If you’ve watched the Discovery Channel in the last decade, chances are you’ve seen Michio Kaku—his flowing white hair and ready knack for popularizing scientific concepts are memorable. Dr. Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at City University of New York, interviewed more than 300 of his scientific colleagues in an attempt to map out how coming technological advances will alter human society in the 21st century. The result is this book, Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives By the Year 2100.
Although Physics of the Future often reads like science fiction, it’s meant to be a wide-ranging future prediction, an amalgamation of the educated guesses of hundreds of scientists working on the bleeding edge of new technologies. Kaku and his colleagues speculate that computers will continue to shrink and eventually become ubiquitous; that artificial intelligence will exceed human intelligence, and that man and machine will likely merge; that medical advances will give us perfectly healthy, ageless bodies.
Other predictions: nanotechnology will create objects and materials now impossible to manufacture, and eventually make replication of anything a reality; we will gradually shift from electricity use to magnetism and other forms of power; swarms of tiny, cheap spaceships may help us colonize the solar system and beyond; human wisdom and decision-making will be valued most in future careers; and we will eventually move toward a planetary civilization.
Here Kaku is wearing his science popularizer hat; Physics of the Future is written at about a high school reading level, making it possible even for former humanities majors like myself to follow along. The biggest disadvantage to this style choice is the limitation in detail. There were several points in the text where I wanted more information, but getting into the meat of the matter would require a greater understanding of physics and other scientific disciplines than most casual readers are likely to possess. Thus reading this book is a bit like riding a jet ski over the Pacific—you get the sensation of barely skipping across the top of the waves, while a deep ocean of information lies beneath you, largely undisturbed.
There are also areas of prognostication where Kaku is likely out of his depth; some predictions dealing with the vagaries of human nature, and how we will deal with rapid technological changes, ring a little false to this reader. Overall, though, the concepts discussed in Physics of the Future are fascinating and suggest a future of health, prosperity, hope and a flowering of human society.
Release Date: May 1, 2011 (USA)
ISBN: 1846142687 (9781846142680)
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (references to future pharmaceuticals, brief recreational use of alcohol)
Violence: 1 (references to futuristic warfare)