Amanda Gates

Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100


Editor's Note: A couple of months ago my super-smart husband wrote a review of Physics of the Impossible, a book that I would never pick up, yet he makes sound so interesting. Well, here he follows up with one of author Michio Kaku's other books, Physics of the Future. It's CRAZY to see where we're headed - and some of us will still be here to see it!

Imagine for a moment that you woke up in the year 2100. What would the world look like? What would be different around you? What would be the same? These are the questions that Michio Kaku attempts to answer in his latest work Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100.

Consider a work completed in 1863 by Jules Verne that had been locked away for nearly 130 years until found in 1994. The work, Paris in the Twentieth Century, predicted that “Paris in 1960 would have glass skyscrapers, air conditioning, TV, elevators, high-speed trains, gasoline-powered automobiles, fax machines, and even something resembling the Internet.” Again in 1865 he wrote From the Earth to the Moon,” where he predicted the U.S. moon landings. He even predicted the size of the space capsule within a very few percent, and the location of potential launch sites not far from Cape Canaveral in addition to the number of astronauts, the length of the mission, weightlessness, and splashdown in the ocean. Similarly Leonardo da Vinci drew diagrams of helicopters, hang gliders, and airplanes that would have flown had he had a 1-horsepower motor – all in the late 1400s. How can these predictions be made? By consulting the scientists of their time to see what is on the edge of possible.

In this book, Kaku describes life over the next 90 or so years in terms of science that is being born today in labs around the world. This isn’t the stuff of science fiction. It is the beginning of science fact. Many of the technologies are on the fast track to reality with working prototypes in labs today. So what will the world look like? Kaku separates chapters by technology group, and into three time-spans: now through 2030, 2030 through 2070, and 2070 through 2100. I had a difficult time pulling highlights for the book, but here is what I’m excited about:

Present – 2030:

How about having the internet on your glasses or contact lenses? Computer screens might be gone by 2030 with internet images being beamed directly into your retina. You could read your e-mail while on the way to work in your driverless car. If internet contacts aren’t OK with you then you can interact with the internet via your four wall screens, or flexible electronic paper. This is how you will interact with your doctor, who will use miniature MRI machines to scan your body as well as DNA sensors in your mirrors, toilet, etc. The doctor will tell you to go to a human doctor if need be. Oh, and did I mention that your doctor will be a computer program in that wall screen? But you will barely be able to tell. If you need to see a doctor he/she will be able to cure many of your diseases via early stages of gene therapy. We won’t cure cancer, but helping to repair the P53 gene will rid your body of cancer cells, perhaps decades before a tumor develops.

2030 – 2070

By midcentury Moore’s law will break down (this law states that computer speeds/computation power doubles about every 18 months or so – this has held true for decades). The reason: we can’t make transistors out of individual atoms. However new computing technologies will be developed to replace silicon. Quantum computers, DNA computers, etc., may take their place. Oh, and those internet contacts/glasses will supplement reality with augmented reality. You’ll never forget the name of a coworker again. Your glasses will give you a profile of who you’re looking at. Those same glasses will inform consumers of the best prices of any item in a grocery store at any other store, driving prices of things down. They may also become universal translators, allowing people of any languages to communicate with each other.

What about killer robots? Not by 2050. We may have reverse-engineered the brain by then, but won’t be able to program something that complex into a robot. There will be a huge number of specialized robots, but they won’t feel or be aware.

What about our energy needs? By 2050 we may have commercial fusion power plants. The plants in fact generate more energy than they consume. This means essentially endless electricity with a tiny fraction of the waste or pollution of today’s reactors.

2070 – 2100

Would you like to control matter with your mind? It may be a possibility by 2100.

Robots may become conscious by this time. However we’ll likely have put in place many safeguards to avoid a Hollywood movie scenario from developing. They’ll help us do everything we need done but don’t want to do. Additionally, we’ll begin to merge with robots in terms of prosthetics. Remember Luke Skywalker’s new hand? That will be possible by 2100.What about medicine in 2100? Well, we’ll have identified and likely be able to turn of the genes responsible for aging. Additionally, if you need a new organ for whatever reason, a new one will be grown for you in a lab from your own cells. What does this mean? It means that there is a very real possibility that there may only be a few more generations to die (save for accidents). Kaku addresses overpopulation issues with immortality, which I’ll leave out here. Do you want to live forever?

Other highlights of 2100 include: floating cars and trains that use nearly no fuel due to magnetism; terra-forming Mars; using all of the energy that hits the earth from our star. We’ll also likely know if we’re alone in the universe. We won’t be able to communicate with other civilizations on other planets, but we’ll know they’re there.

Type I Civilization

By 2100 we will have become a type I civilization, where all of our resources will be developed. Think Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon. We will have planetary communications (the Internet is the birth of this), a handful of primary languages (English and Chinese), a planetary economy (signs of which are emerging with the EU), a planetary middle class, a planetary culture, planetary news and sports, and the weakening of national borders. The key to the future will be wisdom.

There’s so much in this book to discuss, ponder, and dream about. Kaku believes that the next 90 years will define humanity. Growing pains will abound in humanity’s quest to become global and push on. Kaku describes humanity as still having the savagery that we had when we left the caves. We are trying to shed that and become more. It will be up to the next three generations to get us there. If we do not solve the problems we have today, we may be headed for collapse. Kaku provides a glimpse into what we may look like in 90 years. His book is rooted in science happening today, but is very easy to read whether you have a scientific background or not. His book is thought-provoking and intelligent. Nearly every page had me saying “wow” to myself. His mixture of past, present and future is brilliant.

We should be able to solve our problems with how much brain power we have today. Consider: of all of the people who have EVER lived, 6% of them are alive RIGHT NOW.


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