Michio Kaku on Physics of the Future

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York and cofounder of string field theory, describes the revolutionary developments taking place in the fields of medicine, computers, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, energy, and astronautics. Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 describes future advances in science and how they will change our way of life. Kaku also tells us who the winners and losers of the future will be, who will have jobs, and which nations will prosper.


Dr. Michio Kaku

Comments [29]

Mr. Bad from NYC

@ j.w. from ct

Yes, your very clever, setting up a straw man and knocking him down, but as you wrote "at no point did I hear Kaku make any sort of argument that science would bring happiness to the human race en masse." I feel the need to point out that nobody said he did. What is implied by his not saying that is what I'm saying, which is that contrary to the generally beneficial descriptions of the newer technologies he described they will instead foment a tenser, more violent and ultimately apocalyptic end for humanity as a whole, no matter who happens to be in the tech "lead" when it goes down.

There will be greater and greater disparities in wealth/health and social stability as the technologies described are fielded by wealthy, prodigal countries while the rest of the world withers away ... but they, being human, will tend to not do that very quietly. Essentially what the guest misunderstands is that technology is replacing morality and even basic common sense in our daily lives, both of which are essential to our survival as a species.

Countless "scientific" studies have shown the happiness is always relative, and as the potential for nano-weapons, genetically engineered viruses and even "old line" WMD's like nukes finding their way into the hands of non-state actors through states like Pakistan, China and Iran is realized the global military hegemony NATO countries now enjoy will disappear and the full weight of the disenfranchised and oppressed will be felt in violent uprisings and regional conflicts that will quickly get out of hand. As I wrote, there have never been so many of these people in Africa, Asia, the Middle East... both in terms of historical numbers and as a percentage of world population compared to 1st world countries - and technology ensures they will all be very, very well informed about the state of their fellow man, with predictable results.

When the curtain finally falls we Fat, stupid American may well be living into are early 100's on a regular basis, let's hope our robot soldiers can muster the gumption to keep the rest of humanity in line - that's the real hope in "technology". Hey everybody, go buy another IPAD2, your IPAD is MONTHS old by now... time for it to make its way to a landfill in India with the other toxic e-waste.

Mar. 22 2011 02:38 AM

This was one of the most incredible interviews I ever heard in listening to Leonard Lopate since the beginning

Mar. 21 2011 08:09 PM
gene from NYC

Here's a wild idea: try actually reading the book(!) Sounds crazy, huh?

Now ask yourself this:

Who knows more about us, on a moment-to-moment basis, each time we buy, each time we see an ad, each time we do a google search, where we live, our movement patterns, than corporations?

Who works harder to sway our attitudes through surreptitious image improvement agencies like Burson-Marsteller? Who knows more about media manipulation, direct emotional appeals, and newspeak like "War is Peace" or "Doctors prefer Camels 2 to 1?"

Who actively studies all these things in minute detail with a purpose to targeted deployment.

For corporations, truly, "Ignorance is Strength." Who is really "Watching You?"

Granted, Orwell was addressing the powers of totalitarianism of whatever political stripe. Perhaps that's why the true ruler of Oceana was the sole remaining "Party"-- a corporation.

Mar. 21 2011 05:53 PM
j.w. from ct

@art525: 1/10
//farkers will get this comment

Mar. 21 2011 05:29 PM
art525 from park slope

Boy I hate the expression- "just sayin'"
It's annoying and such a cliche.

Mar. 21 2011 01:27 PM
j.w. from connecticut

also, one other thing i'd like to add: at no point did I hear Kaku make any sort of argument that science would bring happiness to the human race en masse.

If you think he did say that, it might be your own prejudices regarding technology that are really doing the talking. just sayin'....

Mar. 21 2011 01:11 PM

"Big Brother" was a corporation—not a normal government? That's news to the rest of us who read 1984.

