Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thinking About the Future from the Future

We were just in Tokyo, Japan a few weeks ago. I would normally put this one on my travel blog, but this is more about just an interesting article than my experiences traveling. Yes, I'm in the future, about 12 hours ahead of Nova Scotia. On the plane to Narita, I was reading a really interesting article in the in-flight magazine "Skyward" about Michio Kaku, a leading Japanese string field physics theorist. Basically, the universe is not made of particles, but one-dimensional vibrating string-like things. He recently had an interview with the BBC about how our world will change over the next 50 years. Here are some of the more interesting things he had to say:

on Star Wars: "So if you look at advance physics, physics of the future, you begin to realize we will have invisibility, teleportation, starships, maybe warp drive, maybe time machines."

"..we will have something like an invisibility cloak in a few decades."

on the future of cultures: "Well, there are two competing trends in the world today. The first trend is toward Type 1 civilization, with planetary language, energy, economy, and culture. Type 2 is stellar, and Type 3 is galactic. We are currently Type 0, not even on the scale, but we're about 100 years from being Type 1. That will perhaps be the greatest transition in the history of the human race. But the second trend is toward chaos, toward fundamentalism. Take, for example, terrorism. Terrorism is a knee-jerk reaction to Type 1. Terrorists cannot articulate what is happening, but in their guy they don't like it. They know that the future is multi-cultural, that it's planetary, that it's scientific and progressive, and they don't like any of those things. They aren't modern, they're premodern. This trend edges towards proliferation of nuclear weapons, terrorism, germ warfare, global warming and chaos. The other trend is toward Type 1."

on technology development: "First of all, computer power doubles every 18 months. Your cell phone has more computer power than all of NASA had when we put two men on the moon in 1969. The chip that sings "Happy Birthday" has more computing power than all the Allied forces in 1945. Churchill, Eisenhower and Hitler would have killed to get that chip. And what do we do? We throw it away. In the future, you will access the Internet through your contact lens. It will be able to recognize people and places and give subtitles to what things are and where you're going. In the future, we'll have a human body shop: we'll be able to grow every organ in the body except the brain. You'll even have a credit card that will act as an owner's manual for your own body. It will go down to about $100. Your car will drive itself with GPS and radar. We'll also have screens the size of your wall at home that enable you to celebrate Christmas with all your family despite them being not there. Holographic doctors will be able to answer 95 percent of all medical questions correctly. In the event of an accident, your clothes will locate your body, call an ambulance and upload your entire medical history - all while you're unconscious. You'll go to the bathroom, and that will be your medical exam. It will be able to analyze proteins from cancer colonies a decade before they form a tumor. The word 'tumor' will disappear from the English language."

Some cool stuff that seems like it's only in the movies, but if this smart guy is talking about it, it's interesting to think how things will change.


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