Let’s start with the standard disclaimer of all Kardashev Level 0 societies when discussing the technological capacities of galactic civilizations whose capacities exceed our own. I discuss what this means in greater detail in: You are a Type III civilization. How do you manage the black holes in your Galaxy? where we discuss what does a super-advanced society do with all of the energy it’s gathering…
- Most of the scientific principles and technologies for Level III societies or better may as well be magic to our less than evolved capacities.
- We have no idea how or why most of their technology works and as such, can only speculate to their function based on our own limited understanding of the Universe.
- Finally, I do not believe most science fiction writers of comics are familiar with the concepts of the Kardeshev Scale or its implications.
- As a result, much of our speculation is based in examples which do not map effectively to the concepts depicted by the Russian astrophysicist, Nikolai Kardeshev. We are forced to approximate a relationship in technology and capacity when it is possible, at all.
The Cliff Notes:
For those of you who want just the meat of the answer, the Answer-Man has your back. There are few modern sciences which could correlate to the capacities of the Oan power ring. Just a few of the ideas which we could relate to include:
- A mental software interface: All of the technology of the ring is accessible through the mental and emotional interaction with the technology.
- An artificial intelligence: sophisticated enough to read the mind of the ring’s user, access remote databases from across the galaxy and store the information of billions of worlds, past and present in the Book of Oa.
- Matter and energy conversion: converting matter to energy and back again; the creation of nearly limitless power accessible via mental controls
- Manipulation of fundamental forces: creation of any form of electromagnetic energy; electromagnetic field manipulations, the creation of force fields and the creation of complex fields of force capable of gathering information from the natural universe.
- Broadcast energy: The ability to power machines using remote energy sources. The power battery of the Green Lanterns transfers energy from across the Universe to be made available no matter where a Green Lantern is.
- Extreme levels of miniaturization: The technology of the Oans allow all of these capacities to fit inside of something as small as a piece of jewelry. While it’s never mentioned by name, the capacity to create such a device probably means they use nanotechnology in the rings creation.
Given the nature of the power ring, the technology is so sophisticated, it may as well be magic to us. With that said, let’s discuss the creators (or at least, the most effective manipulators of that power), the Guardians of the Universe.
(also known as the Guardians of Oa) have been in existence for billions of years. Given in most depictions, they had a highly advanced galactic civilization.
The Guardians evolved on the planet Maltus, and were among the first intelligent life forms in the universe. At this time they were tall greyish blue humanoids with black hair, who roughly resembled humans except for their skin color. They became scientists and thinkers, experimenting on the worlds around them. One experiment led to the creation of a new species, the Psions.
In a pivotal moment, billions of years ago, a Maltusian named Krona used time-bending technology to observe the beginning of the Universe. However, this experiment, and later attempts to stop it, unleashed disaster upon all existence. Originally, the experiment splintered the Universe into the Multiverse and created the evil Anti-Matter Universe of Qward.
At least one billion years ago, the Guardians were sophisticated enough to have a galaxy-spanning police force called the Manhunters who were designed to help foster order in a galaxy burgeoning with (hostile or at least unruly) life.
The Guardians admit to having a period of development from their homeworld of Malthus that resembles most lower level civilizations before they experienced an explosion of technological development.
This explosion was so great it included the capacity to discover (and unfortunately affect) the origin of the Universe. This manipulation was by the renegade Krona who did not accept the limitations of the Guardians at the time and resulted in the existence of the DC Multiverse.
By the time of the creation of the Green Lantern Corps, the Manhunters had been spread throughout the galaxy, presumably part of their Level III civilization, which was capable of harnessing the energy of an entire galaxy. The Manhunters were destroyed by the Guardians after the Massacre of Sector 666.
While we cannot confirm the source of their power, the Manhunters were able to work across the entire galaxy with no difficulties, meaning they were able to derive whatever passed for their power supply no matter where they were.
We also know the Manhunters could absorb any ambient energy they could find should they find themselves cut off from whatever energy the Guardians provided. Devices made from the period of the Manhunters were proven to function billions of years later. (See above.)
Such technology includes the Manhunter energy pistols and Krona’s Power Gauntlet made during this period. Said gauntlet would become the prototype of the Green Lantern power rings some time after the destruction of the Manhunters.
It appears the early Guardians were bonded with the White Energy of the Emotional Spectrum, giving them nearly limitless access to their native power source (whatever that was…) Here is where we start having problems. The Guardians used technology whose power appeared to give them access to energy without limits.
- Were they tapping the energy of the standard fundamental forces as we know them? Presumably yes, since not all of their technology relied on access to the Emotional Spectrum.
- We know they could harness normal energies and did so, when it suited them to do so. But the Guardians appeared to have technology which is so advanced much of it is invisible to the naked eye or interfaces directly with their body, removing the need for external weaponry of any kind.
- We also recognize much of their technology is powered or directed by mental energies alone. Given their incredible mental capacities, it makes sense for much of their gear to utilize mental interfaces, capable of being updated as needed, using their clearly superior intellects.
- We know that some time after the fall of the renegade Krona, the Guardians allied themselves with the Green Power of Will (which in their minds, is an emotion-less energy interaction preferred by them). They ultimately did not want to recognize emotion as necessary to the survival of the Universe.
- As far as the Guardians are concerned despite the vast power of the of the White Power of Life, their mastery of the Green Power of Will has not changed their overall capacity with either power.
Their abilities are limited only by their imagination and access to the nearly limitless power they can channel through their bodies and minds. A single Guardian, Ganthet, was able to fight and defeat the macro-energized, life-form known as Superman, without resorting to his Kryptonite weakness.
