A few months ago I read a book called
Physics of the Future by scientist and author
Michio Kaku. It was very interesting and made me understand some of the advances
and developments in technology thanks to physics and some of what we might be able
to expect in the future.
The first thing Kaku writes about is the future of the computer. He says that
computers will become very small and very cheap thanks to nanotechnology, and therefore
miniature screens will be ubiquitous. Therefore, our walls and clothing will have
little chips that can change colour and image upon command. This could be very
convenient in a lot of ways. Robots will also be able to do more, from driving
cars to fighting in wars…
Despite this ominous warning, however, he does not predict that robots will take
over the world. While computers are able to do a number of complex functions, they
are still incapable of any sort of consciousness which science fiction writers
imagine. He tracks the history of how we have imagined the future of robots and concludes
that while computers have improved in many different ways, they still are not able
to produce thoughts or conclusions that they have not already been programmed to do.
Therefore, he says that even in 100 years people will still be wondering if artificial
intelligence is possible.
In the chapter “The Future of Medicine” he says what I thought were some of the most
striking and surprising things. In a few decades scientists are said to be able to
reprogram the body’s genes so that the aging process can be reversed or halted. This will
be able to dramatically extend our lifespans. At the end of the book where he imagines
what this future will look like there are people who are seventy or eighty years old
but appear to be in their twenties or thirties. I find this both encouraging and a
bit disturbing, but it will be hard to resist such technology if it becomes available.
Expanding on this idea, he writes more about nanotechnology and the contribution
it will make to medicine. He predicts that cancer will be able to be dealt with much
more efficiently thanks to devices that can enter the bloodstream and eliminate the cancer
cells. However, he says that we will continue to suffer from the common cold and flu
as it is a virus that is continually mutating.
From 2005 to 2006 I lived in Shanghai, China, and the first thing I did when I arrived
was take the Maglev magnetic train from the airport into the city. I was very impressed by
this train that could go as fast as an airplane and did not require any oil. For years I’ve
wondered why such a train was not more popular. Kaku explains this: it requires a complicated
sort of cold fusion that is very costly to produce and operate. However, he predicts that
eventually the scientists behind this project will be able to produce it more cheaply and
therefore it will become more widespread. He also predicts that solar energy will take the
place of oil, so it might be a good idea to reconsider any oil stocks…
With the rise of nanotechnology, space exploration will be increasingly affordable
and cheap, and he says that it is possible that we could put lasers on the moon.
However, this is pretty difficult to predict I think, as who knows what we’re going
Overall I found the book very interesting and entertaining. It’s a very optimistic
look that doesn’t really take into account any potential wars or conflicts that appear
likely to happen; it’s much more of a scientist’s view than a historian’s. However,
with so many negative things in the news about what the world is becoming, it was good
to read about some things we might be able to look forward to. So it makes me excited
for the future and to be entering into the world of technology as well.