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As an author, Michio Kaku is like Walt Disney with a Ph.D., patiently leading his charges from one amazing place to the next; Kaku’s Disneyland is the future. To paraphrase from the old Disney television show theme: The world is a carousel of wonder. Kaku — eminent scientist and professor, co-author of string field theory — possesses that same sense of awe and joy of discovery that made Disney such an icon.
While Disney recruited the best and the brightest to help him forge entertainment using science, “Physics of the Future” uses entertainment to explain science. The ideas expounded upon can be daunting for the layman, but Kaku’s gift is his unerring ability to render the obtuse concrete. There may be a reader to two who may complain that the material is somehow “dumbed down,” but I would argue that those readers have likely researched the subject matter thoroughly already. Besides, there is a vast difference between diluting the material for the easily distracted, and presenting a topic succinctly and clearly; Kaku does the latter.
We begin our journey with the story of the computer, the existence of which was the stuff of fantasy at the turn of the 20th century. The computer as we know it today, in fact, was virtually unthinkable even half a century ago. Moore’s law states that computer power doubles roughly every 18 months. As chips and their attendant uses become less and less expensive, they begin to appear in more and more places; so many places, and in such numbers, that we cease to realize they are even there. The author quotes novelist Max Frisch: “Technology [is] the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it.” As such, computer technology will continue to blend seamlessly into the fabric of our lives; the predicted future of eyeglasses and contact lenses is astonishing, and gets more so as each iteration begets further advances.
The chapter on artificial intelligence does an admirable job explaining intelligence and consciousness as it relates to constructs: If you’ve seen too many Hollywood movies and expect your toaster to one day rear back and demand respect, you will find many of your worries eased.