Ganthet was also able to fight against hundreds of Green Lanterns simultaneously (they were under mind control) so they may have been less effective than they might be normally but this is still an impressive feat of power and precision.
The powers of the Green Lantern ring are numerous and I discuss them in great detail in the treatment: Which is more powerful, Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir or Green Lantern’s power ring?
The Power Ring and Battery of the Green Lantern Corps
If I were to describe the technology of the Oan power ring, it appears to function at three different levels of operation:
The power ring itself acts as a highly-independent but limited artificial intelligence; with the capacity to act as an interface and aid to the ring user. The ring is, essentially, a mentally-accessed computer system.
- Likely the ring’s AI has been limited to prevent what happened to the Manhunters (reprogramming by an outside agency) from happening to the rings themselves.
- The rings have some limited decision-making capacity particularly in regard to their operation. They choose to protect the ring wielder as the highest priority and require an override by an operator before they will place any other need before that one.
The ring’s intelligence is supported by a database of stored information within the ring. There is also a real-time connection to the Central Power Battery and the information archives of the Oa database called The Book of Oa.
- The ring’s volition is limited and as such does not volunteer information unless properly prompted by the ring’s user. The ring can, if the wielder has the proper scientific knowledge, create usable technology capable of behaving in the same fashion as the real technology would.
- What the Guardians know (and choose to share with the Green Lanterns) the ring can access said information. This includes language translation, interstellar navigation, wormhole detection or creation as well as interaction with technology unfamiliar to the ring wielder. The ring does not immediately give knowledge of alien technology or necessarily how to use it.
The ring is capable of receiving information and through the power battery, energy from an undisclosed range, but assuredly remote location, in real time.
- The ring is capable of faster than light communication and capable of receiving broadcasted power across intergalactic distances.
- This real-time connection across time and space relays information only. Ring-bearers can communicate with each other telepathically across galactic distances, in real time.
- The energy of the ring is recharged by the Power Battery which accompanies each Green Lantern. The battery is a conduit of the green energy but cannot release said energy without a ring, unless it is destroyed.
- The green energy is drawn from the Central Power Battery, but happens to be under the control of the Guardians, if they or their representatives so will it. Thus the power could be cut off, at the source.
The ring is capable of creating and manipulating a variety of fields of electromagnetic forces as well as the Green Energy directly.
- The ring can project almost any energy the user can conceive of as well as projections of the green energy which can disrupt matter and energy.
- The green energy can act as a force field capable of protecting the ringbearer, and can create matter and energy, presumably out of the Green Energy itself.
- The ring’s energy can be directly converted to maintain, sustain or even bolster the physical capacity of a ringbearer, if they have the right training for such augmentation.
- Most ringbearers will utilize the capacity of the ring based on their intellectual capacity, emotional energy level, and creativity.
- Rigorous mental training can make it possible for rings to create machines or devices composed entirely of will. However, most users will create only constructs redirecting the Green Power as the ringbearer wills, resulting in brute applications of force.
- Fatigue and injury can reduce the capacity of the constructs created as well. Psychological manipulation can also affect the quality and potential power of ring constructs.
If I were to simply describe the power ring in terms of our understanding of technology, I would say the power ring is essentially:
a mentally-directed, semi-aware, machine-intelligence, dedicated to the life support of a single user and acting as an mentally directed interface to the technology’s capacities.
- All by itself, the capacity of the computer interface alone is far beyond our ability to even envision. The machine intelligence is capable of making decisions, interpreting the desire of the ringbearer, and intuitively creating what the bearer desires, no matter how the bearer thinks or sees the universe at large.
- given that we have yet to crack the machine-intelligence barrier, just the AI is beyond our capacity to envision effectively, let alone shrink it to the size of the power ring.
Capable of utilizing fields of projected and manipulated energy across the EM spectrum as well as utilizing the unique signature of the Green Energy itself.
- The ring can emulate any energy that it knows exists and project it across vast distances at the request of the ring’s owner.
- In comparison, our primitive directed energy technology such as lasers barely scratch the surface of the power ring’s capacity. We do create highly sophisticated magnetic fields for bottling particles, and using magnetic fields to create electricity in dynamos.
- The ring can also direct simulations of force such as kinetic energy when bearers create physical constructs such as boxing gloves, trains or missiles.
Capable of manipulation matter and energy, treating them interchangeably, creating matter-energy conversions instantaneously and intuitively
- The ring can act as Star Trek’s replicator with the limitation it cannot duplicate any living thing. Rings can even create functional replicas of themselves.
- Some highly-skilled ringbearers could create actual machines if they were so inclined, but most choose to not create anything unless absolutely necessary choosing to create force-construct simulations.
Capable of creating “Einstein-Rosen Bridges” with distant locations
- The capacity enables bridging galactic distances creating transluminal (or faster-than-light) communication and means of travel.
- The ring presumably has the capacity to create said wormhole and protect the user from the incredible forces necessary for such a technology to exist as we understand them.
If you are still wanting to know more about the Kardashev Scale you can take a look at this friendly graphic.
If you can’t get enough Green Lantern, there’s plenty more for you:
- How many Green Lanterns are in the Green Lantern Corps?
- Why doesn’t Green Lantern have an official sidekick? (Quora)
- Do Power Rings get resized for each user? (SF&F Stack)
- Why do some Green Lanterns talk to their rings when giving a command? (SF&F Stack)
- Green Lantern Power Ring (Wikia)
Thaddeus Howze is a writer, essayist, author and professional storyteller for mysterious beings who exist in non-Euclidean realms beyond our understanding. You can follow him on Twitter or support his writings on Patreon. But one of the best ways to show you care is to share this story.