Kardashev Scale For Digital Transformation

When trying to explain WHY one needs to know how to speak machine, I’ve been looking for an easier way to give it better sense. It’s all about the evolving context of what someone thought meant “digital business transformation.” So I thought I’d try to encapsulate it into an infographic with the Kardashev Scale as an overarching metaphor. In the process, I realized how being digitally transformed is a function of what decade we’re living in. It’s always a little different than what you think/thought it is/was because Moore’s Law is still running quickly quickly quickly forward.

Kardashev Decoder Ring Graphic is downloadable as a PDF. Special thanks to Kevin Bethune for pushing me to move this Kardashev metaphor forward :+). 🙏, Kevin!

👕👚 For a limited time, Kardashev 2 and Kardashev 5 are available as graphic T-shirts in cuts for women and men and anyone else. The 2 is for the “laid back” folks, and the 5 is for the “AI junkies” … I prefer the 2. —JM

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The Kardashev Scale Is Computation Ready

Many companies are in various states of “gone digital.” We’ll get a bit nerdy by using the Kardashev scale in relation to a company’s digital transformation status.


The Kardashev scale comes from astronomer and science fiction writer Nikolai Kardashev (1932-2019) as a model for the total energy available. If we consider the alien life form of computation, I think it’s an apropos metaphor.

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1Type One or the “Planetary Civilization” can use and store all of the energy available on its planet. Let’s call this kind of organization one that’s mastered paper and the digital office to an extent that they are users of technology. They know how to search on the Internet and make it useful.

KARDASHEV 2
COMMEMORATIVE
T-SHIRT

The Kardashev scale is applied to Digital Business Transformation, and you wonder where you’re at in the scale. And some time in the last ten years you made it to Kardashev 2. Your sandwich is delicious, and you’re happy with being a Kardashev 2. You know with 100% certainty that you are B2B-ing with the best! You rock! Take a break now. I’ll nap too …

2Type Two or the “Stellar Civilization” has made its way out of a typical office and is a first-class citizen on the Internet. They’ve figured out how to use it for basic owned digital marketing efforts and/or deploying sensors in their supply chain and/or just being more efficient with what “e-business” can be about. They’ve fully leaned into funding experiments that let them be digital when working with other businesses — they’re B2B and they’ve got this!

3Type Three or the “Galactic Civilization” has ventured fully into the entire universe of social media to cover a giant surface area of contact with many consumers. They’ve learned how to crawl and walk in the era of B2C activities like D2C (Direct To Consumer) commerce and witty responses on Twitter. If they’re primarily a business that ships physical products, the interconnect between internal business processes and automating their supply chain is already well underway. 

4Type Four or the “Universal Civilization” has made forays into AI and machine learning. They’ve managed to navigate autonomous technologies to achieve uncanny (not just desperate) acts of digital and have entered a space where they’re not entirely sure of the ethical implications of what they’ve set loose in the world. The level of complexity is at a scale that can’t be easily unwound.

5Type Five or the “Multi-Universe Civilization” has made the techie “singularity” vision occur and the “oops” moment has happened for humanity where there’s no turning back. But perhaps something wonderful has happened instead of just the dystopia we’re told shall one day appear.

KARDASHEV 5
COMMEMORATIVE
T-SHIRT

The Kardashev scale is applied to Digital Business Transformation, and you wonder where you’re at in the scale. And you want to get to Kardashev 5, right? You eventually made it, and start wondering, “Did we automate the right things? Or not?” It’s too late! :+).

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Kardashev Scale Graphics Files

In case you want to make your own t-shirts, you can use these graphics in SVG, PDF, and PNG formats.

In A Nutshell

We’re in a shift from Stuff versus Services, or  vs . This is the difference between true “Launch and Leave”  versus “Launch and Learn” . Or “stored value”  versus “on-demand value” .

  1. K0: Separating Marketing and Product is easier
    📣 …. ⊡ [different cultures]
    📣 …. ⟲ [frankly better for old creative world]
  2. K0: Marketing traditionally moves much faster than the other
    🌪 …. 🐢
  3. K1: And especially with automation, it’s moving really fast
    🤖 📣 🌪 …. ⟲ 🐢
    🤖 📣 🌪 …. ⊡ 🐢
  4. K2: When Product/Service is agile need a good clutch
    🤖 📣 🌪 💥 ⟲ 🐇 [culture clash emerges]
    🤖 📣 🌪 💥 🐇 [more serious culture clash as hw vs sw]
  5. K3: More complex when product or service is tech-enabled
    🤖 📣 🌪 💥 🐇 (=📱🤖)
    🤖 📣 🌪 💥 ⟲🐇 (=📱🤖)

The Shift

FROMTO
Launch and Leave
k-1 to K-2.5 (afraid of K-3)

No-AI
Launch and Learn
K-3 to K-4 (afraid of K-5)

AI

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