I don't know any corporation that uses guns on me to buy its products. If I don't want to buy a corporation's products or services, it cannot force me to.* But just let me not pay my taxes in order to pay for one of Pres. "Change" Obama's wars or big bank bailouts and I can assure you Pres. "Change's" IRS agents won't just walk away from me.

*Of course, the exception is when a big corporation gets its politician puppets to pass a regulation that requires, i.e., forces, customers to buy a corporation's product. Example: the new health care "reform" bill where everyone will be forced to pay a big insurance company for its insurance whether we want to or not.

Mar. 21 2011 01:05 PM

gene from NYC:

From Orwell's "Collected Essays":

"My recent novel [Nineteen Eighty-Four] is NOT intended as an attack on Socialism or on the British Labour Party (of which I am a supporter), but as a show-up of the perversions . . . which have already been partly realized in Communism and Fascism. . . . The scene of the book is laid in Britain in order to emphasize that the English-speaking races are not innately better than anyone else, and that totalitarianism, if not fought against, could triumph anywhere."

"Big Brother" is the embodiment of this government.

Mar. 21 2011 01:04 PM
j.w. from connecticut

regarding fusion, Daniel wrote "The truth is it's always a certain amount of funding away". I couldn't say it better myself. I just wish that's how it would be reported in the press instead of 'x years away' - maybe then our government will do what I consider a moral imperative: spend the money to finally see once and for all if fusion really could be a silver bullet.

Also, at some of the other comments: its funny to me how many people just can't stand an optimist.

Mar. 21 2011 01:03 PM
gene from NYC

Mr. Kaku needs to re-read "1984." The eternal three-way war was amongst _mega-corporations_, which had subsumed any semblance of a (potentially regulating) government.

"Big Brother" was a corporation--not a normal government.

Mar. 21 2011 12:54 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

LOL @ all this nonsense, apparently Francis Fukuyama has now morphed into a theoretical physicist... Science has created prosperity, eh?

To paraphrase Derrida, there has never been so MANY people living in such a state of utter despair and poverty than there are alive today, all thanks to science and its far more important counterpart, technology.

Technology has and will continue to magnify our own nature, which is obviously, destructive, selfish and bellicose. Human civilization is just about played out - our genes are just not able to cope with the power we wield, this fool and his inane predictions are proof of how blind we have become. Scientists are just tools of the establishment, this man will not make the decisions about where to deploy these wonderful new technologies and will no doubt realize too late their potential for waging war.

Mar. 21 2011 12:43 PM
Elisabeth Rucell from Brooklyn

Hey Michio!
I love hearing you on WNYC, always think of you when I hear them say on Science Friday "the only science show on the airwaves" & I think NO, that's Explorations!
anyhow love to listen,
your favorite way back when,
Jr High teacher from Cunningham

Mar. 21 2011 12:42 PM
Ed from Larchmont

We'll just be lucky if we don't blow ourselves up in the next few decades.

Mar. 21 2011 12:41 PM
Ralph from Connecticut

Dr. Kaku's breathless optimism about the capabilities of future science is infectious but he does not mention the potential social or psychological impact on human beings. He assumes that a functioning democracy will somehow govern the application of the inventions. A truly functioning democracy may not exist. Powerful financial interests may own the science. Scientists tend to excuse themselves for the social consequences of their inventions leaving it to society to sort it all out. How about the side effects, or pollution, or toxic waste?

I see little to encourage me that the technology stemming from the science will actually lead to happier, more peaceful lives.

Mar. 21 2011 12:39 PM

What about the disappearance of helium?

Mar. 21 2011 12:37 PM
Ash in Chelsea

I'm still chuckling at Kaku's comment that "Our science education program is the worst program known to science." :-)

Mar. 21 2011 12:36 PM

There is strong evidence that many (not all) cancers are caused by rogue stem cells. These defective stem cells pump out cancer cells, so killing cancer cells is pointless. However, killing a few hundred rogue cancer causing stem cells eliminates cancer from the body. New drugs target these rogue stem cells, and it looks like a successful approach. Conversely, there is some valid scientific concern that stem cell therapies might trigger a few of them to produce cancers. No free lunch....

