Just For Fun: Abusing the Kardashev Scale for Fun and Profit
How advanced are you?
"Your race hasn't even reached Type 1 on the Kardashev scale. It doesn't control the resources of this one planet, let alone a solar system or a galaxy. The Time Lords were the Type 4 civilization. We had no equals. We controlled the fundamental forces of the entire universe. Nothing could communicate with us on our level. Most races pray to lesser beings than the Time Lords."
The idea of Technology Levels has some actual reference in the real world in the form of the Kardashev Scale, which indicates how much power a civilization uses. This was originally used in the context of astronomy, speculating about what advanced alien civilizations might look like from afar, particularly the implications of enormous energy demands. It has since been used to compare the Power Levels of fictional civilizations and, sometimes, individuals.
Note that the Kardashev number of a civilization indicates only its power use: it is at best just a proxy for the scale of technological capabilities at play, and it can become less proximate the softer the Sci-Fi gets, which also makes it harder to evaluate where a civilization rates on the Kardashev scale if no hard numbers are given. As an example, consider the human civilizations of Avatar and Enderís Game. Both use relativistic craft and travel between fairly local systems. Though there are world-destroying weapons and much larger scale space travel in Ender's Game and its sequels, the phlebotinum involved is specifically said to use enormously less energy than normal physics would suggest for accomplishing those tasks. In Avatar, the necessity of brute-forcing relativistic travel may put that civilization higher on the Kardashev scale, despite the largely inferior technology and scale of development. Keep this in mind when placing examples, and try to include some explanation. After all, a hallmark of improving technology is increased efficiency, which would actually lower a civilization's Kardashev rating, all else equal.
The problem of pinning down these various entities to a nice level could imply a nice subtrope. Most Soft Sci-Fi is powered by a Large Convenient Energy Source (LCES), which in theory provides as much energy as the plot requires without refueling ("Scotty, I need more power"). Meanwhile, since they are using magic, anti-matter, dark matter, white holes, or black holes, the theoretical power that these devices provide to our protagonists does not result in the expected megascale Dyson Spheres, ring orbitals, or space elevators. Unfortunately (or fortunately for the sake of comprehensible story telling) we relate "better" to this soft Sci-Fi even though it does little to represent the actual technology needed to power replicators, transporters, shields, and artificial gravity on grand scales.
A bit on numbering. Kardashev himself only outlined discrete numbers for levels I, II, and III, with power values corresponding to 1964 humanity, the Sun, and the Milky Way respectively. Later discussions of the topic have generally fixed the value of a Type I power level as that of the Earth's insolation. Carl Saganproposed a revised scale based on a logarithmic formula rather than the specific values of celestial objects. It might be less intuitive, but it allows easy interpolation and extrapolation, with a .1 difference representing a 10x difference in power. Extensions to the scale above Type III are not universally agreed upon, so Sagan's formula is used for the purposes of categorizing things in this article, with various real phenomena listed for scale in the appropriate subcategories. Don't expect references to the Kardashev Scale in fiction to necessarily correspond to this formulation, as the page quote implies.
Unmarked Spoilers Abound From This Point Onward
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Type 0: Less than Type I. Clear cases go here. If it looks like a large fraction of a planet's power, it's borderline.
The human civilization on Earth is currently hovering around a 0.72, with a power level of about 1.6 x 1013 W, the vast majority extracted from high-density chemically stored solar energy (fossil fuels), with some nuclear fission on the side and other direct and indirect solar energy harvesting methods contributing a small fraction.
A very, very powerful car note (rated at 1350 horsepower or so - there are currently three very limited edition modified production vehicles that exceed this criteria - the Lamborghini Aventador LP 1600-4 Mansory Carbonado GT, the Nissan GT-R AMS Alpha 12 and the Koenigsegg Agera One:1. The most powerful dragsters can briefly achieve 10000 horsepower during runs.) could achieve about 1 MW at its peak, yielding a personal 0.00. As the scale is logarithmic, anything lower would generate a negative rating.
The Sandia National Lab in the U.S spikes to 0.85 for about 95 nanoseconds on the scale (3.5 x 1014 W) each time it activates the Z-Machine, a thermonuclear bomb simulator.note (Each activation uses a bit more than 33 megajoules in 95 nanoseconds, which works out to 350 terawatts.) Said lab intends to eventually increase the power of the machine to 1 x 1015W for 100 nanosecond pulses to operate as an experimental pulsed power fusion reactor (1 petawatt being the input for one very short Z-pinch pulse - not the output) - hitting a rating of 0.9 on the scale.
The National Ignition Facility at the U.S Lawrence-Livermore National Lab is another pulsed inertial fusion experiment, with its massive laser system capable generating nanosecond-scale flashes of 5 x 1014 W on the fusion target, making a spike up to about 0.87 for a very, very short time.
The civilization in EYES of Mars appears to have tried to go for Type 1, and destroyed their primary planet in the process. This also made their secondary planet uninhabitable, except for a small biosphere. They eventually migrated to a third planet.
Earth in Power Rangers is probably here. While it does have some nifty technology, it is in the hands of the government or can only be afforded by the very wealthy, and overall development seems to take up a pretty small fraction of the planet's energy budget. Other civilizations might be a bit higher.
Borderline Type I: Power use roughly equivalent to a terrestrial planet's insolation. 1 E 16 W
Earth receives about 1.74 x 1017W from the Sun.
Ender's Saga. As the typical interstellar travel time is tens of years at close to light speed, we can assume humanity still inhabits a relatively small patch of Galaxy after thousands of years. The shown planets have smaller civilizations than our current one, but they are numerous. It is hinted that nearly all of them were conquered in the Third Invasion, and that means no more than a few a day during a few years. Some of the more impressive technology, like interstellar travel, is noted to take relatively little power. So probably less than 1.5 x 10 17W.
Transmetropolitan explicitly references the trope — or an older version of it, anyway. Type I is described not only as harnessing all the power, but having eliminated internal conflicts. The other two types are largely the same. Spider notes that they can perform miracles with engines too small to be seen and have turned all of Mercury into a solar battery enough to power the entirety of Earth continuously... but they are still divided. Approximately 1017W if 60% or so of Mercury's light is harnessed.
Cowboy Bebop displays a multi-planetary civilization that has gotten banged up quite a bit. Populations are small by today's standards, but interplanetary travel is fairly common. Probably somewhere around this level.
Triplanetary, the prequel(-ish) Lensman novel, covers humanity going from a Type 0 to a Type 1. At the end, relatively easy interstellar travel has been achieved, and power is generated through (almost) completely efficient matter-to-energy conversion.
Farscape seems to have dozens of civilizations at around this level, depending on just how much power the phlebotinum uses.
Firefly might just be Type I, depending on its population. Serenity (considered old in-universe) takes minutes (say, 1000 s) to get out of an Earth-like gravity well (Earth's gravity well has a depth of 6 x 107J/kg), and is capable of carrying herds of cows (say, 50 cows weighing 700 kg each); putting all that together, Serenity herself has a power output of at least 2 x 109W* (actually more, because she has to lift her own weight as well as that of the cows, but since she could be made of some random ultralight futuristic material that's harder to estimate). So, if Serenity's engine represents one part in 108 of that civilization's power output, the total civilization's output is at least 2 x 1017W. (For comparison, note that 10-8 is roughly the ratio of a car engine's power output to the power output of our entire civilization.)
