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Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century Paperback – September 15, 1998
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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Take it easy: that's Michio Kaku's motto. Given the extraordinary advances science has thrown up in time for the millennium, the only way you could possibly fit them into a single volume is by a correspondingly massive simplification.
Subtitled How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century and Beyond, Visions assumes that, by and large, scientists get to do whatever they like, that all technologies are consumer technologies, and that consumers welcome anything and everything science throws at them. Kaku gets away with this frankly dodgy strategy by dint of sheer hard work. He has based his predictions on interviews with more than 150 renowned working scientists; he integrates these interviews with a huge body of original journalistic material; and, above all, he roots that mass of information on an entirely reasonable model of what the purpose of science will be in the third millennium. Up until now, science has expended its efforts on decoding most of the fundamental natural processes--"the dance," as Kaku puts it, of elementary particles deep inside stars and the rhythms of DNA molecules coiling and uncoiling within our bodies. Science's task now, Kaku believes, is to cross-pollinate advances thrown up by the study of matter, biology, and mind--modern science's three main theaters of endeavor. "We are now making the transition from amateur chess players to grand masters," he writes, "from observers to choreographers of nature." Then again, he also believes that "the Internet ... will eventually become a 'Magic Mirror' that appears in fairy tales, able to speak with the wisdom of the human race." Kaku, in short, deserves a good slapping--but he also deserves to be read. --Simon Ings, Amazon.co.uk
From Kirkus Reviews
Here's another entry in the game of predicting what science and technology will come up with after the turn of the millennium, this one from a theoretical physicist. Kaku, author of Hyperspace (1994), defines his central thesis in a few words: We humans are about to make the transition ``from being passive observers of Nature to active choreographers of Nature.'' He forecasts major breakthroughs in three specific areas: computer science, molecular biology, and quantum physics. While all three of these disciplines have already had a significant impact on our daily lives, Kaku finds a broad consensus among scientists, many of whom believe that everything we have seen so far is merely a prelude to what lies in store. In particular, while the development to date of these areas of science has been marked by extreme specialization, the 21st century is likely to be an age of synergy, in which each area builds on the discoveries of the others. On a 20-year time frame, computer chips will become smaller, cheaper, and almost ubiquitous; genetic therapy will have cured many diseases, possibly including most cancers. But beyond that point, it appears that fundamental bottlenecks in both computer science and molecular biology will necessitate new breakthroughs, many of which will derive from quantum physics. This may fuel a new round of technological innovations, among them artificial intelligence (a robot in every home), tailor-made organisms (new foods and medicines), nanotechnology, and new energy sources. Kaku does not ignore the potential downside of these developments, examining such nightmare scenarios as robot killing machines fighting future wars and a revived eugenics movement. But if all goes well, says Kaku, we may well develop into a true planetary society, the first step toward making the entire universe our home. With this fascinating volume, Kaku positions himself as a worthy successor to the late Carl Sagan as a spokesman for the potential of science to revolutionize our lives. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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1- The author has an open mind.
2- The author is sincere about this subject. He never gives false hopes about space travel.
3- The author writes what he thinks and knows.
4- About physics, I think that this book is mainly correct.
5- Anyone can understand this book. There isn't any complicated numbers or equations to know. This book really was made for general public. I'm an agronomist and I could understand 100% of this book.
6- Health issues, including anti-cancer medicines have a great part of this book.
I found some small mistakes on pages 245(about Brazilian bees), 256, 257, 292 and 295 (about X-33).
The main mistake of this book, is that it has nothing about Islam. In fact, I didn't found the word "Islam" on it. Please, I'm not an Islamic; but even when this book was first printed in late 1990 decade, more than half of all babies were borning among Islamic families. The mankind is the most important thing for the future. In fact, in 1899, Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) wrote on his book "The River War: An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan" these sentences: "How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property - either as a child, a wife, or a concubine - must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step."
Winston Churchill didn't forget Islam, in 1899, when it had less than 15% of the babies borning in the world and all Islamic nations were powerless countries or European colonies. In just twenty years, more than half of mankind will be Islamic. Perhaps the world's future in the mosques, not in space ships. And this book has nothing about Islam.
