Are there any hard rules or requirements that constitute a civilization as being considered advanced? Or is it merely by comparison to other (neighboring?) civilizations?

Is a civilization considered "advanced" by comparing it to other civilizations or are there requirements that a civilization would need to meet to be considered "advanced"?

Bonus question: When did the first human civilization become advanced?

  • $\begingroup$ When did the first human civilization become advanced? Hasn't happened yet, IMO. Science still denied by politicians and many religious groups. Women still not equal in most of the world, even in terms of basic rights. I could add to the list for a long time. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Mar 15 '19 at 1:27
  • $\begingroup$ flagging this as opinion based, since its asking for an objective definition of a relative term $\endgroup$ – DJ Spicy Deluxe Mar 15 '19 at 3:00
  • $\begingroup$ "Advanced" is obviously a relative term. I have no clue why anybody would even think that it is an absolute term. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 15 '19 at 9:23
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenG Using social circumstances as an advancement metric is terrible. Your comment leads me to think that you hold secular-rational values, but consider how your perfect society would seem to someone holding conservative-religious values. Definitly not advanced. This only gets worse if you are talking about aliens, as they might have different social structures based on things like their biologie. $\endgroup$ – TheDyingOfLight Mar 15 '19 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenG My point is that everyone would consider a culture dedicated to their own values superior, thus advanced. A conservative-religious, secular-rational or authoritarian-technocratic type would each think that a society upholding and acting on their values to be "a good thing". Your point of view only works if moral is absolute and not relative. While there is quite the philosophical debate about this, absolute moral is generally common among religious types and relative moral is supported by more secular types. $\endgroup$ – TheDyingOfLight Mar 16 '19 at 0:46

Advanced is a relative term.

Western society is advanced compared to a primitive hunter gatherer tribe but still primitive compared to a star faring alien race.

It assumes you're normal/baseline and then rates others as compared to you.

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How About a Metric?

The Kardashev Scale is a popular metric for technological advancement of civilizations. The scale is based on energy use and has three levels:

Civilization can (and does) harness:

  1. the total energy available on its planet
  2. the total energy available from its star
  3. the total energy available from its galaxy

There are plenty of issues one can take with this metric. Probably the most apparent is that we have no idea what technological advancement looks like beyond our current state and thus energy usage may be a poor indicator.

If you put humans on the Kardashev scale they fall around a 0.7. Note that this doesn't mean we harness 70% of the available energy on Earth, since the scale is logarithmic (we use around 0.001% of the available energy).

So What is Advanced?

Even the Kardashev scale doesn't really answer your question though. To us, a type I civilization would seem very advanced. To a type 0.1 civilization (proto-humans), we would seem very advanced. Since type III is the highest measure, do we consider that "advanced?" Some people propose even higher types (harnessing the power of an entire universe) so were these civilizations to exist type III would seem paltry in comparison.


I got on a roll here because I like the subject, but your question doesn't have an answer because you are asking for a metric to define something that is inherently relative. In fact, now I'm not sure I should have answered at all.

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