According to the Kardashev Scale, a civilization's ever increasing energy consumption causes advances in technology. However, in various works of science fiction, I have found many examples of small scale civilizations utilizing highly advanced technology.

I am currently starting to work on a science fiction novella of my own, and I am unsure if such a disproportionate advance in technology vs. energy consumption is plausible.

My question is: Is the relationship between technological development and energy consumption one of correlation, or causation?


1 Answer 1


The two go hand-in-hand, but neither can be said to cause the other.

Let's take the example of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels as a whole provide a source of energy that has been harnessed to an extent never before seen on Earth. As of 2009, they provide about two thirds of all the world's power, at roughly 20,000 TWh/year; that figure has been steadily growing, especially over the past few decades (see also Wikipedia).

Generating more energy from fossil fuels requires better technology. Efficiency is always important when it comes to energy generation, so new methods are constantly being explored to save energy. With newer oil rigs, better methods of natural gas extraction, and other techniques, more fuels can be gathered, and so energy production can increase.

On the other hand, finding new sources of electricity can and will lead to better technology. The internal combustion engine, for example, would not have been possible without fossil fuels. Actually, let's go back even further, to the first steam engines. Coal was incredibly important there. This then led in part to the Industrial Revolution, which transformed the world.

In short, I would say that both technology and new sources of energy go hand in hand. New technology generally leads to the ability to produce more power, which civilizations almost certainly need; therefore, they will use some of that technology to find more fuels. At the same time, finding more sources of energy will make it possible to develop new technology that demands more and more power.


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