In A Miracle of Science, most of the people live on incompletely utilized planets. However, Mars is completely harnessed and the Martians are doing some interesting things with all that power, though Mars gets quite a bit less sunlight than Earth. All told, probably about Type I.
The major races in Mass Effect (the turians, the asari, the salarians and arguably mankind) are probably meager Type Is, with highly developed homeworlds and numerous yet sparsely populated colonies. The remaining races inhabiting Citadel Space are somewhat less, maybe high Type 0.
Debatable. They were able to reverse-engineer technology from the Reapers (below), quite fast, and put them onto their Fighters and Frigates. Also, it's only humanity's colonies that are sparsely populated; the turians had colonies big enough for several wars to be fought between them millennia ago.
That said, all of them are dependant on the Mass Relay network, which was built by a previous advanced civilization namely, the Reapers, with very limited if any attempts to reverse engineer it. Even the Protheans only got as far as building a single pair of relays in miniature. You could argue that without the Relay network, all of the current civilizations are high Type 0's at best.
The 12 Colonies of Kobol in Battlestar Galactica (prior to the Cylon nuclear bombardment), given that they used at least a fraction of the power available on 12 planets, and have a decent fleet in a setting where nukes are plentiful and considered powerful.
The sub-Vorlon/Shadow civilizations of Babylon 5 seem to be in this neighborhood.
Battle Angel Alita is probably around here, considering the power of individuals at the Zenith of Things Tournament. Jupiter seems to have a Dyson sphere variant, and a laser that can cut a shield that can block nuclear blasts. Zekka has an internalized anti-matter reactor of sorts, and Don Fua has a black hole generating technique.
The Na'vi in Avatar fall here according to some Fanon, which holds that they are a civilization that has passed the Technological Singularity making Eywa a planetary scale bio-computer. Considering that Eywa makes up the entire biosphere of Pandora, the energy use would would put it around here.
Solid Type I: Clearly more than a single planet's energy budget, but less than a star's.
The Tsar Bomba, the most powerful device ever built by humanity, achieved about 5.3 x 1024W, near the top of this category.
The human civilization in Freelancer, a system-spanning bunch of colonies with lots of stars and planets at their disposal. They also have Jump Gates that interconnect their systems by carving holes through spacetime. Space travel is fairly cheap and common.
The United Federation of Planets of Star Trek is composed of a whole group of Type I-ish civilizations banded together for truth, justice, and the American Way interesting plotlines.
In one episode, the power output of the Enterprise-D is given at "12.75 billion gigawatts", which is the same power output of an entire Type 1.3 civilization. So either the Enterprise-D alone uses an appreciable fraction of the Federation's resources, the Federation is well into Type 2 territory, or the writers just picked a really big number that sounded impressive.
For comparison, a Nimitz-class carrier's output is about .001% the total global output, and a Saturn V's was about 3%. So, assuming a similar ratio between the Galaxy-class and the Federation, the whole civilization would be between 4 x 1020 and 1 x 1024W, solidly in Type I territory. This seems to be in line with the widespread use of fusion and bulk antimatter for power.
The Borg Collective probably weighs in as a pretty hefty Type I, with galaxy spanning communications networks, massive fleets, extensive space installations, hundreds of civilizations assimilated, and a fairly decent ability to beat up other Type Is.
The Zentradi of Macross are the slowly decaying remnants of an ancient (perhaps Type II) civilization. At the time the series takes place, they are probably mid-to-high Type I. In the course of the various series and movies they become progressively assimilated by humanity, which is itself an upwardly mobile Type I.
Stargate SG-1: Asgard and their enemies the Replicators are tough to call. They are among the most powerful active civilizations (if the Replicators can really be called that) in the setting, but they don't do a whole lot of big, Kardashev-Scale-bumping stuff on screen, and the actual power use of their tech is largely not shown. Still, they're active on a scale that would suggest something in this category.note The Asgard have ships that can travel between galaxies in days and the ability to collapse stars into black holes, and the Replicators have the ability to completely and perfectly flatten a planet's surface.
Delphons were an alien race in The History of the Galaxy series of novels by the Russian science fiction writer Andrey Livadny. They had a civilization spanning several star systems, and were likely here.
The Krell, the (extinct) inhabitants of the Forbidden Planet. They left behind a facility of enormous power (described as 9,600 thermonuclear generators occupying 33,000 cubic kilometers), and "harnessing the power of an exploding star"note though that was very likely hyperbole given that an exploding star uses far more energy than the mass-energy of a terrestrial planet though the purpose was initially unknown. It doesn't display a whole lot of power in the movie, but estimating a reasonable power density for the generators would put the Krell in this range.
It can be argued that this puts them well into Type II, as the device is put into self-destruct mode at the end of the film (when the not quite Mad Scientist realizes that the thing is far to dangerous to allow it to continue to exist) and blows up the entire planet.
The Consu, the most advanced race in the Old Man's War series, are explicitly described as "having a white dwarf yoked to the wheel" (a Dyson sphere). While Dyson Spheres are normally the territory of Type II and up, white dwarves typically radiate much less power than the Sun, putting the Consu here unless they possess an unusually bright dwarf.
The Tau, Orks, and non-Imperium human factions of Warhammer40000 are probably here. Compare with the Imperium, probably a borderline Type II, the Eldar, a clear Type II, and the Tyranids and Necrons in Other.
The Tau have probably the smallest civilization of the playable factions, but fairly dense development.
The Orks are extremely widespread, but they don't care much for the large industry needed to climb the Kardashev Scale. Hence, their most populous worlds don't remotely approach a Type I level of development, and they only make it here due to occupying so many. On rare occasion they do, however, take over an existing industrial world and happen to be lead by a Mekboy or just a particularly cunning warboss who realizes the potential value of a planet that makes dakka, and browbeats the horde into leaving the new toys intact. For the brief periods that they manage to survive occupation, these worlds can burgeon on Type II status as Mekboys push the WAAAGH! to its limits; factories and powerplants are given a red paintjob, and the planet and its infrastructure are strip-mined to produce More Dakka than lesser orks ever dreamed of.
The non-Imperium human factions have somewhat similar technology and infrastructure, but typically operate on smaller scales than the Imperium, probably putting them here.
The Terrans of Starcraft have Fairly rapid travel within their pocket of the galaxy and have colonised a significant portion of it, although the bulk of their tech seems to be borderline Type I at best. Mind you, the game only deals with one millionth of the humanity, the rest is quite open to WMG.
The Inner Sphere in BattleTech is at leats a solid Type I. with several thousand inhabited planets in a 1000 light year radius from Earth. Although some are barely colonies of a few thousand, there are enough multi-billion inhabitant planets (several hundred) to reach a type I just by numbers alone! Depending on the energy requirements of hyperspace jumps (deliberately left vague) it could be pushing up to a Type II.
The races of the Alliance of Free Stars and Ur-Quan Hierarchy top out in this category, with the Chenjesu able to make use of the entire energy output of a star but unable to produce it themselves and the Mycon capable of high-speed planetary engineering.
Borderline Type II: Power use roughly equivalent to a G type star's radiant output. 1 E 26 W
The Sun puts out about 3.86 x 1026W, as a largish G type star using mostly proton-proton chain fusion, converting slightly over 4 million metric tons of mass into energy every second.
The various human groups in the Hyperion Cantos are very much capable of building living Dyson Spheres/rings around stars, but seem to generally stick to single planets. By way of comparison the AIs are considerably more advanced (they can teleport planets) and are considered God-like by most people, and probably use rather more power. Likely scenario is a decent number of partially utilized stars for the humans, maybe somewhat more for the AIs.