... “In the past decade more scientific knowledge has been created than in all of human history.” We no longer need to be bystanders in the dance of Nature. We are ready to move “from being passive observers of Nature to being active choreographers of Nature.” We are moving from the Age of Discovery to the Age of Mastery. Regarding predictions of the future, K suggests he listen to those who create it. [When you want to build an airplane you consult the Wright brothers, not philosophers or ordinary dudes.] And there is an emerging consensus about the future. 
The 3 Pillars of Science – Matter, Life, and Mind
THE QUANTUM REVOLUTION
The QR spawned the other 2 revolutions. Until 1925 no one understood the world of the atom. But now we have almost a complete description of matter. The basic postulates are: 1) energy is not continuous but occurs in discrete bundles called “quanta;” 2) sub-atomic particles have both wave and particle characteristics and obey Schrodinger’s wave equation which determines the probability that certain events will occur. With the Standard Model we can predict the properties of things from quarks to supernovas. We now understand matter and we may be able to manipulate it almost at will in this century.
THE COMPUTER REVOLUTION
Cs were crude until the laser was developed in 1948, and a decade later the laser, both quantum mechanical devices. Today there are tens of millions of transistors into the area the size of a fingernail. As microchips become ubiquitous, life will change dramatically. We used to marvel at intelligence; in the future we may create and manipulate it.
THE BIOMOLECULAR REVOLUTION
There is a genetic code written on the molecules within the cells—DNA. The techniques of molecular biology allow us to read the code of life like a book. With the owner’s manual for human beings science and medicine will be irrevocably altered. Instead of watching life we will be able to manipulate it almost at will.”
FROM PASSIVE TO ACTIVE
In one sense Horgan is right; science has ended.  But we are moving from the unraveling stage to the mastering stage. We are like aliens from outer space who land and view a chess game. It takes a long time to unravel the rules but by careful observation one learns. But this doesn’t mean you are a grand master. We have just learned the rules of matter, life, and mind and now we need to become masters. We are moving from being amateurs to grand masters.
FROM REDUCTION TO SYNERGY
QT gave birth to the computer revolution via transistors and lasers; it gave birth to the biomolecular revolution via x-ray crystallography and the theory of chemical bonding. While reductionism and specialization paid great dividends for these disciplines, intractable problems in each have forced them back together, calling for synergy of the 3. Computers decipher Genes, but DNA research will make possible new computer architecture using organic molecules. K calls this “cross-fertilization,” and it will keep the pace of scientific advance accelerating.
THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Wealth traditionally was with those who had natural resources or lots of capital. But brainpower, innovation, imagination, invention and new technologies will be the key to wealth in the future. The key technologies that serve as engines of wealth: 
TIME FRAMES FOR THE FUTURE
Now till 2020 – “scientists foresee an explosion in scientific activity such as the world has never seen before.” We will grow organs, cure cancer, etc.
2020-2050 – biotech – everything including aging, – physics – nanotech, interstellar travel, nuclear fusion.
2050-2100 – create new organisms, first space colonies.
Beyond 2100 – extend life by growing new organs and bodies, manipulating genes, or by merging with computers.
TOWARD A PLANETARY CIVILIZATION
Where is all this leading? One way to answer this question is to scan the heavens for advanced civilizations. Applying laws of thermodynamics and energy, astrophysicists have classified hypothetical civilizations based on ways they utilize energy—labeled Type I, II, and III civilizations.
Type I – mastery of terrestrial energy, ability to modify weather, mine oceans, extract energy from planet’s core. Harnessing the energy of the entire planet necessitates planetary cooperation.
Type II – mastery of stellar energy, use of the sun to drive their machines. They have begun to explore other stars. (The united federation of planets (star trek) is an emerging Type II civilization.
Type III – mastery of interstellar energy, since they have exhausted their stars energy.
Energy is available on the planet, its star and its galaxy. Based on a growth rate of about 3%, we can estimate when we might make the transition from one civilization to another.
We expect to become a Type I civilization in a century or 2
A Type II civilization in about 800 years. (ST is off a few hundred)
And a Type III in about 10,000 or more.
