Imagine some alien race anonymously "gave" us a Dyson sphere/swarm, and the means to channel the energy, in a way that means free electricity for anybody.

What would actually change?

It seems like a huge leap, but I can't think of anything really revolutionary that it could be used for, except lowering prices of a lot of stuff. What is actually currently limited by electric energy, for mankind as a whole?

We can't make rockets out of electricity, can we? Electricity is not rocket propellant. We can't really extracts resources that much faster, electricity supply is not exactly what limits mechanical diggers. Even if you know that mankind will shift a lot of research to batteries and other stuff, what "big step" would it achieve?

The only thing I have in mind is maybe nuclear fusion, but that's just more energy, I'm not sure it would help that much.

Also, I can hardly see everything mobile (transports, for example) running on battery. Mineral supplies (such as Lithium and other "rare" metals) are finite and somewhat difficult to extract. Counstraints are currently things like size, weight, capacity, and none of that will directly improve with infinite energy. Metal limitation is already starting to be a problem, so I'm not sure the entire population could switch to full-electric cars, trucks, planes and ships.

  • What are the hurdles that we currently face that could be solved with infinite amounts of electricity?

  • What would a society with infinite electricity achieve first?

Edit Refocusing so that the question isn't too broad. Here's a yes/no question.

  • Would infinite energy significantly help civilization reach a milestone, such as space colonization or terraforming? Would it enable a huge leap towards type 3 or just make lots of stuff cheaper?

Looking at the answers, "just" controlling our ecological footprint means no.

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    $\begingroup$ "We can't make rockets out of electricity, can we?" - we can. We can use electrolysis to get hydrogen and oxygen from water. We could scrub CO2 from atmosphere and get all that carbon as fuel again. We could do a lot of things if cost didn't matter, and for some of these things, most of the cost is energy. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Dec 20 '18 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ I might muse that some might argue that - relative to times past - we DO live in an era of practically free energy (fossil fuels and nuclear) so you may want to think of what hurdles have been overcome now compared to historical times. Food is plentiful and transportation is cheap for starters. $\endgroup$ – BobtheMagicMoose Dec 20 '18 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ I also thought of a railgun to send rocket parts into space, reducing the price per kilogram and reserving rockets for humans. But it seems like the efficiency is currently limited by problems other than energy cost, like heat dissipation, melting the rails and the projectile. $\endgroup$ – Teleporting Goat Dec 20 '18 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ Are you also assuming that aliens are kind enough to build and a electric grid to deliver their free energy to every little village and desert oasis on earth, and maintain that grid forever? B/c power lines cost money, and most of that money is not spent on energy. $\endgroup$ – Bald Bear Dec 20 '18 at 19:46

First and foremost we would have to find out how to regulate the torrents of energy coming in to prevent our electricity networks from overloading, but after that there could be many direct benefits, such as:

  1. We could significantly reduce our CO2 footprint though switching off the no-longer-needed power-plants.

  2. Recycling would become more popular, since the main cost of recycling is energy expenditure.

  3. Supercomputers would be much less of a concern, and the resulting rise in supercomputers could result in a golden age of science.

  4. The energy could be used for particle-physics research, helping us discover more about our universe.

  5. Should a sufficiently large network of charging stations be made, we could reduce the cost of transport, leading to more and eco-friendlier trade and travel, further connecting our globalised world.

  6. More usable surface could be gained through desert greening, although a solution would have to be found for the native species of deserts.

One major restriction in the entire process is the distribution of electric energy, since mobile applications may not be feasible.

A potential solution could be the coordinated usage of orbital lasers (hear me out) to transfer the energy over great distances, though this of course brings with it problems of how to navigate the problem of obstructions. Additionally the great heat of these lasers could have an effect on the climate and would be difficult to manage from an engineering standpoint.

Another would be similar to Tesla's idea of FREE WIRELESS ENERGY, using electromagnetic waves, though how safe and plausible this is I don't know. It needn't be energy-efficient since we have energy in abundance.

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To your second question - environmental and transportation concerns would be the first to be addressed. With infinite energy you could turn a desert into an oasis, you could clean up the atmosphere, remove toxins from the waterways, etc. etc.

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Well, everything. Everything will be cheaper. Machines making stuff will switch to free electricity, cars moving made stuff will be powered by free electricity, so the price will not be loaded with added price of fuel. Resources can be extracted much faster because you don't need to spend fuel so you can use more clean energy machines. Co2 footprint will lower dramatically as there will be no fuel burning machines used to do things. Independents infinite power sources will enable growing/make things in new places. Also enabling people in "poor" countries to make a technological leap moving a lot of people from "surviving" to "developing".

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  • $\begingroup$ See my edit about batteries. $\endgroup$ – Teleporting Goat Dec 20 '18 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ @TeleportingGoat So you assume we are restricted to ONE Dyson sphere per earth? Then we have Armageddon because all countries fight for that energy. Just like now for oil. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Dec 20 '18 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ Would it, if it's entierly free? Anyway l assumed that we have a setup that gives anyone access to unlimited energy. $\endgroup$ – Teleporting Goat Dec 20 '18 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ @TeleportingGoat "He Who Controls Spice Controls The Universe!". People would want to share the energy. And they don't because as you can see from news they like to have power/money. Your country have free energy, you have more power than any other country. Companies in your country are more competitive. And so on. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Dec 20 '18 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ For the sake of the argument, let's assume it's the best setup possible, I'm interested in the possibilities of the best-case scenario. $\endgroup$ – Teleporting Goat Dec 20 '18 at 15:14

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