers do the management of vast resources. In "Player Of Games" it is suggested that the Culture does not approve of waste or inefficiency even if it has no practical impact. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenG However, what is considered "waste" and "inefficiency" in the Culture is pretty lenient compared to what we would consider the same. Also, if the step taking us from Kardashev II to Kardashev III would need all our gains from transitioning to K II from the K Zero we're currently at (K0,75 essentially, but I'm rounding down) ... is it worth it? $\endgroup$
    – Doomfrost
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 9:23
  • $\begingroup$ An "economy" is an artificial system to encourage labor/goods exchange, the government's role in regulating an economy has more to do with getting everyone to participate on an even a footing…. Gold Standard or other "hard" guarantees are as meaningless as puka shells, the thing that makes an economy work is that the value of the "money" is accepted by the people participating, and that typically means a stable government that is regulating the circulation. Think of your economy not in terms of physical puka shells, but as a population that participates in mutual and interlocking exchanges. $\endgroup$
    – wetcircuit
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 12:56

2 Answers 2


OK, once transhumanism sets in it's impossible to know what will happen. It's like asking a caveman what the world will be like after the agricultural revolution.

But that's not a very helpful answer, so here is one that might be of use.

To keep the world somewhat relatable for people, keep a kind of capitalist system and jobs. The following are things I've read in various sci-fi and articles about the future, I'll try to find links to back them up more.

With near unlimited power (at least for the regular population) there wouldn't be any poor people, and machines would handle most utilitarian details. Everyone would get a basic universal income of 'energy credits', each week. It would cover all the basics and leave some left over for fun activities.

However there will still be a need for specialized services, lawyers, possibly doctors, researchers (knowledge and new inventions will be very important), specialists in robotics, space, computers, hand crafted goods, etc. They would obviously get very well paid for their services.

Entertainment will also be important, writers, game designers, skilled gamers, athletes, singers, actors, more personal entertainment, etc, are all things people would pay for.

That personal touch. Sure robots can do most things people need, but for people with the money, they'll want to have the pleasure of being waited on and served by real humans. Servers, chefs, butlers and maids, masseuse, personal assistants, drivers, etc, will not be seen as menial jobs, but will be well paid and very well trained so that they can help the richest people show off their wealth.

If people want jobs, they will be able to get one probably at very reasonable hours and would be well paid for it if they have any skill. People who don't have jobs, even if they have enough to survive, tend to get bored and look at different ways to challenge themselves. It can also lead to rebellion and crime. The main factor behind the Arab Spring was the extremely high youth unemployment, large groups of young men with no real prospects living with their parents are not going to sit around peacefully being bored.

So while it could be a perfect near jobless society, people will be encouraged to work, even if it's just playing video games for an audience.

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    $\begingroup$ (+1) Just for the first "caveat" paragraph. $\endgroup$
    – Rekesoft
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 8:24
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    $\begingroup$ 'Capable of harvesting' the definition of type II, is a long way from unlimited power. They could still be a struggling dystopia with trillions of people living in crushing poverty and eating Soylent Green to survive. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix, true, but looking at the real world with the advancing of a country's energy resources and production ability, the trend tends to be towards making peoples lives easier. Even dictatorships don't want a large number of angry poor people. Having trillions of poor people is a recipe for disaster unless there is an overwhelming outside threat to direct their anger towards. There really are three answers here, utopia-ish, dystopia, and "We have no idea". Someone else can provide the dystopia answer. $\endgroup$
    – Dan Clarke
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 14:13
  • $\begingroup$ @DanClarke, there's a 4th answer, rattling along much the same but bigger $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix, not really. How similar is the modern world to the early industrial revolution? Having a stasis on society while our technology, energy production and ability to obtain new resources skyrockets, is about as realistic as the medieval stasis found in most fantasy books. People and society will adapt and change to meet the new ideas. $\endgroup$
    – Dan Clarke
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 15:11

Production and material wealth in a K2 Civ is not infinite, the energy produced by a sun is a magnitude larger than what can be produced on a planet but certainly not infinite. The concept of economics which is the branch of knowledge concerned with the production, consumption, and transfer of wealth still makes sense but in a different way. Wealth would not be material wealth but probably "knowledge".

Material satifaction of individuals would probably not be an issue. Economics would focus on how to optimally affect ressources to achieve the only rational goal a K2 civ should aspire for: become a K3 Civ.

The entity deciding how to affect ressource would certainly be an AI as it has been proven many times in history that humans are terrible at planning economy centrally. The goal of this AI would be to upgrade the civilization to a K3 level Civ in the most optimal and fast manner.

Should the prodcution & research focus ressources on expanding the Civ and build Dyson spheres on more stars? Should they focus ressources on building and studying worm holes to travel faster? Should they focus research on building more computing power? Should they focus on building more weapons in case they meet another hostile K2 Civ?

Economics is just a mathematical optimization problem. In a K2 civ, the problem they want to optimize for is not "let s make our system's GDP the highest possible" but there will certainly be an economy, it s just that the goal will be different.


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