The Dom Ka'vosh from Freelancer, who built an almost galaxy-wide empire long before Humanity colonized the Sirius sector. You must enter a Dyson Sphere in the last mission, and nothing contradicts the possibility that there may be more of them.
The unidentified builders of the Dyson Sphere in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Relics". By the time of the episode they had abandoned it long ago and no further details are given.
The Ascent to Transcendance victory text of Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri indicates that building a structure intended to mimic the theoretical effects of the Dyson sphere is a project currently being undertaken and which will be completed relatively soon.
Vorlons of Babylon 5 are possibly this high based on some demonstrated planetary bombardment, but they're rather mysterious, so it's hard to say for sure. This is even more pronounced for their rivals the Shadows, which, though their superweapons seem to be considerably less powerful, are apparently in a stalemate with the Vorlons.
It should be noted that the war between the Shadows and Vorlons was one of ideology rather than extermination. The fact that they could destroy each other but don't is pointed out in-universe.
The Imperium of Man in Warhammer40000 probably goes here. It possesses myriad hive worlds, each probably rating about Type I, and countless Type 0 worlds across much of the galaxy. Their more powerful weapons can blow up planets, indicating transitory mid Type II scale power use, though that happens fairly rarely.
The elusive Geth of Mass Effect may be in this territory. The small amount of their space shown features low to mid Type I scale development per system, with tens to hundreds of thousands of ships and orbital platforms, especially around gas giants. If they control a good part of a galactic arm, which they may, they'd be around here.
By Mass Effect 3 they definitely fit here. The have either completed or nearly completed a dyson sphere around their home star in which to house all Geth, before the quarians declare war and start destroying it.
Solid Type II: Clearly more power than a single star, but less than a galaxy.
The unseen aliens in The Space Odyssey Series have the ability to make stars. This might indicate midlevel Type II power use, depending on just how they go about it.
In Schlock Mercenary, the F'sherl-Ganni Gatekeepers were a Class II Civilization, utilizing Dyson Spheres (or 'Buuthandi' as they call them) widely. One of them was blown up in the early stages of the Teraport Wars, with (relatively) low loss of life and the Gatekeepers were apparently building a replacement by the time of their attempt at reaching Class III by converting the Milky Way's core into a zero-point energy reactor. They're currently subservient to the local superpower — the Fleetmind, a gigantic gestalt of Unfettered AIs of all the major races led by the ex-Ob'Enn warship AI 'Petey', who took control of the generator. The Fleetmind appear to be using its output to move the entire galaxy around, and the scraps left over to keep every other civilization in the galaxy in check.
It is probable that Petey is not yet at Type III. A mid-high Type II, maybe, but it isn't clear that he has harnessed the power equivalent of a whole galaxy from just the core. While the core of an active galaxy can outshine the rest, the Milky Way's core emits only a tiny percentage of the overall energy output, so the Fleetmind is probably here unless they're force-feeding the black hole.
The Instrumentality of Mankind controlled a significant region of the Milky Way, including several Type I worlds, had effective immortality (though they limited lifespans to 400 years for most its history) and could intimidate other interstellar empires with balloons starships an AU in diameter.
It's explicitly stated more than once in-universe that creating a tachyon bubble (the faster-than-light travel method of the Lords) "consumes" a star. Whatever that means, precisely, it's almost certainly a lot more energy than simply using its entire power output, and is arguably sufficient to categorize them as Type III, though they don't seem to continuously require this amount of power. It's also possible... no details are really given... that the technology is extremely inefficient and most of the power is actually wasted.
In Known Space, Puppeteers are pretty solidly Type II. They (claim to have) disassembled at least one entire solar system to build their Fleet of Worlds and accelerated it to a reasonable fraction of the speed of light. They bought the technology to do so from Outsiders, but they were still able to implement their plans on their own.
The fact that they bought the technology from the Outsiders also means two other things: There could be other species anywhere who also bought it, and somewhere there is the species the Outsiders bought it from.
The Protoss in Starcraft have Warp Gates, shields, the ability to distort localized space, and no small amount of Frickin' Laser Beams. Even individuals and their robots can create local spacetime distortions. However, it is mentioned they are not a prolific race, so that may play with their measurements somewhat.
The Combine in Half-Life 2 has most of their technology operate on exotic matter. Their Citadels are powered by dark energy reactors that screw around with physics to power themselves and generate infinite amounts of dark energy plasma. Said plasma is used for a number of purposes including portable power sources a fist-sized plasma capsule can power a wall-mounted shield generator and ammunition said plasma capsule acts as a Disintegrator Ray on contact with organic matter and Combine pulse weaponry fire plasma blasts that put bullets to shame as well as being fed into a dark fusion reactor that can literally tear a hole in the fabric of spacetime and tunnel into other universes. While this already makes them Type II, the Combine has already conquered an unknown number of worlds which makes them a solid candidate for Type III.
The Eldar in Warhammer 40,000 were, at their height, capable of birthing and destroying stars. Much of their technology was lost with the Fall (such as the ability to maintain and expand the Webway, a pocket dimension used for safe interstellar travel), they are still able to "capture" stars to use as power sources.
In his most outrageous Silver Age incarnation, Superman could blow out stars with his super-breath, and reignite them with his heat vision. He was thus personally a Type II on the Kardashev scale.
The Exalted Shard (Alternate Universe) of Heaven's Reach had humanity peak as this during the golden age; Dyson spheres, casual terraforming, and the conversion of nebulas into sentient supercomputers.
Humanity in the Honor Harrington series sits on this level pretty comfortably. But one of their warships routinely goes at about five Terawatts just to propel itself, and the very same ship is entirely able to destroy a planet rather casually simply by relativistic kinetic strikes (though they generally regard that as an atrocity). They also control much of the Milky Way, has completely harnessed gravity to the point that it is economical to ship perishables across thousands of lightyears, and generally don't seem to have any problem with the energy availability.
In Dragon Ball, many of the characters (namely Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, Gohan, and Frieza) individually reach this level by the end of the Namek Saga and generally stay at this level for the rest of the series, with some of the other heroes (Tienshinan, Krillin) arguably reaching this by the end of the Cell Saga and Gohan starting to border on Type III near the series' end. As for the villains, The Androids are at this level, and Cell and Buu are arguably bordering on Type III, with Buu definitely reaching Type III with his Kid Buu form.
The Precursors of Star Control fall near the upper end of this category, as they are able to engineer devices that can generate a star's level of power in a single massive burst and planeteering devices that can be used to trigger supernovae.
Borderline Type III: power use roughly equivalent to a galaxy's radiant output. 1 E 36 W
The Milky Way shines with about 4 x 1037W.
Human civilization in the Xenosaga series and to its extent, Xenogears by proxy, have come VERY close to this level thanks in part to the Zohar Engine, which in and of itself is a relic of a type IV or above civilization. Or, as some have suggested, just a well placed deus ex machina. The ships seemed to be powered by zero point energy units called "Logic Drives". In addition, the device shown at the end of the series, Zarathustra, is a extreme example of something that would be a type IV...being able to "reset" heat death.
