In Star Gate, the Ori are notorious for keeping the tech level of their planetary subjects at or under medieval tech levels. It has been said (still looking for the exact source) that if everyone lived like an American it would take the combined resources of 4 Earth's(link) to support our population.

I have a space faring empire with many planets.

Assuming medical technology is exempt (so there are still fully operational ER's) and sanitation is better maintained (indoor plumbing would have to exist regardless of tech level...maintained by the govt. of course), at what tech level (or technology oriented) lifestyle would a planet of 8 billion people have to average?

What other benefits would a space-faring society have if they spanned hundreds of solar systems?


The civilization in question has Battlestar Galactica level technology.

  • $\begingroup$ Should we assume a human society for answers? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre Yes. Or at least a species that is so similar to humanity that it doesn't matter. $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ I think this question may be a bit too broad(for instance, what kind of technology do they have to work with?), but I really want to see some answers. Specifically, I'm hoping Firefly wasn't too far off. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh I'll edit it in $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ Original or re-imaged? $\endgroup$
    – Ghanima
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 22:20

5 Answers 5


I think you are missing something very basic about economics; you are assuming that resource consumption will universally go up as technology improves, when really that isn't the case at all. In fact economics is about making better usage of inputs to the point that there is actually more forested land today in developed countries than there was in the past, and not just because of NIMBY.

As the world economy continues to grow and technology continues to improve then more people will be able to have access to goods and services at cheaper prices with less impact. This is already true, were we to be using technology of the past we already would not be able to support the number of people on earth, and there exists already technology today that theoretically would allow the earth to support into the possibly trillions of people, at least in terms of feeding them basic nutrition.

With a developed space economy a lot of things are able to be moved off world that impact the ecosystem today. Mining and manufacturing, even some crop production depending on the transportation costs involved (a space elevator(s) (or if you are serious about stargates a stargate in orbit linked to one on the planet) would help with that) can be moved off world, as can energy production, among other things, all into orbit so that without any other worlds involved the standard of living on the planet can be greatly improved without further drains on the planet's resources itself; especially if there were shifts in social expectations and product design.

Having many planets at ones disposal allows for further specialization and hopefully gains from trade to be made, it also really allows for larger projects to be undertaken that are out of reach of a single planet with its labor force and resources.

So the average person may not be able to have their own private asteroid resort or something, but they might be able to afford going on a cruise that stops at various planets and see sights all over the empire. They could easily live a life that is in many ways better than that of the richest people today. As noted by the maps, fitting the people on the planet isn't a problem, and if the power and manufacturing is primarily off world and done by robotics people are going to be quite well off (assuming that is what the empire desires).


Summarized, their quality of life could be close to modern 21st century standards, or even beyond.

If you look at energy consumption per capita, you might notice that quite a lot of countries which are generally considered decent places to live (Switzerland, Poland, Hungary ...) consume power well below US figures. You don't have to use power like an average US resident to live with modern comforts. (If you check the Iceland figure, perhaps that's because of the harsher climate in the US compared to parts of Europe. See my note on settlements around the single stargate, below ...)

Another issue is just how fast you're planning to wear your planet out. Without a Stargate, mankind has to get along with ressources from Earth or at best the solar system for a really long time unless we want to die out. That's both a question of non-renewable energy (like petrochemicals) and damage to the ecosystem. With a Stargate, you can import raw materials, export waste, and switch planets if you have to.

I believe that you could have several billion people on a planet like Earth for a very long time if they all agreed to a sustainable lifestyle. I'm not sure if I can explain it without sounding like a political rant, but I think you need to check your assumptions about tech levels and personal comforts.

  • You don't have to drive a SUV go fetch your morning coffee from a trendy franchise. Very few people have a legitimate need for a Sports Utility Vehicle at all. Take your bicycle to work (more healthy, too) after a decent breakfast with the family and kids.
  • Meat every day isn't good for you. A couple of times per week is more than enough. (Producing meat means animals are fed with food which has to be grown somewhere ...)
  • You don't need a private swimming pool behind a single-family home in a green city in the desert.
  • You don't have to dump last year's mobile phone just because a new one came out. You might note that most worlds in Stargate have reached a very stable tech level, so they don't throw things away because of built-in obsolescence. Grandpa's Death Glider is still perfectly adequate for most purposes.

Yet another factor is that most worlds seem to consist of a single settlement next to the gate. It makes sense, in a way, and it is one of the results of the gate technology. Multiple Stargates on one planet interfere with each other, so people settle within easy commuting distance of that single gate. Why go halfway across the planet to another continent if you can go through the gate next door to another continent on a different planet?


Very high tech.

NASA produces a book (free) annually about the spinoffs that we benefit from on a daily basis, from cosmetics to speaker sound systems; most are for industrial and government benefit. They include transport, health & medicine, consumer goods, safety, energy, the environment, industrial productivity, etc.

However, like today, there are people living off of very, very little.

I suspect the spinoffs from the advances made in science and technology investment will "bring the population" along with them, unless, as you stated, they are artificially kept down. But, like today, you will have the "haves" and the "have-nots" most likely. I like to hope, however, that this gap will shorten someday.


I think your question is actually in two parts; what is the carrying capacity of the Earth and how do we change it to house "x" number of people.

Without any sort of technology, the carrying capacity of Earth is rather low for hominids. Nomadic bands with neolithic hunter-gatherer societies and technology could live rather good lives, but needed large areas of land to forage and hunt. Given enough technology and energy inputs, OTOH, you could probably house a trillion human beings on Earth. Indeed, even today you could probably house everyone on Earth in Texas, leaving the remaining surface area clear for farming etc. People living in Texas, Earth might be a bit crowded, but people living in Amsterdam, New York City or Hong Kong live in incredibly densely populated urban areas without too much difficulty...

Since you stipulate BSG technology and access to space, then the constraints of energy and resources become moot. The current population of Earth could live in relative peace and comfort with modern American lifestyles (although as noted, you can live quite well with lower amounts of energy and resource consumption). The only true limits at that point would be heat rejection, as all the billions of people's machines and appliances release waste heat (due to thermodynamic inefficiencies) into the environment. Even then, if we can postulate BSG or Stargate lovels of technology, it might be possible to bypass thermodynamics by exporting waste heat via wormhole or similarly SFNal methods. Doing so would be tricky, since this violation of thermodynamics in essence creates a perpetual motion machine.


As always I'll try to throw Frank Herbert's Dune into the ring. Of course the technological levels in the mentioned BSG (I assume re-imagined) vs Dune are hard to compare. Both however are space faring civilizations with FTL capability, span multi-planetary systems and are the only (main) sapient race not counting artifical ones in their respective universes.

The lifestyles and tech level pictured however differ greatly with the major distinction between the two being mainly in the technological developments. In the case of Dune that would be caused by self-imposed rules against hi-tech. The God Emperor of Dune later leads the major part of the population back to a basic agricultural level.

But even BSG itself describes great differences between the colonies, with some planets being highly industrialized, educated, secularized others shown as poor farming colonies or deeply religious fundamental.

My point being: The answer to the average tech level could differ greatly depending not only on postulated scientific progress but also on societal decisions how to live. Good thing is that this is a very simple point for you as writer and worldbuilder to fit the story to your needs.

  • $\begingroup$ + 1 for using Dune. It's a great book. The movie isn't half bad either. $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 13:44

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