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Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century Paperback – September 15, 1998
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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
Critical acclaim for Michio Kaku's previous book, Hyperspace:
"Among the best of its genre to appear in recent years...What a wonderful adventure it is, trying to think the unthinkable!"
--The New York Times Book Review
"A roller coaster of an intellectual ride through the extraordinary world of black holes, wormholes, parallel universes, higher dimensions and time travel."
"Mesmerizing...the reader exits dizzy, elated and looking at the world in a
literally revolutionary way."
From the Hardcover edition.
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Remember, in 1998 the internet was relatively new, dial-up connection speeds of 128 baud were considered fast, more people than not still had rabbit ears on their televisions. Michio Kaku posits that by 2010 we'll have flat screen televisions light enough to hang on a wall (there'll be competition between LCD and plasma models), cable companies will be taking over voice communication from the copper-wired telephone companies, movies will be available on demand on computers (once they break the 4Mbps barrier ... I just upgraded my home system to 40Mbps a few weeks ago), and a lot more that in fact has turned out to be absolutely true and correct. He doesn't use the term "the cloud" but he describes exactly what it is, and it's happening now. He's even pretty close on the timing.
Obviously the further you look into the future the harder it is to predict with accuracy. But Dr. Kaku has been so spot on during the first section that his credibility with the fascinating parts to follow is beyond question. Yes, he might be off on some things, but based on his earlier success he probably won't be off by much.
Another thing about this author is that although he's a Big Brain he can put things in terms easily grasped by us Merely Normals. The book isn't like a text book, it's like an inspirational speech. In short, fun to read.
So yeah, it's getting close to being old enough to want to borrow the keys to the car, but it's still quite viable, very readable, enjoyable and thought provoking. I read two to three books a week, mostly fiction, followed by history and biographies. This is the first "science" book I've read in several years and it's going to lead me to buy more, especially by this author. What better recommendation can anyone give than that?
So this book is over ten years old; some of Kaku's predictions were right on the money, or were off by a year or so. Today we have mind-bogglingly fast computers (but still not fast enough), reasonably smart robots, incredible drugs that are beginning to make some cancers a thing of the past, the entire human genome is known, and we still don't have a grand unified theory. So either Kaku had (and still has) incredible insight about where science is going, or has the ability bet-hedge enough and make vague predictions that will be interpreted as true no matter what happens. You be the judge. I still enjoyed reading this book, despite its age.
Personal opinions: I guess I'm another engineer with a chip on my shoulder. Yes, physicists are responsible for understanding nature, but engineers are responsible for using that and bringing products to market and to the benefit of the rest of the population, a point which was not at all discussed (perhaps engineering needs its own Kaku/Sagan). I was offended as the arrogance of Kaku and the people he interviewed in saying (more than once) that certain problems are "just" engineering at this point. Also, Kaku's (left-leaning) politics seep through the pages every now and then (I was under the impression that science was supposed to be free of politics). I leave you with this: the picture that is painted of the future is pretty rosy...science and technology will make our environment better, but it won't make us better humans. Let's continue to advance science and at the same time work on becoming better neighbors.
Well written and most times insightful.