The Pa'anuri of Schlock Mercenary designed a gadget that overwrote the Milky Way galaxy with a pocket universe (ok, so they didn't build it themselves, but they provided the plans and 'observers' to the F'sherl-Ganni), and use entire star systems as projectiles, so they might be here, though that's highly dependent on the efficiency of their phlebotinum. Given that they're fighting over a single galaxy, they're probably not higher or much lower than this. They've also turned the core of Andromeda (the galaxy) into a zero-point generator. One that is thirty-five times larger than that of The Fleetmind.
The Galactic Republic/Empire of Star Wars, a galaxy-spanning society with very fast FTL and (depending on the source) at least a million heavily developed planets, is a very high Type II, possibly a Type III (at least when the guy with the underbite helmet pulls the lever).
See http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Superlaser for details on the Death Star's power output, possibly as high as 1038W — which would put the civilization well into Type III for as long as it was firing. After all, reducing a planet to a 4th of July firework takes some doing.
The first Death Star charged up for a planet-buster in about a day, which would give its power core a sustained output of around 3 million of our Suns. And the second one charged in a couple hours.
Star Destroyers, given their very impressive planetary-bombardment capabilities, may generate as much power as stars, and almost certainly generate more power than the Earth has generated to date — and they're big for a starship in the setting, but not ridiculous.
The Executor-class Star Dreadnought has a power core that puts out the same energy as class G star. Regular old Star Destroyers are said to exceed the total energy consumption of some planetary civilizations over their entire history (potentially hundreds of thousands of years in Star Wars) when they jump to hyperspace.
The Culture is an interstellar civilization that draws most of its power from the "hyperspace Grid" rather than from the visible universe, and its demiliatarised diplomatic ships are capable of destroying whole planets. Their theoretical power level might be even higher; they are stated to be a "post scarcity" society and could have the capability to harness energy that might possibly qualify them as a Type IV, but if so they deliberately choose not to.
The Galactic Union of E. E. Smith's Lensman series has starship engines (combined total-conversion nuclear power and Zero Point Energy devices) generating hundreds of exawatts (roughly 5x10^20 W) at peak power. A starship can have anything from one or two to hundreds of these engines. And most fleet battles engage thousands or millions of these ships, if not more.
Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. The stellar energy output of the whole galaxy is utilized by the Galactic Community of Worlds. — about 1036W
A rare single being example, Nuklear Man from Brian Clevinger's Nuklear Age is capable of using half the power of every star in the Milky Way to kill Nihilus.
The aliens in Contact engage in galactiforming. It's implied they're pushing the limits of their capabilities by doing this, though the extent of their works isn't very clear.
Species 8472 could probably bring themselves up to this; it only takes eight of their ships (around 50-100m long) a few seconds to destroy a planet, not to mention the fact that one of these ships takes only seconds to destroy a Borg Cube. What's most interesting about this is that all of 8472's technology is biological.
The Eternal Ones must regularly harvest all the "sentience energy" from an entire galaxy of sapient species (slaughtering every thinking being in that galaxy in the process) simply to survive, although by the end of the third game they've effectively 'trained' a galaxy to be 'milked' for energy without having to be butchered.
Solid Type III: More power than a single galaxy, but probably less than a galactic supercluster.
Quasars vary, but 1 x 1040W is a ballpark.
Manifold: Time by Stephen Baxter. In the distant future, descendants of humanity maintain vast Dyson nets around the supermassive black hole remnants of galaxies until they evaporate via Hawking radiation, accessing the power equivalent of multiple galaxies.
A star puts out a lot more energy from fusion than a black hole of the same mass would from Hawking radiation. Also, the more massive the hole, the lower its effective temperature. This might be more of a Type II or borderline Type III, depending on exactly how many "multiple" is.
It's actually worse than that. In addition to the temperature of a black hole dropping as its mass increases, the whole universe is filled with cosmic microwave background radiation left over from the big bang which also has a temperature (about 2.7K). That means a black hole with a temperature lower than this will actually absorb energy, not emit it. The transition occurs for black holes about 0.8% the mass of Earth. So trying to get power from a supermassive black hole is actually worse than useless - even if you cool yourself down to the temperature of the surrounding empty universe, it will still absorb more energy from you than you can from it. Anyone attempting to do so should therefore end up with a negative Kardashev number.
Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation decreases over time which would allow for the transition to occur at a much higher mass. Considering that the black hole farming occurs towards the end of the universe.
Though the details are a bit sketchy, some remarks in H.P. Lovecraft's The Whisperer in Darkness suggest that the Mi-go could be here, since they've mastered interdimensional travel and apparently rule entire galaxies in their native dimensions.
An offshoot of the Caeliar species in the Star Trek: Destiny series. They had been shunted back in time nearly fourteen billion years into another galaxy. In the intervening years, they constructed a Dyson Sphere around every star in their new galaxy, knowing that such overt technology would attract the attention of their past selves living in the present, which would let them destroy them for investigating and send a few meager remnants into the past, completing a Stable Time Loop. They fact that the Caeliar as a whole are borderline Reality Warpers who have ridiculously advanced technology that makes them functionally immortal and can teleport away entire planets and civilizations that come bothering them probably pushes them close to a Type IV.
The Danannians from L.E. Modesitt's The Eternity Artifact were at least Type III, but it's entirely possible they were a borderline type IV+.
Established powers in Orion's Arm do things like suck entire stars through wormholes called grazers (over a period of many decades) and convert their mass directly to energy. A star's mass is in the 1030 kg, just under 1017 J per kg, "decades" is around 109seconds... you do the math.
Borderline Type IV: Power use approximately that of one to many superclusters. 1 E 46 W
The Virgo Supercluster (where we are) emits about 1 x 1042W.
A gamma ray burst is around here, 1 x 1045W.
The Ancients of the X-Universe series are probably borderline Type IV, and are actively trying for Type V (energy of a universe) or VI (multiple universes) so they can prevent the heat death of the universe.
The aliens seen in the final scene of Men In Black play with galaxies as marbles. Alone the body weight of one of theese aliens should be that of several tenthousand galaxies (10^4) (and they are possible just children). Now imagine a population of that aliens in the size of the human population (10^9), and a similar power consumption.
Solid Type IV+: Universe-scale power use/control.
The observable universe glows with about 2 x 1049W.
The highest possible transient power output for a point source is about 9 x 1051W based on Relativity predicting the formation of an event horizon around anything more. The final word on this will probably have to wait for a working theory of quantum gravity, however.
Their ultimate weapon (in the old series) was so powerful that only the Time Lord president could wield it and it requires a hidden key only the president knows about to operate. The weapon in question is the Demat Gun. It doesn't just destroy a target, it erases the target from time and space so that the target never existed in the first place with nobody even remembering what the target was.
Their ultimate weapon (in the new series), "The Moment", was described as a "galaxy-eater" and they were so scared of it that they actually gave it a sentient, telepathic, user interface complete with a conscience. The Moment doesn't want to be used, and anyone intending to do so must face it's judgment. It can also move people around through time (and even through time-locked events) with ease. It's even neatly portable, being roughly the size of a shoebox (although as Time Lord technology it may very well be much Bigger on the Inside).
The Doctor probably ranks as his own personal Type IV. He uses supernovas when needed, which produce 1045W (100 foes over 10 seconds) during the stellar collapse.
The Doctor claimed in one episode that the Time Lords were the only Type V Kardashev civilization
The Master with his 100,000 Black Hole Converters also gets this distinction, assuming they harness the same energy conversion of the gravitational potential energy to neutrinos.