Right now we are a Type 0 civilization. We use dead plants for our machines but by then 22nd century Kaku predicts we will be getting close to a Type 1 civilization and taking our first steps into space.
THE INVISIBLE COMPUTER – (notes from Michio Kaku’s Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21 Century)
“Long-term the PC and workstation will wither because computing access will be everywhere; in the walls, on wrists, and in ‘scrap computers’ (like scrap paper) lying about to be grabbed as needed.” – Mark Weiser, XEROX PARC
By the way, if you think this quote is futuristic, investigate the Xerox PARC’s (Palo Alto Research Center) great record of prediction. (Weiser was the former head of its Computer Science Laboratory.) As microchips become more powerful, smaller, and cheaper, the general consensus is that they “will quietly disappear by the thousands into the very fabric of our lives.” They will be in the walls, furniture, appliances, home, car, and in our jewelry. The computer will be more liberating and less demanding than it is today when it enters our environment rather than having us enter its. These devices will communicate with each other and tap into the internet, gradually becoming intelligent and anticipating our wishes, by comparison, the PC is just a computing appliance. A consensus is growing among computer experts: “Computers, instead of becoming the rapacious monsters featured in science fiction movies, will become so small and ubiquitous that they will be invisible, everywhere and nowhere, so powerful that they will disappear from view.”
THE DISAPPEARING PC
Weiser believes that the trend toward invisibility is built into the human psyche. When people learn about something well, they cease to be aware of it. Consider electric motors that were once huge and bulky, demanding entire factories. Now electricity is everywhere and motors are small and ubiquitous—more than 20 surround you in a typical car moving the windows, mirrors, radio dial, etc. Or consider writing. Once an art for scribes who wrote on clay tablets, writing was changed with the invention of paper. Still, paper was precious and used only by royalty. Most persons went their entire lives and never saw paper. Today paper is ubiquitous and most of it has writing on it. Weiser thinks we’ll go to the store to pick up six-packs of computer like we do (no, not beer) batteries today. If the trend of about 15 years from conception of an idea to its entering the market (the PC was built at Xerox in 1972 but caught the public’s fancy about 15 years later) then ubiquitous computing should begin to take hold around 2003. It may take until about 2010 until the it really catches the public’s fancy but by 2020 it should dominate our lives. (You’ll be about mid-forties. I’ll be, like lots of baby boomers a ubiquitous senior citizen.)
THREE PHASES OF COMPUTING
The history of computers is generally thought to be divided roughly into 3 stages. The first phase was dominated by the huge mainframes. Computers were so expensive that one computer was shared by hundreds of scientists and humans approached computers like ancient Greeks approached oracles. The second phase began in the early 70s when computing power was exploding and the size of chips imploding. At Xerox, the dream of one person per computer began to take shape; shortly thereafter the first PC was built. But complicated commands and manuals made PCs not very appealing—i.e., computers weren’t user-friendly. And thus they created a machine with pictures that you could just point too. (Of course Apple pirated this idea from Xerox and Microsoft pirated it from Apple. And during this transition the giants IBM, Wang, and Digital were changed forever. The dinosaur computers didn’t last. PS. There was no Dell, Compaq, etc.)
THE THIRD PHASE AND BEYOND
The third phase is ubiquitous computing, where computers are connected and the ratio is now hundreds of computers for each individual. This phase is expected to begin its decline in 2020 as silicon is replaced by new computer architecture. Some experts believe this will lead to the 4th phase, the intro of AI into computers. (Here AI means speech recognition, reasoning, and maybe common sense—still a long way from the conscious beings talk,) But the 5th phase is the self-aware, conscious phase. [Note how the evolution of culture is so obvious and the evolutionary model so applicable. This results, in my opinion, because cultural evolution goes so fast it is undeniable.]
