Physics of the Future: The Inventions That Will Transform Our Lives Paperback – 1 Mar 2012
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Summons up the sheer wonder of science (Daily Telegraph)
A wide-ranging tour of what to expect from technological progress over the next century or so ... fascinating (Walll Street Journal)
Mind-bending ... fascinating ... engrossing (San Francisco Chronicle)
About the Author
Internationally acclaimed physicist Dr Michio Kaku holds the Henry Semat Chair in Theoretical Physics at the City University of New York. He is also an international bestselling author, his books including Hyperspace and Parallel Worlds, and a distinguished writer, having featured in Time, the Wall Street Journal, the Sunday Times and the New Scientist to name but a few. Dr Kaku also hosts his own radio show, 'Science Fantastic', and recently presented the BBC's popular series 'Time'.
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Having read some of Kaku's previous books there is some (or a lot depending on the chapter you are reading) repetition from these works but some of the other insights into the fields that aren't directly related to his own (all things quantum), are interesting and presented in a readable way.
The book should be seen as an overview of the various things happening now and what might develop from these in the future (The book is only 350+ pages long - so don't expect depth, as each area could easily fill a comparable book in size).
Like pointed out in another review I think Kaku is holding back a bit in this book (perceived target audience?!?), as there are areas where you can sense Kaku's interest and desire to go into more detail, before all of a sudden the section finishes. But hey, thats what the notes at the end of the book are for so that you can read related books about the areas that interest you.
What comes out at the end is Kaku's optimisim about humanity and the trends/techs that will get us there. Indeed what he sees as the trend is many peoples nightmare (increasing globalism - a global approach to the social, political and economic spheres of life).
The chapters are divided into examining the future of the computer, artificial intelligence, medicine, nanotechnology, energy, space travel and wealth. Each chapter is scoped to anticipate developments in the near future (i.e. to 2030), the intermediate (2030 to 2070) and the far future (2070 to 2100). By the end of the century he envisages unlimited information, accessed without having to log on to a computer, a plethora of robots undertaking all manner of tasks, automatic cars that can float on superconductors, fusion power, microscopic robots that can kill cancer. Even the ageing process may be slowed or conquered altogether. Unlike Star Trek though, humanity will remain Earth bound. Tiny robot probes may be sent to survey the local region of our galaxy instead.
Some innovations are beginning to take shape now. Human organs have been grown in a laboratory. After many false starts and high profile hoaxes, prototype fusion reactors have been developed. The book concludes with a day in the life survey of an inhabitant of New York on 1 Jan 2100. He is 71 years old but looks 30. He has had new organs grown from scratch after suffering a serious skiing accident and drives automatic cars that levitate above the ground and takes a trip up a space elevator.
If this all sounds too fantastical, and sounds like an example of moon-eyed technology worship, then rest assured. Kaku is aware that science is a double-edged sword. The ethical and social implications of various developments are considered. He is sceptical for instance that we can ever build a robot that is fully conscious. What even the most sophisticated report lacks is an ability to learn. In this respect, a cockroach is smarter than any robot. But robots can and will be developed to enable them to do highly complex, specialized tasks, in the home and in the workplace. However, the further into the future Kaku peers, the more speculative his predictions become.
But on what basis does he make such predictions anyway? From talking to over 300 experts in their various fields. So although this book is speculation, it is well-informed and interesting speculation.
The drawback in that inevitably in a book covering so many fields is that the coverage of the different topics can be superficial. This is no surprise. Given that the author spoke to over 300 experts, he had to make choices to compress his material down to manageable dimensions and make the content comprehensible to a lay audience, too. Neither is he an accomplished stylist on scale of Carl Sagan. Having said that, I think that he still does an admirable job of outlining the sorts of innovations we can expect to see over the next decades in language intelligible to those who do not have a background in science.
This is not an inspirational book but it is an interesting one. For those of you who are curious as to what the future might hold (who isn't?) then the book is worth a read.
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