Mar. 21 2011 12:30 PM

None of these predictions are ever right. The closest contemporary exception is the sci-fi writer John Brunner. He wrote "Stand On Zanzibar" in 1968 that takes place in 2010 and, with some exceptions, resembles what's going on now.

He also wrote "The Shockwave Rider", which coined the term "worm" and predicted software that would create computer viruses.

Final pontification: all this stuff Dr. Kaku speaks of requires a lot of energy. We are a long, long way off from controlled, cheap fusion power. And we are running out of fossil fuels. Will we be able to afford these medical breakthroughs given how we have no national health care (and probably won't thanks to the GOP/Tea Party)? And I get the feeling that more personal information will be compiled in order to sell to and segregate the individual in the future.

And I will be (hopefully) wrong about all this just like everyone else. Enjoy your day.

Mar. 21 2011 12:30 PM

There is strong evidence that many (not all) cancers are caused by rogue stem cells. These defective stem cells pump out cancer cells, so killing cancer cells is pointless. However, killing a few hundred rogue cancer causing stem cells eliminates cancer from the body. New drugs target these rogue stem cells, and it looks like a successful approach. Conversely, there is some valid scientific concern that stem cell therapies might trigger a few of them to produce cancers. No free lunch....

Mar. 21 2011 12:29 PM
Opal S from NYC

The frequency and instensity of these unnatural disasters feel as though athe apocalypse is approaching and we will go the way of the dinosaurs.
I grew up (I'm an old person) in Brooklyn and I don't remember a tornado hitting us, ever.
It feels that we have gone overboard with technology and our demand for speed and convenience. We demand it.

Mar. 21 2011 12:29 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Embryonic stem cells have led to zero cures, adult stem cells have produces thousands of cures so far.

Mar. 21 2011 12:27 PM
Ed from Larchmont

There have been lots of healings of people using adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells have produced zero healings.

Mar. 21 2011 12:25 PM
Shawn Willis from Manhatan

Please ask Mr. Kaku about Thorium. I read in Wired Magazine that Thorium is a substitute to Uranium and a better choice because it can produce more energy while leaving a bi-product that can not be refined to weapons grade as well as has a much shorter radioactive life, saving the trouble of finding a solution to dealing with radioactive waste 100,000 years from now.

Mar. 21 2011 12:24 PM
Antonio from park slope

Can you ask Michio is he still producing "Explorations," his great science show on wbai etc...

Does he think that there will be an political uproar on that non-stem cell option he mentioned?

Mar. 21 2011 12:24 PM

Edward, it's a cliche joke (at least amongst physicists) that fusion is always 40 years away. The truth is it's always a certain amount of funding away, and we've never dedicated the proper amount of funding to it.

I'd like to know what Mr Kaku thinks about the proposed deep cuts to the DOE and its effect on his vision of the future.

Mar. 21 2011 12:23 PM

Leonard, the facemasks worn by people to ward off the effects of radiation are actually more valuable than the lead vest I'm guessing you'd prefer. Yes, when very near to the source of radiation, protecting the skin (and therefore the body) from the radiation itself is wise. But regardless of distance to the radiating source, the really important action is to prevent the inhalation (or ingestion or imbibing) of radioactive materials, which are being expelled into the air by the burning radioactive material.

Mar. 21 2011 12:21 PM
Smokey from LES

Don't you think it would be prudent to move quickly to replace all our old reactors with 3 and 4 generation versions that can't melt down? Solar and wind are just not 24/7 sources and it's too long to wait for fusion.

Mar. 21 2011 12:19 PM
Edward from NJ

It seems like fusion is always "20 to 30 years away".

Mar. 21 2011 12:13 PM

Can you ask Michio - skaters wonder why we don't see you any more at Rockefeller?

Mar. 21 2011 12:12 PM

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