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."
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Q. In this future world of disposable computer chips and Internet-projecting contact lenses, how will we ever disconnect? Do you find it at all unsettling?Skip to next paragraph
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We’ll always have the off switch. There were a lot of people who denounced the telephone. They said that we wouldn’t talk in person anymore, that we’d just talk to voices in the air. But we love it. In the future we’ll be able to mentally contact anybody we want, see whatever image we want. And when we don’t like it, we’ll just turn it off.
Q. How are these new technologies going to affect us as a world society?
The nature of the planet is changing. We’re becoming a planetary civilization, which we physicists call a Type I civilization. The Internet is the beginning of a Type I telephone. The European Union is the beginning of a Type I economy. English will be the Type I language. The Olympics is a Type I sport. Rock ’n’ roll is the beginning of a Type I youth culture. But we’re Type 0 right now. But by 2100 we should make the transition.
Q. What future technology do you wish we had in everyday life now?
When I was a kid I knew that I would never live forever. Longevity and youth used to be considered a mystery by scientists. No longer. There is reproducible, testable, falsifiable evidence in this direction. Aging is the buildup of error, error in our genes. We’re finding the genes that control these
errors. This is what scientists are talking about now. Of course we don’t have it yet – I don’t want to get people’s hopes up. But our grandkids may have the option of playing with their life span.
Q. Do we have to worry about robots taking over human jobs in the future?
Right now robots have the intelligence of a cockroach. But eventually they’ll be as smart as a cat or dog or monkey. I figure it’s around 2100 when we’ll have to put chips in all of our robots to make sure they don’t rebel. But there are things that robots cannot do. Robots don’t have common sense. They don’t know that water is wet, or that strings pull, not push. We can program these rules, but how many rules of common sense are there? Hundreds of millions of tiny, obvious rules.
The job market of the future will consist of those jobs that robots cannot perform. Our blue-collar work is pattern recognition, making sense of what you see. Gardeners will still have jobs because every garden is different. The same goes for construction workers.
The losers are white-collar workers, low-level accountants, brokers, and agents. Already when you book a flight, do you really talk to anybody? No. People involved in software, ideas, human values, leadership, and creativity will still have jobs in the future.
Nora Dunne is a Monitor contributor.