What will the future look like?
It is a question that has plagued humanity for ages, and still does. With so many problems in the world, ranging from cancer to global warming, we wish that the future would bring solutions to our problems and our planet would be a paradise in which everyone were content and society functioned like a well-oiled machine.
Physics of the Future, by Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at City University of New York, takes a breathtaking look at what the world will look like by the year 2100, and answers questions that many of us, and I, have about our future.
Kaku analyzes several disciplines that play a key role in society today. He starts out with the future of computers and ends with a really fascinating look at what a day in the life of a person living in the year 2100 might be like. In every chapter except the last one he takes a technology or field and illustrates how it will progress and improve until 2100. He does this in increments, staring from present day to 2030, then 2030 to 2070, and finally 2070 to 2100. This method makes the book much more interesting because you see not only what it will be like in 2100, but how the technology or field got there.
You may ask how Kaku is so sure of his image of the world in 2100. All the technologies listed in this book already exist in prototype form, or are on the drawing board. This book is not just guesswork or dreams (or nightmares). It is a vision based on current science.
Another way to know that Kaku isn’t making stuff up is that he doesn’t think our futuristic world will be Utopic. Sure, it will be much better and advanced than our world today, but it will not be perfect. He says that global warming will overrun the planet and many coastal cities will be flooded, if not totally destroyed. He points to the frequent flooding in Bangladesh and Vietnam, “The worst situation is in Bangladesh, a country regularly flooded by storms even without global warming.” He also goes on to state that Vietnam’s land vulnerable to flooding contains half the rice grown in that country. Millions could be displaced or killed in both countries.
This book is a real eye opener not only to see what the future will be like, but to see what incredible technologies in use today. Although the information was really interesting, and it was really mind-boggling to see how technology in futuristic movies could become a possibility, the few too many references to movies such as Star Trek and Star Wars got old.
Another thing I enjoyed about this book was that Kaku didn’t just explain what 2100 would be like, but he tackled present-day problems and explained how things may or may not change. For example, cancer would not be cured, but we would be able to identify it earlier, and terminate it using nanotechnology. That really amazed me, knowing that there is a possibility cancer could only be as dangerous as the common cold.
I also enjoyed how he used the supreme might of the gods in mythology to illustrate how in 2100, technology could give us similar powers. “In powerful chariots, the gods of mythology roamed across the heavenly fields of Mount Olympus. On powerful Viking ships, the Norse gods sailed across the cosmic seas to Asgard. Similarly, by 2100, humanity will be on the brink of a new era of space exploration: reaching for the stars.”
Physics of the Future has changed my view of not only the future but also the past. Whenever I go outside, I see countless ways in which technology has improved in the past 100 years – ATM machines, the whole design and power of a car, phones, the widespread use of electricity, etc. As I do this, I realize that people in the year 1913 could not even dream about what the world would be like in hundred years. Similarly, I think that we will not be able to envision what the world will look like at the turn of the century.
All in all, this was a great book that I absolutely devoured. The concepts examined in this book made me really excited about the future, but somewhat weary too because along with the glitter of an advanced society, the world will still need to tackle challenges that are beyond our comprehension today.