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Is this sci fi - or the near future?

Michio Kaku, author of "Physics of the Future," describes a planetary civilization in which the next generation will lead "the lives of the gods."

By Nora Dunne / April 18, 2011

Physics of the Future By Michio Kaku Knopf Doubleday 389 pp


In 1863 French novelist Jules Verne wrote “Paris in the Twentieth Century,” a remarkably prophetic piece of literature about the city in 1960. Verne envisioned glass skyscrapers, gasoline-powered cars, fax machines, and a communications network much like the Internet. Acclaimed physicist and author Michio Kaku has set himself the same bar for accuracy in his latest book, Physics of the Future.

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Though he acknowledges that “predictions will always be flawed,” Kaku asserts his book is the most authoritative attempt to describe our coming century. I spoke with Kaku about the future of technology, humanity, and why we should believe him.

Q. How is “Physics of the Future” different from your 2008 bestseller “Physics of the Impossible”?

“Physics of the Impossible” goes thousands of years into the future, when time travel, wormholes, and dimensional gateways may be a possibility. This new book is much more ambitious. We’re talking about the next 50 to 100 years. I asked 300 of the world’s top scientists very concrete questions: Who will have jobs in the future? How long will we live? How will we communicate by computers? What about robots?

Q. Moore’s law states that computer power doubles about every 18 months. How has this rule of thumb driven your predictions?

For the next 10 years or so, Moore’s law will hold. After that it will sputter and eventually collapse. But it does mean that we can get a pretty good handle on how much computer power will be available and what we can do with it. For example, by 2020 computer chips will be distributed by the billions into the environment, including into our contact lenses. You’ll blink and be online. Your contact lens will recognize people’s faces, print out their biography, and give you subtitles as they speak Chinese or German or what have you. The military, of course, is pioneering this technology. They have a version of this now. I’ve tried it. Through a little eyepiece I saw an entire battlefield, with the positions of friendly troops, enemy troops, and tactics all marked.

Our grandkids will lead the lives of the gods of mythology. Zeus could think and move objects around. We’ll have that power. Venus had a perfect, timeless body. We’ll have that, too. Pegasus was a flying horse. We’ll be able to modify life in the future.

Q. How will humans move objects with their minds by 2100?

Already we can put a chip in people’s brains, hook that chip to a laptop, and allow paralyzed people to surf the Web, write e-mails, and do crossword puzzles.

There’s even a toy. A helmet picks up radio from your mind, and it moves objects around. The difference between my book and science fiction is that everything in my book has a prototype. I’m not making anything up.


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