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Dr. Michio Kaku on “Physics of the Future: How Science Will Change Daily Life by 2100”

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Dr. Michio Kaku, a Japanese American theoretical physicist and bestselling author, joins us to talk about his new book, Physics of the Future: How Science Will Change Daily Life by 2100. Kaku outlines a future in which cars will be driven by computers, the aging process will be frozen, and the internet will be surfed in contact lenses. “You’ll blink, and when you see people, biographies of that person will emerge in your contact lens, so you’ll know exactly who you’re talking to. Remember the movie Terminator, when Arnold Schwarzenegger would zero in on an object and identify the person, a biography would appear? We’re going to have that capability. And also, your contact lens will translate what they say, from Chinese or German into English, as you talk to them. So you’ll know always who you are talking to and what they are saying,” says Kaku. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We continue with Dr. Michio Kaku. His latest book is called Physics of the Future: How Science Will Change Daily Life by 2100. Dr. Kaku is a bestselling author. He is a physicist. He is a professor of theoretical physics at City College of New York.

OK, Dr. Kaku, describe a day in the life of the future.

DR. MICHIO KAKU: Well, as you mentioned, we’re going to have the internet in our contact lens, perhaps within 10 to 15 years. You’ll blink, and you’ll be able to see Democracy Now! You’ll blink, and when you see people, biographies of that person will emerge in your contact lens, so you’ll know exactly who you’re talking to.

AMY GOODMAN: No, but explain what you mean.

DR. MICHIO KAKU: Well, remember the movie Terminator, when Arnold Schwarzenegger would zero in on an object and identify the person, a biography would appear? We’re going to have that capability. And also, your contact lens will translate what they say, from Chinese or German into English, as you talk to them. So you’ll know always who you are talking to and what they are saying. And by blinking, you’ll be able to access the full power of the internet. And the first people who buy these contact lenses will be college studying for final examinations. They’ll simply blink, and they’ll see all the answers on their contact lens.

And when you get in a car, the car will pretty much drive itself. Google has already invested millions of dollars, within eight years, to perfect a car that uses GPS that pretty much drives itself. You’ll have a chauffeur inside your car, which is actually safer than a human being, because humans fall asleep, humans get drunk, humans get distracted. And so, these are —

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, a chauffeur?

DR. MICHIO KAKU: In the sense that you walk into a car — you get into a car, you simply tell the car where to go. The car then maps out the trajectory and figures out where the traffic jams are and takes you where you want to go.

AMY GOODMAN: What about other aspects of life in 2100?

DR. MICHIO KAKU: Well, look at medicine right now. In your bathroom, you will have more computer power than a modern hospital, so that your toilet will pick up proteins emitted from cancer colonies of maybe a hundred cancer cells 10 years before a tumor forms. The word “tumor” could disappear from the English language, simply because your bathroom will pick up proteins, enzymes, DNA fragments from cancer cells before they even form a tumor.

And then we’re going to have something called nanoparticles, which can actually zero in and kill individual cancer cells like smart bombs. So, instead of chemotherapy, in which case you vomit, you throw up, your hair falls out, instead of chemotherapy, we’ll be able to use nanoparticles, molecules that can zero in on cancer and kill them. And again, all prototypes of these hundreds of inventions that I mention in my book already exist. I’m not a science fiction writer. Every technology I write about has a prototype.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the extending of human life.

DR. MICHIO KAKU: It’s also possible that we can extend the human lifespan. Now, remember that we are 98.5 percent genetically identical to the chimpanzee, so only a handful of genes separate us from our nearest evolutionary neighbor. But we live twice as long. So, therefore, among a handful of genes are the genes that control the aging process in humans that have doubled our lifespan. And in the future, all of us will have a CD-ROM with all of our genes on it. It’ll cost about a hundred dollars. We’ll be able to scan the genes of old people by the millions, scan the genes of young people by the millions, and subtract. And when you subtract the genes of old people from young people, bingo, you have the genes that control the aging process. We’ve already found 60 genes that control human aging. So it’s conceivable now that maybe our grandkids will have the ability to reach the age of 30, and then they’ll simply stop. They’ll simply decide that, “Hey, I like being 30,” and they’ll cruise at age 30 for several decades.

AMY GOODMAN: What about, Dr. Kaku, jobs and the economy in the future?

DR. MICHIO KAKU: Well, if you take a look at the world economy, you realize that capitalism itself, as told to me by the 300 scientists that I’ve interviewed, capitalism is making the transition from commodity-based capital to intellectual capital. Tony Blair liked to say that England derives more revenue from rock music than it does from the coal mining industry. So, commodities can be mass-produced. Food, for example, gets cheaper every year. This morning you had breakfast that the King of England could not have had a hundred years ago. But it’s intellectual capital, creativity — movies, books, television programs, software, science, leadership, creativity — these are things that cannot be done by robots, cannot be done by machines. And they will be prized commodities of the future, intellectual commodities rather than material commodities.