If you are wondering why they have so many headaches, Time Lords have a big thing about not interfering. You see, the Silver Nemesis, the Time Scoop, all of these things are ludicrously powerful. In "The Three Doctors", they seem to have a monitoring station capable of keeping track of all of the energy in the universe. They are, however, an indolent bunch of bureaucrats and politicians and rarely use any of their power. The Osirians were said to be able to defeat even the Time Lords. As for the Black and White Guardians, they appear to be personifications of universal concepts, effectively gods, so they are probably beyond even a type IV.
The People, from the Doctor Who New Adventures novel The Also People, are described as being roughly on par with the Time Lords (to the extent that they actually have a non-aggression pact with them). The technology we see is at the "magic" level, but there's not enough specific information to pinpoint it. They seem to use it only for personal sensual gratification, however.
Considering the Daleks were able to fight the Time Lords to a draw in the Last Great Time War before the Doctor consigned both of them to seeming oblivion, the Dalek civilization at some point had to be at least within an order of magnitude of the Time Lords, a level of power not even hinted at in the original series. Note, however, that most of the Doctor's encounters with them occurred during Davros' (first?) lifetime, which, even if it extended into the thousands of years, would still be pretty insignificant over the whole of time. Considering the Timey-Wimey Ball nature of the Whoniverse, the idea of the Daleks developing over a period of thousands or millions of years from a postapocalyptic Super Soldier race to one of the biggest threats in the universe during the assumed real world time period of ~50 years isn't even remotely unbelievable.
One has to allow for both Davros having spent considerable time in stasis, along with the fact that time travel is involved. Dalek history may not be linear. It is also worth noting that Davros individually and the Daleks generally (the Doctor once referred to them as "scavengers") seemed to have a strong desire to acquire Time Lord technology, and possibly the necessary intellect to at least marginally understand it. That they may have stolen most of what they had is reinforced by the fact that in most instances the Doctor seems to understand how their technology works.
In Sluggy Freelance, the aliens seen at the end of the "GOFOTRON Champion of the Universe" arc are able to contain hundreds of exploding stars within a sphere the size of a soccer ball. And this device was created by a waffle company.
The Overarch Bedeckants, the civilisation that built the probe in Excession travel between universes so as to avoid extinction by being trapped in one when it undergoes heat death. Their lone probe brushed off the most powerful weapon the Culture wielded without any apparent effort. However, most of the information about the Excession comes from Intelligence report suppositions and a single largely incoherent rambling rant from the Excession itself.
Traditional view of a God creating the universe ex-nihilo means you need to take the current mass-energy content of the universe (4 x 1069J) and have expelled it in the time before time existed (one unit of Planck time, or 5.39124 x 10-44 seconds), coming up with 7 x 10112W. This would put God, at a bare minimum, as a Type X.
A bizarre example in the Family Guy episode "Not All Dogs Go To Heaven" — the Earth and all the galaxies in the universe are shown to be part of Adam West's bedside table lamp.
For the denizens of the Futurama universe, traveling to the edge of the universe and back is a trivially easy task. As is killing everything everywhere. They also posses the ability to alter universal constants and other physics across the whole universe (scientists changed the speed of light in 2208), which can also be used to power technology (changing the properties of dark matter, 200% efficient engines note which the writers know would require breaking time symmetry of the laws of physics, i.e. changing them and exploiting that to extract more power than was put in). Planet exploding weapons are operated by single person demolition companies, the use of which is considered mundane. Multiple universes can be created by a lone inventor on the budget of a small delivery company (said delivery company having made only 100 deliveries in 10 years, as of 'The Mutants are Revolting'). In said delivery company, interstellar/intergalactic spaceships are as mundane as small pieces of wire.
And consider that in the Futurama universe, Earth/humanity is a pathetic third-rate wannabe power, only able to bully the very smallest and weakest other cultures- comparable to fascist 1930's-era Italy.
The Xeelee from the novels of Stephen Baxter's Xeelee Sequence have absolute mastery over the entirety of all baryonic matter in universe. Entire galactic clusters are just bricks to these guys. Future humans make it to Type III and try to attack them by shooting a whole neutron star at near light speed at them like a bullet, and they all but ignore it as insignificant. In the same universe are the Photino Birds, creatures of dark matter against whom the Xeelee fight a multi-billion year existential war and lose , because the photino birds have absolute mastery over all the dark matter in the universe, and dark matter outmasses baryonic matter by about 9 to 1.
The Downstreamers from Stephen Baxter's Manifold series. They are the descendants of humanity that exist at the end of the universe, immortal and all powerful and all knowing. Several billion years into the future they were farming the entire Universe (mind you said universe was infinitely larger then ours in their time) and this was at an earlier stage in their civilization. The Downstreamer's create Multiverse's much as a writer would in a novel. Basically the downstreamers are farming reality itself.
Humanity in the Dancers at the End of Time series: they abused the universe so much that the heat death of the universe is on the verge of happening merely one million years in the future, instead of several trillions. The worst part is that they could fix it, and the only thing preventing them is... intellectual lazyness.
The somewhat hazy physics of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann make judging tech levels somewhat difficult, but the Anti-Spirals are easily a Type IV, if not above that: they can manipulate probability to ensure their weapons always hit, they can dodge attacks by casual time travel, and they can create a galaxy-sized Humongous Mecha that can use the Big Bang as a Wave Motion Gun. And it's suggested that that's nowhere near the limit of their abilities: in Lagann-hen, they one-up their galaxy-sized mecha with a universe-sized one. The heroes of the story use Spiral energy to achieve similar abilities (it's likely that the titular Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the good counterpart to the aforementioned galaxy-sized mecha, is a Type IV on its own), but their civilization is never shown above Type II.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann by pretty much a moon sized mecha and the will power of ten people. Tengen Toppa stands on galaxies, is powered by mostly one man's spirit, and moves at at the speed of billions of light years. When Lordgenome dies, he turns the energy of a big bang into a drill, which is then consumed by Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (or Tengen Toppa Lagann). In Lagann-Hen's case, then proceed to make an even bigger "mecha" made entirely of energy, and then that energy being makes an energy drill the size of the universe.
The Outsiders, a species of extrauniversal invaders billions of years ago in the backstory of the X-Universe, are somewhere above Type V (total available energy of an entire universe). They made themselves known to the Ancients by small alterations in the some physical constants such as the speed of light. The Ancients tried to communicate with them for ten million years but failed. When the Outsiders finally appeared as a probe the size of a solar system, the Ancients fought them for two million years, finally destroying one of the probes. The changes to physical constants ceased, but the Ancients remain vigilant.
The Green Sun in Homestuck is a power source with roughly the mass and energy of two universes (since that's exactly what it was made out of). Beings known as First Guardians, living in every significant universe so far in paradox space, can manipulate this energy to some degree in order to teleport themselves and other items within their current universe, move at roughly the speed of light outside it, transport things through themselves to the Green Sun, upgrade any powers they might have from other sources to potentially multiverse-killing levels, etc. Over the course of the game so far, three (former) mortals have gained the powers of a First Guardian. And then Lord English, the enigmatic primary antagonist of the series so far, has power significantly above that and a habit of entering universes at the moment of their death, time travelling to their beginning, and reshaping/feeding on them as he sees fit. Collateral damage from his attacks has killed Horrorterrors and cracked the meta-space within which all universes reside.
The beings called "Them" from the Star Trek novel Q & A have created and destroyed multiple universes out of sheer boredom.
Other: Unconventional or hard to quantify in watts.
