Who is Correct? Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg?
Not many “futurists” can speak about the conundrum of the future with the authority of a man of science….. so what stands out in Dr. Michio Kaku’s keynote address at the recently-concluded Global Entrepreneurship Community Summit 2017, is that the audience hung on to every nugget of wisdom, his every word that proffers glimpses into what the future holds for humankind in the next one hundred years.
After all, as a renowned theoretical physicist, an “insider” who actually understands the fundamental laws of nature and science, he is able to apply these laws to actual inventions, machines and therapies, that are currently either in operation or in the conceptual stage, that will redefine mankind’s civilization far into the future.
For the uninitiated, Dr. Michio Kaku gained prominence as the co-founder of string field theory, which is a branch of string theory. String theory assumes that seemingly specific material particles are actually “vibrational states” and that the existence of God can even be proved using string theory. His answer to our existential question of “What is the universe?” would simply be that the universe is a symphony of vibrating strings. Because it is the only theory that can marry Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and the quantum theory of atomic physics into a single theory, Dr. Michio Kaku’s work is arguably, the next candidate for being a potential “Theory of Everything”.
He is also a best-selling author of these books: The Future of the Mind, Physics of the Future, Hyperspace, Parallel Worlds, Visions and Beyond Einstein.
Intrigued? For the salient points of his “fireside address” at the GEC Summit 2017, read on…
Most of Dr. Michio Kaku’s words are quoted verbatim …. for there is no better way to do justice to the words of our modern sage than to read it “from the horse’s mouth”!
The Entrepreneur Community in Designing the Future
The spark, the match. What’s going to set off this rocket that it is taking off into space? My thinking is, the spark, the match, will be entrepreneurs like you. You are the match that will set off this gigantic rocket that is waiting to take off. Let me say it that in my books, I try to capture the essence of this by talking about the future of robots, the future of space travel. In this book, “Physics of the Future”, I also answer the key question that philosophers and theologians have asked for centuries…. “Is there intelligent life … on Earth”? Probably not. Have you seen television lately?
And in my next book, “Physics of the Impossible”, I go not100 years, but 500 years in the future. We might have time travel, star ships and teleportation ….. and in my latest book, “The Future of the Mind”, I talk about how we are now able to capture the thoughts of the living brain. Two years ago, for the 1st time in history, scientists recorded a memory. A memory in a mouse. Now, they will be able to record memories in monkeys.
Next, will be Alzheimer patients. We will upload memories into Alzheimer patients so that they will know who they are, where they come from and where they live. This means that the future of the internet… will be brain net. We will also send across not just text messages but emotions, feelings, memories and sensations via the internet. Teenagers will go crazy. Instead of putting happy faces at the end of every sentence, you will put the emotion of your first dance, your first date, your first kiss on the internet. Watch for it. Brain net will replace the internet.
The Four Big Waves of Revolutions
Let’s talk about wealth. Where does wealth come from anyway? Why are some countries rich and other countries not. If you ask a politician where wealth comes from, he would say, that’s easy. Wealth comes from taxes… but that’s a zero-sum game.
I am a physicist. I say that wealth comes from Science and Technology. All the wealth that we see around us came in three distinct waves. In the 1800s, we had the steam engines. We physicists figured out the laws of thermo dynamics. We unleashed the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. In the 1900s, we physicists unleashed the power of electricity and magnetism and we lit up the world! And then came the 3rd wave, where we created the transistor and the computer – the Third Age of Information.
So the question for today is… what is the 4th wave? The 4th wave, I say, is the combination of three technologies at the molecular level, i.e Artificial Intelligence (A.I), Nanotech and Biotech.
The Fourth Wave
In this room, right now, some of you may have cancer. You have a few hundred cancer cells in your body. But it may take ten to twenty years for those cells to become a tumour. In future, when you go to the toilet or get a blood test, we will use computer technology (DNA chips) to determine cancer genes, cancer cells, cancer proteins, ten years before a tumour forms. In the future, because of A.I, the word “tumour” will disappear from the English language. That’s the power of these three technologies combined, namely A.I, Nanotech and Biotech.
