An update on some of wonderful things that will soon be in our future…
Have you heard of any of the following inventions that are all likely to appear within this century, thanks to successful scientific advances in computing and micro chip technology, which have already created their prototypes?
Internet glasses and contact lenses;
four wall screens;
real and virtual reality mixed;
fMRI mind readers;
tricorders (like in Star Trek) and portable brain scans;
and last but not least, photographing our dreams!?
Michio Kaku, the famous MIT physicist, author, and co-founder of String Field Theory, opens his new book with discussion of these incredible developments. Subsequent chapters focus on different scientific efforts, including Artificial Intelligence/Robotics, the future of medicine, nanotechnology, the futures of energy and space travel, and even of wealth.
Some of these areas seem to be advancing more quickly than others, I was surprised discover. Artificial Intelligence and Robots, for example, are familiar to all of us, yet they are still not able to match the human brain in intelligence and consciousness. Other areas, such as Nanotechnology, are rapidly growing. (Nanotechnology is the ability to manipulate subatomic/molecular particles for all kinds of purposes, such as transistors, computing, chemical coatings, and even nanocars and particles to fight diseases in our bodies. See a picture of the world’s smallest nano guitar, created by Professor Dustin Carr).
What is compelling about these developments is Kaku’s uncanny observation – “that it is very dangerous to bet against the future.” He correctly recognizes the historically we have consistently underestimated the power of scientific technology. He also correctly notes that each time one of the four fundamental laws of nature was discovered, it forever changed human history – these are Newton’s laws of gravity, electricity (electromagnetic forces), atomic/nuclear fission, and quantum/subatomic physics.
However, Kaku also brings to our attention the issue of when such exponential developments and remarkable revolutions will end, particularly in computing. Computing power is said to have doubled every 18 months over the last 50 years, according to Gordon Moore, one of the founders of the Intel Corporation. Kaku argues ominously, however, that eventually Moore’s Law will fail; by mid century it will become increasingly difficult (if not physically impossible) to etch more miniaturized transistors onto silicon computer chips, which drive the computing revolution. At some point, silicon-based computing will reach its limits.
I’m just getting ready to read the section on our energy future, which promises to be the most interesting of all.
I admit that at this point I’m not as optimistic about the future as I used to be. However, this book is utterly fascinating to read and Kaku’s enthusiasm, tone, and intelligence, curiosity, and humaneness all make me reflect and remember that possibility remains with us.