The Tar-Aiym and Hur'rikku from the Humanx Commonwealth series developed superweapons that, respectively, could annihilate an entire star system by broadcasting gravity waves through subspace, and could punch a hole into Another Dimension to release an anticollapsar (or "white hole") as massive as an entire galaxy. While that sounds awfully impressive, there isn't enough real physics there to get them into a ballpark. The Xunca have them beat hands-down, however, at one point in their existence being capable of transporting an entire galactic civilization to an alternate dimension and turning a galactic supercluster into a superweapon.
It's hard to put a protector - or group of protectors - into any category, given the time, resources and incentive to cooperate instead of trying to kill each other. In the original "Protector" story, Brennan and his childless protectors converted the entire colony planet of 'Home' into a Trojan Horse deathtrap for an incoming fleet of protectors. (Although it's never explicitly outlined what they did to it. The fact it was later colonized implies that it wouldn't have been substantially deterraformed. The fact that Known Space is not later populated entirely by Pak implies that whatever they did allowed Brennan to win.) Protectors also built the Ringworld, which was theorized to require kind of energy/matter conversion, and the atomic-level engineering technology needed to create a Ringworld-sized amount of building material. Not to mention the shadow square system and the energy to spin the whole thing up to the required 770km/s to create the artificial gravity. In Ringworld's Children, we see a single protector develop technology to almost entirely redesign and rebuild the Ringworld "from the ground up" with captured nanotech - and turn the entire thing into a Bussard ramjet powered spaceship.
Also from Niven's Known Space, it's not clear where Outsiders fit. They seem to have a nearly unlimited range of technology at their disposal, at least up to inertialess spacecraft engines, which would imply being able to manipulate the (known) laws of physics. However even asking questions about the kind of technology they may have access to is prohibitively expensive, much less getting access to any of it. Despite the availability of super-advanced technology, they enjoy taking their time, travelling from the core to the rim of the galaxy at sublight speed. For reasons too expensive to find out, Outsiders follow Starseeds. In fact, Outsiders follow Starseeds so reliably that if you want to get Outsiders to come calling, the best way to do it is to simply attract a Starseed. The Puppeteers refer to a Starseed Lure as a 'simple device'.
The Ancients were all over this. Their earliest shown creations were ships capable of diving into and siphoning stellar material from stars, while their later ships were powered by mass produced Zero Point Energy modules, drawing their power from artificially created regions of subspace. They later expanded this line of research and figured a way to draw power from the universe itself, but abandoned the project after realising that one of the by-products was exotic matter, which threatened to tear the universe in twain. Their last and final project was Ascension, where they learnt to shed their physical forms to become all-powerful creatures of pure energy, roughly 10,000 years ago. Due to their self-imposed non-interference rule, they haven't done much since.
The Ori are probably comparable, though since they actually do stuff in the physical universe, they probably could be rated if more information were available.
Humanity has briefly skirted this, when Rodney McKay attempted to replicate the Ancient's experiments with unlimited power generation, by substituting our universe with a parallel one, linked via a matter bridge. Unfortunately, it not only turned out to be inhabited by alternate reality counterparts of the Atlantis team, but also threatened to tear both universes apart if it wasn't shut down.
The Arquillians from the first Men In Black movie possess "the galaxy" which is stated to be a power source. The creatures playing marbles with galaxies at the end don't really fit on the scale, at least from our reference point.
Fridge Logic: If pi has an infinite, non-repeating decimal expansion (it does), the digits of which are random (believed to be true), then any sequence you can imagine occurs eventually, simply because that's how infinity works. (It is, however, implied that these sequences occur suspiciously early in the expansion.)
Pre-Mending Planeswalkers from Magic: The Gathering tended to have enormous reality-warping power, frequently creating entire planes of existence by themselves. The entity Yawgmoth was powerful enough to overlay multiple realities over one another for the purpose of invasions, and apparently survived the detonation of his personal plane of existence, caused by the essence of several god-level beings being fired at him. This would probably indicate Type IV+ if anything like real physics applied.
Post-Mending 'walkers are still powerful, but much less so. Still, they probably would easily exceed Type III.
To put the sheer power of the typical MtG player Planeswalker, a crossover with Dungeons and Dragons would be nearly impossible, or at least hard to make sense of, since even achieving epic level (level 20 or above in 4e) is still only a fraction of the power MtG planeswalkers are capable (probably level 25 and above, in D&D terms).
The holder of the Infinity Gauntlet in the Marvel Universe possesses pretty high order omnipotence, capable of moving multiple universes and effortlessly deposing the living incarnation of all matter, energy and time in the universe.
In Star Trek, the Q Continuum are hard to judge based on technology, since by all accounts they appear to be, in their natural forms, transcendent beings with no fixed shape who exist in another dimension called The Continuum. They may have outgrown the need for technology, as they can reshape reality around themselves, reverse time and entropy, teleport to any point in space and time, shapechange themselves and others, tweak natural laws (Q: "Simple. Just change the gravitational constant of the universe, thereby altering the mass of the asteroid.") so their powers can pretty much be described as "magic".
The 4-D beings from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time could be considered an example, if a very strange one. Sure, our entire universe is just an MMORPG that they created, but by our standards, the energy output needed to manage our universe as well as all their own affairs would be absolutely incredible.
The Markovians from Chalker's Well World series are here, given that they built planet-sized megacomputers that could freely revise physical laws, edit the course of history, and indeed kept the universe stable. Specific estimates of energy usage are probably a moot point, as they were the ones deciding how much energy there is in the universe.
The Tyranids of Warhammer 40,000 are an interesting case. If the statement that they've consumed multiple entire galaxies is true, they might be an unconventional Type III, though that depends greatly on the dormant metabolism of Tyranids drifting through space, as even if they have that much mass available note questionable even then, as they seem to only assimilate parts of planets rather than entire stars and nebulae, actual power use is what counts. Their typical MO of removing a good chunk of terrestrial planets' mass and draining the heat from what's left operates fairly slowly, so probably represents a mid Type I power expenditure per planet being consumed. They may consume up to few planets at any given time, though hive fleets take a while to travel between systems, so this output probably isn't sustained. A full hemisphere-darkening invasion force probably represents about a Type I expenditure for each planet under attack.
The Necrons and their masters the C'tan are also hard to pin down. The C'tan feed off stars, so might individually approach Type II, though they're not usually very active. The Necrons have the goal of separating the Warp from physical reality, a universe scale goal, though they seem to confine their efforts to one galaxy for now. They have the most advanced technology in the setting, and have fought on galactic scales in the distant past, but virtually all now lie dormant in buried tombs. Though their technology is very potent, they may be low on the Kardashev scale of the major factions of WH40K in the present setting due to their extremely small active numbers. Like the Tyranids, all bets are off if they become active en masse, particularly since they are known to possess at least one Dyson Sphere.
Magratheans from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. They constructed entire planets in hyperspace, as well as the biggest and most advanced computer in all existence. The blueprints were given to them by a hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional race, i.e. those whose "protrusions" in our dimension are mice. The blueprints were in turn the output of the second most advanced computer in all existence: Deep Thought. As for the construction zone, the Guide says it's a spherical/spheroidal "fold" in space-time with a radius of around 13 light seconds. Assuming hyperspace construction zones in a folded space-time and that planetary engineering was a fun hobby, you get a really powerful civilization, albeit one that's hard to classify.