In the 1970s, President Nixon declared war on cancer. It failed. Why? We did not have lasers, computers and the Genome Project then. Today, we have computers and A.I to identify and analyse complex genes. Using A.I and rapid gene sequencing, we can eliminate costly and awkward biopsies, and identify cancer years before it arrives.
When Chips Cost a Penny
Contact lenses will be embedded with chips ….. In the future, you will blink and you will be online. And who will be the 1st people who will buy internet contact lenses? College students taking final exams! Think about this…. infinite knowledge just by blinking. We, professors, can no longer demand that our students memorise the periodic chart. In the future, you will blink and it will be online.
And if your living room has a TV set that is 2D, why not have 3D? Now we can do it…. 3D without glasses. The secret is your TV screen itself… it has thousands of invisible vertical lines. Each line is a prism, cuts an image in half. Lenticular lens refracts lights … One half to the left eye and one half to the right eye. And bingo, there you can have 3D without glasses!
So the future will be very much like holodecks in Star Treks. You will be able to create imaginary worlds but these are virtual world, you can’t touch them. In future with 3D printing, you can touch what you can imagine. Think of shoe shopping in the future. These shoes are made and customised for you by a 3D printer as you wait for it in the shoe store.
When Walls Can Talk
In the middle of the night, when you suddenly feel unwell…. Do you wake up everybody because you think it is a heart attack or…. is it the pizza you ate last night? What are you going to do at 4 o’clock in the morning? In the future, you will go to the wall and ask for Robo-Doc. Robo-Doc is in your wallpaper. It is artificially intelligent. It will access the entire internet and tells you your medical history and possible causation. This is going to revolutionise medical care. You will have a doctor inside your wallpaper.
And then if you are in a car accident and you need a lawyer in Europe where they don’t speak your language… what are you going to do? You are going to talk to your wrist watch …. and talk to Robo-Lawyer. Robo-Lawyer will access the legal literature in any language, in any city. And so we are talking about A.I helping us. We talk to it and it will talk back.
If I am a real estate developer in New York, I walk on the streets of New York and see all these buildings…. I don’t know who owns them, how much they cost, what are the property taxes… I just see lots of buildings. In the future, your contact lenses will scan these buildings and Robo-developer will tell you the property values, taxes, renovation costs and then, estimate the future of each building’s price. Similarly, Robo-analyst A.I will analyse stocks, profits, performance, earnings, etc and then estimate the future stock price.
What About Our Jobs
We will still need doctors, lawyers, etc. Robots cannot entirely replace skilled and semi-skilled workers now and in the future. Middlemen, however, must provide intellectual capital, or else they will lose their jobs. People involved in farming and factory work, they will see their jobs decline. Robots will do jobs which are dirty, dull and dangerous.
Driverless cars will replace drivers by 2020. Driverless cars use GPS and radar. They are safer than human-driven cars. They will revolutionize transportation and park themselves. One day, the robotics industry might be bigger than the car industry, employing workers in repair, maintenance, design, production, servicing, etc.
Today, we have no more blacksmiths nor wagon-makers. But we don’t cry over them. And those workers became automobile workers. In the future, these automobile workers will become robotics workers. They will repair, design, furnish and maintain robots. Your car will become a robot. Appliances, things that we see around us, we’ll talk to them … and they’ll talk back to us.
So, jobs will be created that don’t even exist yet. However, the jobs of the future will require more education. So, education is the key. There will be jobs for the future created by the A.I, Nanotech and Biotech industries. But those jobs will require some education.
Space and Supersonic Travel
NASA has asked the aircraft industry to produce a supersonic jet without a sonic boom (which was a main reason for the demise of the Concorde). With supercomputers, we can now use mathematics to simulate supersonic jets without sonic booms, with the end goal to fly from New York to Tokyo in 3 hours by 2025. And after 50 years of waiting, a new Golden Age of space exploration will be here, where NASA and SpaceX are planning to send people to Mars.
The Human Body Shop
Today, we can grow skin, blood, heart valves, blood vessels, bone, nose and ears from our own cells. “Organ failure” may disappear from the English language. Next, we will try to grow human liver and pancreas. This is the digitilization of the human body.