AMY GOODMAN: So what will jobs look like?

DR. MICHIO KAKU: Well, if you take a look at jobs, blue-collar jobs, we think, will be all be wiped out by robots, right? Wrong. Robots cannot identify things other than repetitive tasks, so that gardeners, construction workers, police, they will all have jobs, because every construction site is different, every plant is different, every crime is different. The blue-collar jobs that will be wiped out are repetitive jobs — for example, automobile workers, textile workers — repetitive jobs.

And then, among the middle class, the group that will suffer the most in the future are jobs that involve middle men, low-level agents, brokers, tellers, jobs that are — involve inventory, bean counting. These jobs will be wiped out in the future. So if you are, for example, an accountant, or let’s say you’re a stockbroker, you know that people can buy stocks on the internet right now without a stockbroker. So stockbrokers provide now experience, analysis, teamwork. They have a whole staff of analysts analyzing the stock market. That’s how stockbrokers will operate in the future, by giving intellectual capital, because we’ll be able to simply buy stocks on the internet, but advice, intellectual capital, will be prized.

AMY GOODMAN: Where will wealth come from? What countries will thrive? What countries won’t?

DR. MICHIO KAKU: If you simply take a map of the world and ask, “Which countries are investing only in commodity capital?” those countries will be poor in the future, because every year commodities get cheaper and cheaper and cheaper. Now, China, for example, understands that. They’re using cheap labor, commodities, to leverage intellectual capital. They’re sending their finest scientists to the United States, where I see them. Fifty percent of Ph.D. students of the United States are foreign-born, many of them Chinese. So the Chinese are making this transition from commodity capital to intellectual capital. But how many countries are doing that? You begin to realize that a lot of countries are staking everything on food, everything on agriculture. And yet, food gets cheaper every year. And so, it means that a lot of countries will be doomed to poverty if they simply maintain the fact that commodities is their source of wealth.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back very quickly to the contact lens. How does it actually work, when you say it has all this information, in the eye? How does it connect to the brain?

DR. MICHIO KAKU: Here’s how it works. The contact lens itself is nothing but a screen. The screen, in turn, is connected by radio to a handheld device. And so, you can then move the cursor on the screen by simply moving your fingers. Eventually you’ll have a direct contact with the brain itself. We’ve already done this. It’s possible that the brain could then move the cursor on your contact lens. But then the contact lens is just a screen. The actual software itself, the programming, is done outside.

AMY GOODMAN: Who gets these? And this always comes back to the question of whether we’re talking the digital divide, we’re talking about the wealth divide in this country and around the world.


AMY GOODMAN: Who will have access, and who won’t?

DR. MICHIO KAKU: The problem is not necessarily access, because computer power gets cheaper every year. We used to think that only rich people will have access to laptops. Well, now, you know, high school kids, elementary school kids are online. The problem is not access. The problem is jobs, because jobs will require training for the new economy, which is less and less involved with the mass production of commodities and more and more involved with the creation of intellectual capital, the capital of the mind. Now, the brain cannot be mass-produced, while you can mass produce food. Food gets cheaper every year. You have better containerization, better competition, shipping. Food gets cheaper every year. But the mind cannot be mass-produced. So therefore, we have to have a new educational policy to educate our people so that they’re prepared for this new economy, an economy based on creativity, imagination, rather than commodities.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to end on energy policy. Where is it in the future?

DR. MICHIO KAKU: Well, fossil fuels are going up in price every year on average, while solar hydrogen is twice as expensive as fossil fuels but are coming down slowly. The two curves will intersect in about 10 years. At that point, we will have a sea change, when it’s economical for Wall Street to invest in solar panels, conservation, efficiency, hydrogen power. But right now, solar is about twice as expensive as ordinary fossil fuel technology.

AMY GOODMAN: Isn’t that simply because of the policies of the government not subsidizing solar and actually getting in the way of it?

DR. MICHIO KAKU: Nuclear is subsidized. The Price-Anderson Act is a subsidy for nuclear energy. The fuel cycle for nuclear power is the same as the fuel cycle for nuclear weapons. And we have to realize that solar does not get tax credits. Solar does not get a jumpstart from government funding. If you were to then create tax credits, make possible the mass production of solar, you could bring down the cost of solar so that you don’t have to wait 10 years. But 10 years’ time is roughly the framework for the free market to begin to reduce the cost of solar hydrogen. At that point, we could be hitting a renaissance whereby entrepreneurs will see that solar hydrogen is cheaper than fossil fuel technology.

AMY GOODMAN: Michio Kaku, I want to thank you for being with us. Congratulations on your work. Dr. Michio Kaku, his new book is called Physics of the Future: How Science Will Change Daily Life by 2100. Dr. Kaku is a physicist, bestselling author, professor of physics at the City University of New York.

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