The Forerunners of Halo at the height of their power were more or less masters of the galaxy, though it's hard to put a number to their power use. They built rather large structures around the galaxy, which might indicate low to mid Type I depending on how fast they did it. Their higher-end stuff, like the "kill everything sapient in the galaxy" function of the halos could potentially get them into Type III, though its actual workings are pretty sketchy on the power needed, especially since it doesn't appear to be a brute-force effect, and the halos would appear to not have nearly the mass-energy available to fuel Type III power use.
Turns out they successfully built an actual Dyson Sphere (and contained it within another dimension to be only a couple meters wide in normal space), so at least Type II.
While they never colonized other galaxies, Silentium indicates that the Forerunners siphon energy from alternate realities to power their civilization. If this is indeed canon then the Forerunners are a solid Type IV civilization, as far as energy consumption is concerned.
The Reapers of Mass Effect are the most militarily powerful faction in the galaxy. They "farm" the galaxy for intelligent life, letting civilizations develop and periodically culling them. However, they are not so much more powerful than the Citadel civilizations as even a few tenths of a Kardashev point would suggest, and when not actually reaping, they seem to float around their own territory doing pretty much nothing. If their standby systems are pretty efficient, they might even rate Type 0, but there isn't much to indicate what they do when fully active. It seems that they don't reach Type II, however.
On the other hand their technology, the Mass Relays, house vast amounts of energy. When one is damaged it easily destroys a whole solar system.
The background information provided by the Leviathan DLC complicates things further. The Leviathans, as they're called, indoctrinated and controlled another race which evolved on their homeworld and the two races are the primary source of the technological base for the series. This was a borderline Type-III civilization before they built the Reapers to fight a war against synthetic life forms which was built by the race they originally controlled.
The villains in the Callahans Crosstime Saloon video game create and operate entire universes as scientific experiments, including ours.
Human civilization in Walter Jon Williams' novel Implied Spaces is at a similar level, and indeed features pocket universes full of anitmatter being used as weapons.
In the Neon Genesis Evangelion verse, it's never revealed specifically if there's an upper limit to just how much power an S2 organ can generate. As shown in End of Evangelion, at least ten of them* the nine MP Evas plus Yui who got hers from Zeruel; Adam surely doesn't have one after being regrown into an embryo put together has the power to terraform Earth. In fact, Fuyutsuki's monologue about the Fruit of Knowledge (a human mind) plus the Fruit of Life (an S2 organ) equalling what is essentially God sounds like a borderline type I.
The author-stated badly written character habitat Or Something Like That has at least six layers of existance (he got to stuff like Omniverse and We Gave Up So Let's Just Call It Points) and the three most powerful attacks are throwing literally EVERYTHING else at them, breaking the story, but forcing the target to take some form of major backlash from it and imposing reality (or at least a semblance of logic) on the setting. The people who use those are leaders, but it is stated that the rough estimate is that newborn babies have the ability to break the story at least a hundred times on birth and it only gets stronger from there. And that's the civilians. Military or police forces use inquantifiable amounts of energy breaking the flimsy-in-the-first-place rules of reality, omniverses (in jewels) are somewhat expensive and require much care but multiverses and universes are cheaper and easily cared for, plot devices are medium-class weapons, hybridizing of technology and magic is the equivalent of tools, and throwing existence at someone is the effective-ish method of killing supervillains, although it's not perfect.
The neutron star dwelling cheela from the hard sci-fi novelDragon's Egg are difficult to classify as they have accelerated development. When humans first make actual contact with them, they are roughly equivalent to the late Middle-Ages or early Renaissance. After we give them the basics of science they begin developing on their own at approximately a million times the speed our civilization did. By the end of the novel (a matter of days our time) the cheela have mastered anti-gravity, faster-than-light travel, the creation of stable singularities, the manipulation of natural singularities (as a favor to their former teachers they remove several small black holes from our sun that were shortening our star's life), and manipulation of matter at the subatomic level. It is uncertain to what extent they have developed as they stop giving us knowledge once it becomes clear they are beyond our achievements (technically they give us the information, but they encrypt it so it cannot be read; the encryption key is always something related to the information itself, so that humanity will have to make the discovery on its own, but will be able to "check their answers" once they get them). Additionally, every 29 of our seconds is another year of advancement for them. If they are not a Class III by the end of the book, they will be shortly thereafter.
Or at least they would have been if not for the titular event of the sequel Starquake. They're probably there by the end of that, though.
The Sliders verse has multi-earth civilizations. While the Kromags are revealed to span hundreds of planets, it is unknown whether they possess space travel. In sheer watt consumption, they're probably at least type 2.
The Guardians of the Universe could be type four if not for their personal Prime Directive. When all of their power was bound within a single being, he was able to unravel the entire universe from the beginning of time to the end and restart the big bang.
The Combine have successfully conquered entire universes, potentially making them Type IV on the scale, but their actions on earth are only Type I at best. The greatest demonstration of their control over the environment is draining the oceans, and cut content includes their efforts to terraform the planet. Their civilization is powered by some form of dark energy, but the power output is unknown.
Multiple: For the upwardly/downwardly mobile.
In the Master of Orion games you can arguably build a civilization from a borderline Type I to a well developed Type II civilization.
In Master of Orion 2 the weapon Stellar Converter is capable of destroying planets in matter of seconds (debatable as it takes a turn to do so), meaning their energy output has to be in order of 1030J - give or take few magnitudes - in order to overcome the gravitational binding energy of a planet sized object. Also, you can also construct Earth-like planets from asteroid belts and gas giants. This would suggest mid to high Type II power use.
Civilization in the Lensman novels progresses from what's probably a low Type II (a significant portion of the Milky Way colonized, FTL travel, 'super-atomic' and energy weapons) at the beginning of Galactic Patrol to a probable Type III (two galaxies colonized, travel between parallel universes, faster-than-light planets used as weapons powerful enough to cause supernovas) by the end of Children of the Lens. The Children of the Lens themselves are near-godlike beings.
Each portion of Isaac Asimov's science fiction short story "The Last Question" takes place in a human civilization at a different point on the scale—each time the Last Question is asked, man is so much more advanced yet still powerless to answer it. It finishes by outlining a possible Type V scenario: reversing entropy even after the apparent heat death of the universe.
Isaac Asimov's stories, in chronological order, begin with mankind as a type 0 or a borderline type I. Then they establish Spacer colonies, invent faster-than-light travel and eventually colonize almost an entire galaxy, having reached a Solid II level.
Michio Kaku talks about the Civilization Levels a fair bit. Might want to look up his books.
There's another scale as well, though of course it's rather less scientific...that found in D20 Future. In it, there are Progress Levels, at least eight or nine.
Level 1 is stone age, prehistoric...Basic stone tools, agriculture, and so forth.
Level 2 is Bronze/Iron age
Level 3 is the 'Age of Reason'. The Renaissance, though basic slugthrower weapons are available, if rare.
Level 4 is the Industrial Age. Around the level of technology of the 1960's.
Level 5 is the Information Age. Pretty much current earth technology level...the 'Modern Age'.
Level 6 is the Fusion Age, energy weapons becoming more likely, especially on larger vehicles, cybernetics are starting to appear as more than just inferior replacement parts. Invention of an efficient, nonexpendable energy source.
Level 7 is the Gravity age. Gravity has become the civilization's plaything, interstellar travel becomes viable, energy weapons are becoming small enough to be man-portable, true powered armor appears.
