By Chet Yarbrough
By Michio Kaku
Narrated by Feodor Chin
Michio Kaku is an American theoretical physicist at City College of New York. He has appeared on television many times and writes extensively about future inventions and their consequence in “Physics of the Future”. Kaku’s futurist perspective is based on what is happening in physics today. He extrapolated from today’s science to tomorrow’s probability. Kaku believes that all reality, yesterday’s, today’s, and tomorrow’s, is dictated by quantum physics. At a molecular level, quantum physics experimentally confirms all reality is a matter of probability; not certainty.
“Physics of the Future” is about what Kaku believes will happen in the next 100 years.
He believes human beings will live to be several hundred years old. Organ replacement will become common place with machines that will manufacture human tissue from human cells. Cells will be genetically programmed to produce and replace aged, diseased, and/or injured body parts. (YOUTUBE: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A BIOMEDICAL ENGINEER-http://youtu.be/vC5V8ItAIIk) (YOUTUBE; THE FUTURE OF BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING-http://youtu.be/aNBSYpgOjzU) One has a certain fear and trembling in completing Kaku’s vision of the future because many of his predictions could as easily steer mankind to an end as a beginning.
He believes clean energy will replace fossil fuels. In the near term alternative energy sources like wind power, solar power, and nuclear fission will reduce dependence on fossil fuels while reducing environmental pollution. Within 100 years, Kaku argues that fusion energy and/or magnetic field physics will replace carbon based fuels.
Fusion is experimentally proven to be a possible source of the future’s energy. (YOUTUBE: NUCLEAR FUSION-http://youtu.be/vDAZsPkTkMM) Maglev trains have proven the potential of magnetic field physics in transportation. (YOUTUBE: MAGLEV TRAIN-http://youtu.be/aIwbrZ4knpg) Scientific experiments with fusion and magnetic field transportation technology are excessively expensive which impedes progress, but history shows that initial cost is neither a predictor nor terminator of future utility.
He believes artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence. Human beings will turn to computers for answers about what direction humans should take to survive. (YOUTUBE: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE-http://youtu.be/eq-AHmD8xz0)
He believes human beings will be able to move physical objects with their mind. Computer programs will precisely map the brain to clearly understand how thought turns to action. Objects will be programmed to respond to human brain waves. (YOUTUBE: KAKU ON MIND MELDING WITH ROBOTICS-http://youtu.be/tT1vxEpE1aI)
He believes physical forms will the changed by the push of a button through programmed software. For example a consumer will buy one car; push a button to turn the car into a pickup, a sports car, a grocery-getter, a camper, or whatever the consumer needs at the moment.
He believes physical objects will be created at an atomic level. Machines, using nanotechnology, will be able to manufacturer whatever a human being desires. (YOUTUBE: NANOTECHNOLOGY-http://youtu.be/S4CjZ-OkGDs)
These projections have profound implications for humankind.
If human beings live to be 700 years old, what happens to world population? Kaku surmises that birthrates will continue to fall and level off at a sustainable level by human choice. Population will continue to grow in the near term, but stabilize in the mid-21st century based on continuing education and improving economic condition of world nations. (YOUTUBE: THE KEY TO IMMORTALITY-http://youtu.be/QsHuGQieyjY)
Fossil fuels will be replaced because negative environmental consequence will become increasingly evident to world leaders and the general public. The threshold of change is now apparent with alternate fuel and battery-powered cars, solar energy arrays, wind power fields, and growing interest in resurrecting nuclear power.
Artificial intelligence remains years away but work is being done to simulate synaptic brain waves in machines; including memory, recall, emotion, and action. (YOUTUBE: TONY BUZAN MIND MAPPING-http://youtu.be/MlabrWv25qQ) It is a matter of time and money but human brain function will be duplicated and improved upon by machines that are programmed to think like humans at a neurological level. When machines achieve that level of development, machines will build new generations of machines with higher neurological capabilities then their inventors. Kaku believes mankind will be at the threshold of artificial intelligence’s usurpation of human volition in 100 years. Kaku presumes mankind will have a “kill” switch for any aberrant action against man by machine. (One wonders why advanced artificial intelligence would accept that programming once it becomes sentient.)