Since 1950 there has been an increase in computer power by a factor of about TEN BILLION! Moore’s law explains this growth, computer power doubles every 18 months. This is a fantastic increase, greater than the transition from chemical explosives to hydrogen bombs. In the past 80 years computing power has increased by a factor of ONE TRILLION!! Thus, we can see how the 3rd phase of computing will be quickly upon us, especially when it is driven by economics and physics. The price of microprocessors plunges driving us into the 3rd phase. (A microchip that costs a dime now, will cost 2 cents ten years from now.) MP will be as cheap and plentiful as paper. When chips are so cheap the incentive will be to put them everywhere. (Right now musical greeting cards with chips have more c power than computers in 1950.) In the same way that almost everything has writing on it, everything will have penny processors. In addition to all of this economic incentive pushing us to the 3rd phase, we must understand the power or quantum theory.
WHAT DRIVES MOORE’S LAW?
The secret behind ML is of course the transistor—a valve that controls the flow of electricity—whose dynamics are governed by Q theory. The original Ts were about the size of a dime and connected by wires. Needless to say ML success is driven by the reduction is size of transistors. While we can put 7 million Ts on a chip the size of a postage stamp this reduction cannot continue forever—because of the limit of the wavelength of a light beam. New tech will be needed to continue this reduction.
SENSORS AND THE INVISIBLE COMPUTER
Paul Saffo, director of the Institute for Future, calls the 3rd phase “electronic ecology.” If the ecology of a forest for example is the collection of animals and plants that interact dynamically, then analogously we can speak of creatures in the EE. The EE changes when tech advance is made. In the 80s it was the microchip, in the 90s the Internet was driven by the power of MP and cheap lasers. [about 5 years ago I’m at the faculty meeting of the small college I taught at. A chemistry teacher, in fact the same one who the lawyer didn’t want on the jury, told the faculty that her kids were doing things on the internet and we needed to have email and make the college more tech savvy. I swear, and this is 5 years ago, ½ the faculty didn’t know what she was talking about.]
Saffo thinks the 3rd phase will be driven “by cheap sensors coupled to microprocessors and lasers … we will be surrounded by tiny, MPs sensing our presence, anticipating our wishes, even reading our emotions. And these MPs will be connected to the Internet.” In this electronic forest our moods will be sensed the way toilets sense our presence. But note that a meteorite can hit me right now and my PC will still be waiting for me to continue …
Writing these class notes! Dumb thing! But the Cs of the future will sense the world around them using sound and the electromagnetic spectrum. Sensors will pick up our voice commands [no more carpel tunnel syndrome?] hidden video cameras will locate our presence and recognize our faces, smart cars will use radar to detect the presence of other cars, etc.
THE SMART OFFICE AND HOME OF THE FUTURE
The smart office will include TABS, tiny clip on badges with the power of a PC, allowing for doors to open, lights to go on, communication with other employees, connection to the Internet, etc. [StarFleet com badge.] PADS, about the size of a piece of paper will be a fully operational PC, the beginning of smart paper. BOARDS will be about the size of TV screens and hung on walls will be used for teleconferencing, as bulletin boards, interactive tv, etc. And the home will detect bad weather and warn family members, the bathroom will diagnose illness, etc. [the only thing about this office is why have an office, why not just use all of this from home?]
THE MIT MEDIA LAB
The director of the things that think project, Neil Gershenfeld, imagines when inanimate objects will all think. G has discovered that the space around our bodies is filled by an invisible electric field generated by electrons which accumulate on our skin like static electricity, and when we move this “aura” moves with us. Since we now have sensors that detect this field, the location of our hands and arms and legs can be detected. What this means is that we have a powerful new way to interact with computers that would be better than using a mouse and a way to make virtual reality much better. Essentially, G wants to animate empty space. G is particularly interested in animating our shoes, where 1 watt of energy could easily be drawn. And, if we put an electrode in our shoes we could transfer data from our shoe to say our hand—the body is salty and conducts electricity—and when we sake hands we could exchange computer files. This leads us to the Things That Think Labs motto:
In the past, shoes could stink.
In the present, shoes can blink.]
In the future, shoes will think.
THE INTELLIGENT PLANET (Chap 3 of Kaku’s Visions: …)
The 3rd phase of C is creating “a vibrant electronic membrane girding the earth’s surface … [the net] like a dirt road waiting to be paved over into an information superhighway, is rapidly wiring up the computers of the world.”