Digitalization of the Human Brain
We are now digitalizing thought. The brain itself is slowly being digitalized. We can connect the mind to mechanical arms and legs. We can actually see thoughts inside the brain now, using MRI scans. We can now show that certain old wives tales are correct. Every parent, for. e.g believes in her heart of hearts, that teenagers suffer from brain damage. It’s true. Using brain scans of teenagers, we now know that the prefrontal cortex of teenagers are not fully developed. Another old wives tale is that when a man talks to a pretty girl, he starts to act stupid. Absolutely true. Brain scans have shown that blood drains from their prefrontal cortex!
To identify the genes that can stall aging… for e.g. a Greenland shark… how old are they? We analyse their eyeballs, they are like the rings of a tree, which is countable. How old are they? They are 400 to 500 years old! Genes would determine the age process. We are now deciphering what these genes are. Perhaps one day, we will be able to conquer them. What I’m saying is simple. In the future, we will have the power of a Greek God. Like Venus, we will have a perfect body and we will have digital and biological immortality. Like Zeus, we will think and our thoughts will become real. Like Mercury, we will fly to Mars. We will fly into the solar system.
Conditions to Recreate a Silicon Valley
First of all, I grew up in Palo Alto. It is now the centre of Silicon Valley. I saw it happen. When I grew up, Silicon Valley was just apple orchards and wheatfields. I used to play in the wheatfields. I saw step-by-step how Silicon Valley was created. It’s not magic. Very few countries can match what happened in Silicon Valley.
First real estate was very cheap. I still remember playing in these deserted fields. Second, they had a great university there. Stanford University has churned out generations of scientists. Third, you had the beginning of entrepreneurs. Money coming in, investing, creating these companies and then you hit critical mass. A culture begin to emerge that allowed entrepreneurs … a culture that allowed people who were very smart, but strange, to flourish. Now, this is very simple… but how many nations can say they have all these factors?
I was in Russia two months ago. A fellow panellist said something shocking… that whilst Russia was trying to create a Silicon Valley, outside Moscow, a new area, it will not necessarily succeed. Russia has the scientists, it had the good universities, it had research money but one thing that it didn’t have. And that is that scientists there… want to leave.
We were all born scientists with this thirst to understand the universe. And then something happens that destroys that. What is the greatest destroyer of scientists in the history of Science? High school! High school destroys millions of scientists every year…. destroyed by teachers who make Science boring, who forced memorisation of stupid unimportant facts. That’s the problem. We have to change our education system so that we inspire young scientists instead of crush them by forcing them to memorise things, which in the future, you will get by blinking. So in the future, we professors and teachers will not be able to stress memorisation because blinking will bring all the information that we have on humanity.
Existential Threat to Humans?
In America, there is a debate between two billionaires – Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla Motors. Zuckerberg says that A.I will create jobs and prosperity. New companies will flourish because of A.I. On the other hand, Elon Musk says that A.I poses existential risks to humankind. One day robots will put us in zoo cages, make us dance and throw peanuts at us.
Who is correct?
I was on CNN and Richard Quest asked me, which billionaire is correct? I said both are correct. Zuckerberg is right in the near term. Over the next several decades, billionaires are going to be created. New industries will develop. In my slide show, the systems I presented don’t all exist yet. You can’t talk to the wall yet, so new industries will be created to make that happen. But in the long term, Elon Musk is right. By the end of the century, we may have to worry that robots will take over.
Where is the tipping point? It is when robots become self aware. You see, robots do not know they are robots. But monkeys do. When they become as smart as monkeys, then we have to worry. But today, how smart are monkeys?
Our most advanced robot is called ASIMO, in Japan. I interviewed the creator of ASIMO and I asked how smart is the world’s smartest robot? The creator said, on tape, that today, ASIMO has the intelligence of a …. retarded cockroach. One day, many decades from now, ASIMO may become as smart as a monkey and at that point, we should put a fail-safe chip in robots to shut them off as soon as they have murderous thoughts.