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Dr. Michio Kaku

Dr. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist, professor at City College of New York, famed futurist, bestselling author and is a TV personality appearing in numerous science programs. He has interviewed over 300 scientists who are at the forefront of new discoveries, including several Nobel prize winners and his book, ‘Physics of the Future’ is a compilation of his outlook on the decades to come in the 21st century, based on these interviews. Quoting from his book, we would like to introduce his view of the future.

Portrait of Dr. Michio Kaku

Augmented reality and virtual reality will change education and society

Among the many technologies expected to be realized in the near future, Kaku places particular interest on the ‘Internet contact lens’, which will allow us to wirelessly access and manipulate the Internet merely by blinking. “In the future, students taking a final exam will be able to silently scan the Internet for their answers to the questions which would pose an obvious problem for teachers who often rely on rote memorization." Thus, educators will be forced to place greater emphasis on teaching better ways to think and reason rather than memorization. He says by then virtual reality (VR) – already a mainstay in video games – will also become essential in education. “That’s because it will lure students to freely visit unreal worlds. And there, ‘haptic technology’ will allow them to touch virtual objects.”

And further on in the century will be the world of ‘augmented reality’ (AR) which integrates VR with true reality. For example, a tourist visiting an ancient Roman ruin wearing an Internet contact lens will not only be guided virtually, but will also be able to gaze on ancient ruins resurrected as they were in their glory days.

3D audio-visual system using a ‘lenticular lens’ – composed of a glass sheet with countless vertically grooved lenses – and ‘hologram’ technology will play an active part. Hologram is a 3D technology which allows a person to see things as if they were in front of them. However, various issues still plague the further development of hologram 3D images such as the need for vast amounts of data, and hands hitting the screen when trying to reach a 3D image on a flat screen. “One possibility is a screen shaped like a cylinder or dome in which you sit inside of. When the holographic image is flashed onto the screen, we see the 3D images surrounding us, as if they were really there.”

The future of ever-evolving AI and its direct connection to the human brain

So, what can we anticipate from the further progress of artificial intelligence (AI)? In the not-so-distant future, AI robots may become surgeons, chefs or even musicians. Already, da Vinci Surgical System – a surgical support robot developed in the USA, which can insert an endoscope camera and robotic arms from a small 1 to 2cm hole to enable advanced intra-abdominal surgery – has been sold as a clinical instrument since 1999. The surgeon performs the operation by controlling the robotic arms from a console in the same way as with his or her hands while looking at a 3D monitor. “In the future, more advanced versions will be able to perform surgery on microscopic blood vessels, nerve fibers and tissues, which is impossible with robots today.” says Kaku.

News of a fully automated ramen(noodle)-making robot in Japan had attracted the public back in 1999. Kaku predicts that more advanced robot chefs, which can prepare a wide variety of dishes from a memory full of menus and recipes, is likely to appear soon.

And as robots continue to evolve, they will inherit human intellectual capital, such as knowledge, experience and leadership, via “Brain Net”. A computer directly connected to the brain, will allow a person to play video games, read and write emails, and grab things with robotic arms merely by thinking. Thus, a future in which people who are totally paralyzed due to stroke and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients can control their daily lives on their own may be on the horizon.

Source: NHK version of Physics of the Future

Intellectual capitalism is the key to a perfect market economy

Michio Kaku also envisions the arrival of a perfect economy and society, particularly in terms of ‘wealth’.

Technological progress has continually impacted capitalism in powerful ways. Capitalism, according to Adam Smith, is based on supply and demand, in which prices are determined when the supply of a product matches the demand. However, as consumers and retailers do not have a complete understanding of the supply and demand of products, prices will vary greatly according to location. In other words, current capitalism is still imperfect. Kaku says what’s demanded today is something called ‘perfect capitalism’, – a market economy in which producers and consumers will have infinite knowledge of the market, so that prices are perfectly determined immediately and instantly. For example, the Internet will allow consumers to access and compare prices and performances of products sold throughout the world.

If you go to a supermarket wearing the ‘Internet contact lens’ with AR, you will be able to judge right away whether the product in front of you is a bargain or not. Consumers will surely benefit from their relationship with the retailer if they can compare the production history, performance and prices, and know the features, advantages and disadvantages of products instantly. Retailers will also be able to understand the consumers’ needs and wants through data mining*, and check the latest market prices of competitive products. But if consumers, through greater knowledge and creativity, seek better value from the market, retailers will be forced to respond to their constantly changing demands. This will be a transition from ‘commodity capitalism’ to ‘intellectual capitalism’. Kaku says that this concept, created by the advances in technology, will greatly distinguish which countries will win or lose economically in the future.

* Data mining: The task of analyzing tremendous amounts of data with computers to extract the required knowledge.