Level 8 is the Energy Age. This is the level that we see in many Science Fiction shows attributed to many of the 'elder' races...zero-point energy, powerful personal energy weapons, force fields, intergalactic travel, starbases the size of moons, true starfighters have finally become viable, and may or may not include functional immortality.
Level 9 is essentially, the Q Continuum. If they aren't Omnipotent and Omniscient, they're close to it, and can fairly safely be considered living gods.
Still, one funny thing. Functional immortality is probably enormously easier to achieve scientifically than FTL travel, as it likely hinges on a mixture of nano, cyber and/or biotechnology already theoretical by our science (just tricky to achieve) as opposed to nudging the laws of physics in ways that we don't even have any idea how for FTL travel.
The PL scale being lifted wholesale from TSR's defunct RPG Alternity which Wizards of the Coast inherited and then let die.
GURPS also has its own Tech Level scale, and may have been one of the first games to quantify progress thus. This list is from the Third Edition, but later editions don't change it much, other than the addition of "superscience" for things that blatantly break the laws of physics. Earth was TL7 on first publish, but in 2000, Steve Jackson Games officially announced that we had reached TL8 and that they were forced to rewrite the old Tech Level scale from the 1985 rulebook because science had progressed faster in some fields (like biotech) than expected and slower in others, which affects the Tech Level descriptions in the current 4th Edition rulebook. This article from March 2006 lists another example that modern bio-science is close to breaking through to TL9. Interestingly, even a TL 12 civilization doesn't have much in the way of technology above Type II. This is likely a problem of game balance (when handguns can take out a planet it doesn't really matter what Advantages characters have). The current GURPS tech level scale:
TL 0 — Stone Age: Clubs and loincloths.
TL 1 — Bronze Age: Alphabet and the wheel.
TL 2 — Iron Age: Waterwheel and iron working.
TL 3 — Medieval: High Fantasy is set here. Steel invented. Sailboats.
TL 4 — Age of Exploration: Guns invented. "High-Tech" begins.
TL 5 — Industrial Revolution: Steam engine.
TL 6 — Mechanized Age: (c. 1900-1950) Very first TVs and mechanical calculators.
TL 12 — Age of Miracles. Near total control of time and space. People can buy pocket universes.
GURPS is also notable among RPGs because it gives rules for mismatched tech levels. An enlightened and peaceful civilization might have figured out bodily immortality (TL 11) yet have no weapons more advanced than "mere" 20th-century nukes (TL 7). It also allows fantasy/alternative technology forms, For example, a Steampunk world like Girl Genius would be TL 5+4 (Steam engine/victorian with flight, death rays, and mechanical AI), while The Flintstones would be TL 0+6 (Stone age with TV and cars! )
This page has a list of Sci-Fi civilizations ranked by tech level. You could disagree with at least a few placements, but it's there.
Human civilization in Warhammer 40,000 merits mention here. Humanity's technology level is ridiculously schizophrenic thanks to tens of millenia of war and upheaval. At its height, humanity had true AI, rapid interstellar travel, controlled the vast majority of the galaxy, is implied to have mastered matter-energy conversion, and bent the laws of the universe to its whim. Twenty thousand years of devastating galactic war later, scraps of technology from that era are worth destroying star systems over. Though the Imperium of Man and Adeptus Mechanicus don't understand how much of their most advanced technology works anymore, they still show hallmarks of a borderline Type III civilization, notably whenever the technologies of war come into question. Meanwhile, any given Imperial planet can range from the Stone Age to high type II. Schizo Tech at its finest, folks.
Supreme Commander, considering that you field forces that seem representative of much less than a Type I resource base to fight over tiny areas of individual planets in a conflict between empires that supposedly extend across sizable chunks of the galaxy, powered by nanomachine assemblers that ought to be capable of more impressive mobilization.
Where the Transformers fit on the scale depends on the continuity. But in the Movie-verse, they have devices that can suck the energy from stars, destroying them in the process. Though that would suggest Type III-IV, their on-screen activities look far below Type I. Though other continuities aren't necessarily entirely consistent, they do better than an apparent forty orders of magnitude mismatch.
They also have FTL, warp gates, personal subspace storage and gravity control, portable weapons which interdimensionally draw power from black holes, force fields, invisibility, time travel, and can fall from Earth orbit to the surface without burning up or being killed by the impact. And they fight by punching each other, and can be demobilized by a flat tire. Apparently their Mileage Varies.
The UNSC and Covenant from Halo. From the scale of the fleets and other combat forces, the development of planets and industry, they look borderline Type I or so. From the usual figures cited for MAC cannons and the efficacy of Covenant ship weapons, they look like maybe a solid Type I. However, the claimed power of the "Super MAC" cannons and the Covenant's ability to "glass" the surface of planets is several orders of magnitude larger than anything else either side does, getting into borderline Type II territory.
As revealed in the Data Pads of Halo: Reach, the ability of the Covenant to 'glass' planets is propaganda devised by a group of human-created artificial intelligences. True, the Covenant COULD turn an entire planet into a hunk of glass...provided they had millennia to do so. However, the thought of an alien empire 'glassing' entire colonies certainly galvanized humanity to fight back.
On the other hand, according to Lord Hood in Halo 3 the Heretic Elite supercarrier Shadow of Intent glassed half the continent of Africa in about an hour... while he watched it happen with his own eyes. It's also worth noting that the specific data pad claiming that the Covenant can't fully glass planets was written in-universe only one year into the war, when data on the Covenant's capabilities were limited; another data pad written only a few years later gives a conservative estimate of 110 to over 300 years to properly re-terraform merely four colony worlds.
However, for the Covenant, it should be noted that much of their tech is taken from Forerunner ruins, and is mostly set up by the Engineers, possibly explaining the gaps.
In Halo 4 prehistoric Humanity was fighting both the Forerunners and the Flood at the same time, or at least fighting the Forerunners and running from the Flood. Forerunner technology was capable of sterilizing an entire galaxy, which would put Forerunners and ancient humans at a high Type II.
Humanity in GunBuster is generally a low to mid-level Type I society, but their ultimate weapon, which destroys the core of the Milky Way galaxy, is far, far beyond that level.
The civilizations in Galaxy Angel all operate on a different level.
The "current" Transbaal Empire operates on Scale 1, or at most, 1.5. They have an Empire spanning multiple star systems, but it isn't elaborated on how large. Also, they are in operation of reverse-engineered Lost Technology.
EDEN civilization, which is the source of aforementioned Lost Technology, was not elaborated upon, but their chief technology, the Chrono String Engine, uses the energy left over from the very creation of universe itself. That, and they are capable of creating moon-sized spaceship/factory complete with requisite FTL travel; the Black Moon and White Moon. This puts them at Scale 2 at least.
Finally, the Val-Fasq, the race of conquerors. While the extent of their conquest is, again, undetermined, their ultimate weapon, Chrono Quake Bomb, is powerful enough to cause a universe-wide "freeze" of FTL travel, isolating inter-solar system travel, trade, and communication. It is hinted that they regularly use these weapons, and such weapons are the opening move for a war; freeze every FTL travel, conquer universes. Rinse and repeat. This puts them as at least Scale 3.
But the best example is actually the Emblem Frames; space fighters piloted by a single person. It apparently contains a Chrono String Engine, regulated by the emotion-sensing HALO System, that is powerful enough to create an entire pocket universe ex nihilo to divert the massive energy released by the Chrono Quake Bomb above. The technology alone must have consumed an energy far above Scale 3 at least, which raises question to the true Kardashev Scale rating of the creator of such technology...