And when we enter the 4th phase, when AI programs are added to the Net, we will communicate with the Net AS IF it were intelligent. We will talk to the Net in our wall screen or tie accessing the entire info of the planet. And this screen may have a personality, be a confidant, aide, and secretary simultaneously. Like in Disney movies, the teapots and coffee cups will talk to each other and to us.
WHY NO POLICE? – Yet the Net today is chaotic—no directories to speak of, no rules, etc. There are many theories of why the Net took shape in this haphazard way—most notably the secrecy surrounding the Cold war—but the net has taken off.
HOW THE NET AND OTHER TECHS CAME ABOUT – In 1977 important members of the Carter administration were considering how to protect the President and themselves in the event of all out nuclear war. To make the story short, it became apparent that the whole proposed plan was a fiasco, causing the Pentagon’s researches to propose several techs to compensate. Among which were: teleconferencing, virtual reality (flight simulators), GPS, & e-mail. Scientists, who would have to re-build the country fast after all out nuclear war needed something fast wo/rules—the ARPANET—which became the Net.
THE MOTHER OF ALL NETS – In 1844 Morse sent the 1st telegraph message, in 1961 UCLA and Stanford connected their Cs. 10 years later there were only 2 dozen sites, and by 1981 only 200. It wasn’t until 1990 that the critical masses was reached that the reached the public and began to take off and the WWW was created in Geneva in 91. Now the Net grows 20% per QUARTER. This exceeds the growth rate of computers and we have 10 mil servers and 40 mil users. [whoops the book is 1997—the figure is now at least 160 mil users—EVOLUTION.] Most experts think the Net will be as big as the phone system by 2005 or before, and, with the merger of TV possible soon, 99% of all US homes may be linked to the Net in the next few years. Finally, consider this: In 1996 there were 70 million pages of info on the Net; but buy 2020 the net should access “the sum total of the human experience on this planet, the collective knowledge and wisdom of the past 5,000 years of recorded history.”
THE HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE NET – The Net can be compared to Gutenberg’s PP of the 1450s. For the first time books could reach a mass audience. Before G there were about 30,000 books in all of Europe! By 1500 there were more than 9 million. [Roughly the size of UT's collection.] Of course there have been tech that failed to reach critical mass—picture phones, CB radios—but the Nets subject matter, all of human knowledge easily available, suggest that it will not become extinct.
TO 2020: HOW THE NET WILL SHAPE OUR LIVES – The Net will allow us to work from home, bring specialized hobbyists from around the world together, enjoy the cyber marketplace, etc. On line bookstores, brokerage firms, banking, and travel agencies will light up the net. [this was written in 97 and all of this has come true, and the rest of this section, written a few years ago as futuristic is already "old hat."]
BOTTLENECKS ON THE NET – Still all of know about bandwidth problems, interface issues, and the needed creation of personalized agents and filters. [Yes, in this book the problems of FAST 28K modems are discussed –EVOLUTION.] Alternatives to copper wires are of course satellites, cables [wow, where did I get my RR?] and fiber optics. As far as interface bottlenecks—screens and voice inputs—well we need digital TV to create the Magic Mirror.
THE MERGER OF TV AND THE NET – Of course YALL know that in 96 the FCC and TV giants agreed to go analog which doubles the resolution. In short, TVs of the future will be connected to the Net, making TV interactive. But TVs may well be replaced shortly thereafter by …
WALL SCREENS – TV screens flat enough to hang like pictures of small enough to fit in your watch.
SPEECH RECOGNITION – Machines can already recognize human speech, but they don’t understand what they are hearing unless one speaks pretty slowly. However, most of the basic difficulties should be solved in the next few years. Still, hearing is not understanding and it would take very good AI for real comprehension. This problem may have to wait until the 4th phase of computing, between 2020 and 2050 when we have good AI.
FROM THE PRESENT TO 2020: INTELLIGENT AGENTS – In the meantime, we are working on intelligent agents—programs that can make primitive decisions and act as filters, distinguishing between junk and valuable material. IA may be particularly good at gathering info we want and saving us the time of searching for it—a good research asst!
