Future watch: Want to fix a car? Consult your contact lenses

Michio Kaku is this generation’s Isaac Asimov. Like Asimov, Kaku is an accomplished scientist. He travels in elite circles of physicists, but he devotes a good part of his career to helping us non-scientists appreciate the principles and implications of scientific research.

His latest book, Physics of the Future, presents a generally optimistic view of how technology can unfold to our benefit over the next century. The book provides an overview of a number of topics, including:

  • Augmented reality. In just a couple of decades, Kaku predicts, information will come directly to our retinas through contact lenses or optical implants. In effect, the Internet will be in your contact lens, recognizing people’s faces and walking you through how to do everything from cooking a gourmet meal to performing emergency surgery.
  • Medicine: Sensors in your clothing, bathroom, and appliances – maybe even nanosensors flowing through your bloodstream – will monitor your vital signs, and nano-robots will scan your DNA and cells for signs of danger, allowing life expectancy to increase dramatically. Devices that share data over the Internet will be the size and cost of a blow dryer, so it will be easy to prescribe a care regimen.
  • Manufacturing: Programmed molecular assembly plants, powered by solar energy, will be able to make almost anything from raw materials. Material wealth will be widespread.
  • Space travel: Laser propulsion will make it possible to travel farther and more quickly than we can today in space. It’s possible that we could colonize other planets by making their climates more earth-like.

In writing his book, Kaku interviewed more than 300 other scientists, so his thoughts are informed by the work of many others.

In the book, Kaku tells about a conversation with a Princeton physicist from England, Freeman Dyson. In his generation, Dyson said, many of the best minds in Britain chose finance over science, and Britain lost its science and engineering base. Kaku notes that the same thing is happening in the U.S.

Kaku doesn’t seem overly concerned about how his vision of the future will affect job opportunities available to people. Maybe that’s a topic for another book? In any event, if you enjoy futurist literature, get your hands on this book. It’s definitely an interesting read.

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