Brain mapping and machine programming of physical objects will combine to give human beings the power to move objects with thought. Everything from cars to household appliances will have computer chips attuned to their owner’s thoughts. (One wonders what the fail safe will be for suicide prone human beings.)
There is a certain conservation-like beauty in the idea of changing the utility of a car by pushing a button. However, what is the ramification for the automobile industry? Are fewer cars sold? Are fewer manufacturers required? What happens to those millions of people who work in auto manufacturing and related industries?
Kaku infers a new kind of leisure class will develop. Not hangers-on or couch potatoes but a new generation of thinkers that will create new employment ideas and practices. Kaku argues that there is an innate interest of humankind to be productive, useful, and worthy of something greater than themselves. Kaku believes that when everything a human being desires can be produced by a machine, mankind will still strive for achievement. The meaning of wealth will no longer be money in the bank but a higher calling; maybe spiritual serenity, wisdom, recognition of self-worth, or acknowledgement by others of one’s inner-directed integrity.
For Kaku’s vision of the future to become real, nation states must continue to invest in education. The falling science and math scores for American students is troubling. America remains a leader in science but Kaku suggests the primary reason is because of immigration. America has to invest more time and money in education to remain among leaders of the world. Kaku acknowledges that American ingenuity and capitalist democracy offer a great deal to the advance of science but fundamental education is essential for civilization’s improvement.
Moore’s law, which has shown that transistors and integrated circuits on a computer chip double every two years, will no longer be true. Intel, the biggest producer and benefactor of doubling computer performance, predicts that Moore’s law is nearing an end. Computer chips will become ubiquitous and, at the same time, antiquated. Computer chips will become detritus of some yet to be invented replacement.
Kaku suggests that software is the future of computer technology. Hardware will become less and less important because of the Cloud that will reduce need for computing hardware in the home and office. (YOUTUBE: SOFTWARE WARS-http://youtu.be/A1evxMedow4)
Kaku explores the viability of interstellar flight of human beings and concludes that it is unlikely to happen in this century. Kaku believes exploration will continue but nanotechnology and unmanned space exploration will be the tools of this century’s solar system science; i.e. extraordinary cost and risk of manned space flight demands re-direction of human resources. Use of robots for unmanned space flight reduces cost and human risk while offering vast amounts of scientific information about the universe.
Kaku believes space flight as an entertainment and quick-world-travel convenience for humans will continue; particularly with involvement of the private sector, but interstellar flight for humans is unlikely in the next 100 years.
Before leaving individual predictions, Kaku explains the Kardashev scale of civilization to contextualize the state of the world. (YOUTUBE: KARDASHEV SCALEhttp://youtu.be/A1evxMedow4) The Kardashev scale begins at 0 and rises to Type V. Today’s world is estimated to be at .7, less than 1. Coincidentally, getting to 1 is the most dangerous level to achieve, without catastrophe. Level 1 presumes fusion power is available on a large-scale; antimatter is available in large quantities, and fossil fuels become an abandoned source of energy.
Getting from .7 to 1 on the Kardashev scale is fraught with human potential for world destruction. Great social upheavals will occur with the evolution of energy use. Some nations will be threatened by the change. Jobs will be at risk; nation’s economies will be overwhelmed by need for change. Purpose in life will be questioned. Social structure will be challenged by new measures of status. Civilizations will either embrace or reject cooperation among nations.
Kaku summarizes his view of the future by reflecting on a future husband’s and wife’s benefits from extraordinary scientific discoveries. Kaku opts for a utopian transition of civilization that reaches level 1 on the Kardashev scale, within 100 years.
And so–Kierkekaardian’ fear and trembling stream through Kaku’s vision of the future because many of his predictions could as easily steer mankind to an end as a beginning.