2020-2050: GAMES AND EXPERT SYSTEMS – After IA is HEURISTICS, the branch of AI that tries to codify logic and intelligence with a series of rules. H would allow us to speak to computerized doctors, lawyers, etc who would answer tech questions. [Chess playing Cs are good examples of H.] ES are H programs that contain the knowledge of a number of human experts and dissect problems like we do. Consider going to the doctor where you receive a series of if…then questions that lead to diagnosis. This task can be done by ES. It is easy to see that the comprehensive and methodical nature of an ES would be better than a human physician. However, ES have traditionally lacked the common sense of a child.
COMMON SENSE IS NOT SO COMMON – The problem with today’s Cs is that they are glorified adding machines. They are marvelous at mathematical logic, but very poor with physics and biology. They have trouble with the concept of time for example. S and J are twins and S is 20 years old so how old is J? This is a tough problem for a C. Or consider this conversation: Human: Ducks fly, Chuck is a duck. C: Chuck can fly. Human: Chuck is dead. C: Chuck is dead and can fly.
That dead things don’t fly is not obvious from the laws of logic.
THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COMMON SENSE – Some have advocated creating an EOCS containing all the rules of CS. If CS programs are loaded into Cs, intelligent conversation is much more possible. For example Cs need to know: Nothing can be in 2 places at the same time When humans die they aren’t born again Dying is undesirable Animals don’t like pain Time advances at the same rate for everyone When it rains people get wet – ETC.
As of 97, a project to do this had accumulated 10 million assertions. But the task is extraordinarily difficult. [again, wouldn't it be simpler to take what we have, in this case brains with common sense, and build some of the computer ability into us thru genetic engineering?] For ex, it took 3 months for a C programmed with CS to understand “Napoleon died on St. Helen’s. Wellington was saddened.” In short AI, in whatever form it takes, has a long way to go.
A WEEK IN THE LIFE IN 2020 – A face on the wall says wake up dear. As you walk to the kitchen the appliances sense your presence and the coffee starts brewing, bread is toasted, while your favorite Bach concerto plays softly. Molly has printed out a version of the paper that you are especially interested in by scanning the web, and as you leave the kitchen it reminds you you need milk and that you’re out of computers. Before you leave you tell the robot to vacuum. You drive to work in your hybrid, smart cars, whizzing by a toll booth that scans your smart car. At work you insert your wallet card into the computer to pay your bills, have a few video conferences, and head home. You get home, connect with your virtual dr who tells you that he will zap out a few cancer cells with smart molecules so you don’t get cancer in 10 years. You head off to your party where Molly tells you who everyone is from a transmitter in your glasses. You drink too much and Molly won’t let you drive your car. [I guess it isn't quite smart enough yet.] etc. etc.
MIT’s famed AI lab is “a high-tech version of Santa’s workshop.” K begins by focusing on research that is NOT interested in creating creatures who play chess but INSECTOIDS and BUGBOTS, small insect like creations with the ability to learn by bumping into things, crawling around, etc. The idea is that while insects can’t play chess they get along quite well in your home.
This biology-based approach is termed the BOTTOM UP school. The inspiration for this school is evol which has produced complexity from simple structures. In short, the idea is that “learning is everything; logic and programming are nothing. [This seems to overstate the case even in terms of evolution. We learn from our environment, but our programming—cognitive structures in place at birth—are clearly essential.] Still, AI may be immensely enriched by interplay with the insights of the biomolecular and quantum revolutions. K mentions how many physicists have moved from superstring theory and quantum gravity to brain research as an example of the interplay between the 3 big revolutions.
On the other side of the debate is the TOP DOWN school. The digital C provides their model of thinking machines: “They assumed that thinking … would emerge fully developed from a computer.” Their strategy is to put (program) the rules of logic and intelligence directly into the machine, along with subroutines for speech, vision, etc. and you’d have an int robot. Of course this is based on the idea that int can be simulated by a Turing machine. K argues that the problem here is that the TD school underestimated “the enormity of writing down the complete road map of human int.” The 2 camps are often at odds with the one arguing that the BU robots may get from here to there but won’t know what to do when they get there; while the other replies that the TD computes play chess but don’t know how to take a walk. Most feel that some combination of the 2 approaches will lead us onward.
