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Physics of the Future

How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100

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Physics of the Future

The cover of the book Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku

Doubleday
In this book, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku uses insights gained from interviews with more than 300 top scientists from around the world to extrapolate the scientific and technological discoveries that will define the next century of human civilization.

The Book's Style

As with most of Kaku's books, the writing style is very accessible. Though he's discussing some of the most advanced scientific and technological discoveries of our time, the real cutting edge of our current knowledge, he makes this all extremely accessible to readers, including those who don't have any formal scientific background.

Kaku lays the book out in 8 chapters built around general scientific themes (discussed below in more detail). He begins by outlining the current state of the field, including current innovations, before advancing into the realm of prediction. He splits his predictions up into three different timeframes within each chapter:

  • Near Future (Present to 2030)
  • Midcentury (2030 to 2070)
  • Far Future (2070 to 2100)

This approach works well, given the subject matter. Many books of this type are very general and, though Kaku makes no bones about the idea that his predictions may be off, by pegging them within a general timeframe, he's making them seem extremely concrete. By comparison, his previous book Physics of the Impossible dealt with much more esoteric concepts, like teleportation and time travel, for which there isn't really any prospect on the visible horizon of science. This time he stays focused on predictions that our current understanding of science really do indicate should be achievable goals.

After covering the bulk of the science, Kaku concludes with a ninth chapter entitled "A Day in the Life of 2100," in which he pulls all of these ideas together to create a hypothetical narrative of what life would be like at the turn of the next century. The book also has several pages of notes, a recommended reading list, and an index.

The Book's Science

A photograph of Dr. Michio Kaku.

Doubleday
Kaku splits his book up into 8 chapters covering major thematic areas of science and technology where he anticipates significant change within the next century. Here's his breakdown, along with a non-exhaustive list of some concepts addressed within each chapter:
  1. Future of the Computer
    • Near Future: Internet Glasses, Driverless Cars, Flexible Electronic Paper, Virtual Worlds
    • Midcentury: Augmented Reality, Universal Translators, Holograms & 3-D
    • Far Future: Direct Mind-Computer Interface, Tricorders
  2. Future of AI (Artificial Intelligence)
    • Near Future: Expert Systems
    • Midcentury: Modular Robots, Robot Surgeons & Cooks, Emotional Robots, Modeling the Brain
    • Far Future: Conscious Machines, Cybernetics
  3. Future of Medicine
    • Near Future: Genomic Medicine, Medical Scanners, Stem Cells,
    • Midcentury: Gene Therapy, Designer Children
    • Far Future: Reversing Aging, Immortality, Bringing Back Dinosaurs & Neanderthals, Germ Warfare
  4. Nanotechnology
    • Near Future: Nanomachines in Our Body, Carbon Nanotubes (like graphene), Atomic Transistors, Quantum Computers
    • Midcentury: Shape-Shifting
    • Far Future: Replicators
  5. Future of Energy
    • Near Future: Solar/Hydrogen Economy, Nuclear Fission
    • Midcentury: Global Warming, Nuclear Fusion Power
    • Far Future: Age of Magnetism, Magnetic Trains & Cars, Energy from the Sky
  6. Future of Space Travel
    • Near Future: Landing on an Asteroid, Landing on a Moon of Mars, Return to the Moon, Permanent Moon Base
    • Midcentury: Mission to Mars, Space Tourism
    • Far Future: Space Elevator, Starships, Nanoships
  7. Future of Wealth
    This chapter is a bit less specific than the previous ones, focusing largely on how the various other chapters will impact our idea of wealth.
    • Near Future: Four Stages of Technology
    • Midcentury: Future of Entertainment, The Matrix
    • Far Future: Commodity Capitalism to Intellectual Capitalism
  8. Future of Humanity
    In this chapter, Kaku again is looking at high-level impact of technologies. He discusses general trends about how the scientific discoveries in the other chapters will impact humanity.

The Book's Quotes

... I began to realize that although Flash [Gordon] got all the accolades, it was the scientist Dr. Zarkov who actually made the series work. He invented the rocket shop, the invisibility shield, the power source for the city in the sky, etc. Without the scientist, there is no future. the handsome and the beautiful may earn the admiration of society, but all the wondrous inventions of the future are a by-product of the unsung, anonymous scientists.

The key to understanding the future is to grasp the fundamental laws of nature and then apply them to the inventions, machines, and therapies that will redefine our civilization far into the future.

The scientists, the insiders who are actually creating the future in their laboratories, are too busy making breakthroughs to have time to write books about the future for the public.

Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, said in 1943, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

In the future, we will make the transition from being passive observers of the dance of nature, to being the chroeographers of nature, to being masters of nature, and finally to being conservators of nature. So let us hope that we can wield the sword of science with wisdom and equanimity, taming the barbarism of our ancient past.

The Book's Editions

This review is based on the original hardcover edition of the book, published in March 2011. That edition of the book was 389 pages with a cover price of $28.95 in U.S. currency.

There is now a paperback edition as well. There is also an audiobook edition of the book.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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