PREPROGRAMMED ROBOTS – Since it may be 20 years or more until the creations at the MIT lab enter the marketplace, what will see immediately are “increasingly sophisticated industrial robots.” From 2020 to 2050 we should enter the 4th phase of computing “when intelligent automatons begin to walk the earth …” Beyond 2050 we will enter the 5th phase of “robots of consciousness and self-awareness.”
To better understand all of this, consider the difference between industrial or remote- controlled robots—just preprogrammed windup toys—and the more sophisticated versions to come. K, quoting M, describes the evolution of these techs.
2000-10 – develop into reliable helpers in factories, hospitals, and homes. (Volks-robots) 2010-20 – these robots replaced by machines that learn from their mistakes.
2020-2050 ROBOTICS AND THE BRAIN – One of the big problems in robotics is the problem of PATTERN RECOGNITION. Robots can see, but don’t understand what they see. Part of the problem, that we have so much trouble duplicating pattern recognition is that our understanding of our brains is primitive.
We do know that our brain is layered which reflects its evol development. Nature preserves its older forms creating a museum of our evol history. The first layer of the brain is the “neural chassis” controlling basic functions like respiration, heartbeat, and blood circulation. It consists of brain stem, spinal cord, and midbrain. The second layer is the R-complex controlling aggression, territoriality, and social hierarchies. The so-called “reptilian brain.” Surrounding this is the limbic system which is found in mammals. It controls emotions, social behavior, smell, and memory. This was necessary because mammals live in complex social groups. Lastly, is the neocortex which controls reason, language, spatial perception and other higher functions. Humans have wrinkles on the cerebral cortex increasing the surface area.
Today’s robots possess only the first layer of brain, so there is a long way to go. But experts such as Miguel Virasoro, one of the most famous physicists in the world, believe that microchips will eventually approach the computing power of human brains. Right now the Cray-3 processes at 100 million bits per second, about the speed of a rats brain. Estimates are that the human brain calculates 1000 times faster than this, but, if Mlaw continues to hold, supercomputers should match humans around 2020 and desktops by 2040. But V objects to this whole TD approach since he argues that the brain is NOT a Turing Machine, it’s not even a computer. Thus, faster computers will not duplicate human brains.
V argues for his thesis as follows: The brain has about 200 billion neurons which fire 10 million billion times per second. The nerve impulses travel very slow—300 feet per second—but the complexity of the brain’s neural connections compensates. Since each neuron is connected to 10,000 other neurons the brain is a PARALLEL PROCESSOR which carries out trillions of operations per second and yet is powered by the energy of a lightbulb—that’s efficiency. Cs calculate at nearly the speed of light but perform ONE calculation at a time. The brain calculates slowly but performs trillions of computations per second. And while a brain can have a part of itself damaged and still function, a Turing machine can be destroyed by the loss of a single transistor. Since the brain is a complex Nnet, the BU approach is the only one that will work.
TALKING ROBOTS – NETalk is a neural network that has learned to speak English almost from scratch. Rather than using the TD approach and stuffing a program with dictionaries, phonics rules, exceptions to grammar rules, etc. a simple neural net was created that learned from its mistakes. While the difference between real and model neurons is immense the fact that a simple neural net can speak suggests “that perhaps human abilities can be simulated by electronics.”
ROBOTICS MEETS QUANTUM PHYSICS – There has been a migration from QP to brain research. Physics is different than biology, the former looks for simple elegant solutions while the later is messy, inelegant and full of dead ends. The former is based on universal laws, the latter has only the law of evolution as its universal law. Physicists wonder if there are any fundamental principles behind AI, like there are in physics which led to questions like “Can a neuron in the brain be treated like an atom in a lattice?” [I think he's looking for a unifying principle in the brain like QP provides the organizing principles in solid-state physics.]
Thus, while the TD school held that mind was a complicated program inserted into a computer, The BU suggested that mind arose “from the quantum theory of mindless atoms, without any programs whatsoever!” The founding father of the NN field, John Hopenfield, summarized it as follows: Ind atoms in a solid can exist in a few discrete states—spin up or down—and neurons simila