Physicist Michio Kaku Has Some Powerful Predictions for the Future

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No one knows more about the world of tomorrow than Michio Kaku.

Equal parts theoretical physicist, futurist, and popular science communicator, Kaku studies cutting-edge science and technology in order to understand the future.

A graduate of Harvard University and Berkeley, Kaku has spent 25 years as a professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York.

His main challenge has been to unite the laws of our universe in a grand “theory of everything” — the same thing to which Albert Einstein dedicated much of his career. Yes, this seems just a little daunting. But Kaku’s foundational contributions to string field theory brought physicists the closest they’ve ever come to actually achieving it.

In short: he’s got real science behind him. Which gives him a unique perspective and background to predict what the future will be like.

Here’s Everything You Want to Know About Astrophysicist and Futurist Michio Kaku
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Kaku’s Take on Tomorrow

When most people look to the future, they envision a world in which flying cars soar high above us as we edit diseases out of our genes.

But to Kaku, one innovation looms largest, blotting out other sights: drones.

In an interview with Futurism at the World Government Summit last month, the topic dominated the conversation.

Kaku has been warning of the dangers of militarized drone systems for years. The threat of military drones, he says, is absolute. “The only immediate danger is automatic killing machines,” he said.

Those who portend a future filled with Terminator-style robots armed with artificial superintelligence ignore real and imminent dangers. “That’s not going to happen for another hundred years, so I’m not worried,” he said, and

Here’s what should really give us pause, according to Kaku:

We have drones that a human supervises and says, ‘kill that target.’ In the future, the drone will recognize the human form and have permission to kill the target. It may go crazy one day—a mistake, a short circuit could take place—and it just keeps shooting that human form independent of any instructions. Automatic killing machines are the one thing we have to worry about today, not tomorrow. But other than that, we really don’t have to worry about the robots taking over.

Kaku’s Predictions Beyond

Here are some of Kaku’s other predictions on a variety of topics:

  • Extraterrestrial Life: “Within this century, we will make contact with an alien civilization by listening in on their radio communications.”
  • The Evolution of AI: “Simple tasks done by humans are way beyond what a robot can do. But, as the decades go by, they will become as smart as a mouse, then rat, then a cat, dog, and monkey. By that point, they might become dangerous and even replace humans, near the end of the century.”
  • Colonizing Alien Worlds: “We need an insurance policy, a backup plan. The dinosaurs didn’t have a space program, and that’s why they’re not here today. No one’s saying we should leave the Earth and go to Mars, but a settlement on Mars is a definite possibility.”
  • Bitcoin: “You cannot stop virtual currency. As far as, ‘what are things worth?’ Things are worth whatever your willing to pay for it….so it’s gambling. It’s speculation. As far as my personal attitude towards it, it’s not productive. Bitcoin is not a productive industry.”
  • Driverless Cars: “As transportation is digitized in the next decade, driverless cars, guided by GPS and radar, will share our highways. ‘Traffic accidents’ and ‘traffic jams’ will become archaic terms. Thousands of lives will be saved every year.”

Want to read more about Kaku and his work?

Here are some articles, blog posts, and videos to keep you informed.

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Pioneering physicist Stephen Hawking dies at 76

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Stephen Hawking, perhaps the world’s best known scientist, has died, a spokesperson for his family has confirmed. He was 76.

“It is with great sadness we announce the death of Professor Stephen Hawking CH CBE FRS FRSA at the age of 76,” the statement reads. “Professor Hawking died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of this morning. His family have kindly requested that they be given the time and privacy to mourn his passing, but they would like to thank everyone who has been by Professor Hawking’s side — and supported him — throughout his life.”

Hawking’s best-known work included his collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularities, the prediction that black holes emit blackbody radiation, and the…

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The physicist who melded the science and fiction of A Wrinkle in Time

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The new Disney film adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 book A Wrinkle in Time follows awkward teen Meg Murry (Storm Reid) as she hopscotches through the universe in search of her father, NASA scientist Dr. Alex Murry. Dr. Murry (Chris Pine) had disappeared years earlier, and Meg tracks him down with a combination of science and the supernatural — one that Brown University physicist Stephon Alexander helped shape.

Director Ava DuVernay found Alexander through the National Academy of Science’s Science and Entertainment Exchange, a network that pairs people in the entertainment industry with scientists. Alexander, a theoretical cosmologist, is also a saxophonist who has written about the connections between the universe and music in…

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World’s Leading Physicist Says Quantum Computers Are “Tools of Destruction, Not Creation”

Weapon of Mass Disruption

Quantum Computers are heralded as the next step in the evolution of data processing. The future of this technology promises us a tool that can outperform any conventional system, handling more data and at faster speeds than even the most powerful of today’s supercomputers.

However, at the present juncture, much of the science dedicated to this field is still focused on the technology’s ultimate utilization. We know that quantum computers could manage data at a rate that is remarkable, but exactly what kind of data processing will they be good for?

This uncertainty raises some interesting questions about the potential impact of such a theoretically powerful tool.

No encryption existing today would be able to hide from the processing power of a functioning quantum computer.

Last month, some of the leading names in quantum technologies gathered at the semi-annual International Conference on Quantum Technologies in Moscow. Futurism was in attendance and was able to sit and talk with some of these scientists about how their work is moving us closer to practical quantum computers, and what impact such developments will have on society.

One of the most interesting topics of discussion was initiated by Alexander Lvovsky, Quantum Optics group leader at the Russian Quantum Center and Professor of Physics at the University of Calgary in Canada. Speaking at a dinner engagement, Lvovsky stated that quantum computers are a tool of destruction, not creation.

What is it about quantum computers that would incite such a claim? In the end, it comes down to one thing, which happens to be one of the most talked about potential applications for the technology: Breaking modern cryptography.

With Great Power…

Today, all sensitive digital information sent over the internet is encrypted in order to protect the privacy of the parties involved. Already, we have seen instances where hackers were able to seize this information by breaking the encryption. According to Lvovsky, the advent of the quantum computer will only make that process easier and faster.

In fact, he asserts that no encryption existing today would be able to hide from the processing power of a functioning quantum computer. Medical records, financial information, even the secrets of governments and military organizations would be free for the taking—meaning that the entire world order could be threatened by this technology.

The consensus between other experts is, essentially, that Lvovsky isn’t wrong. “In a sense, he’s right,” Wenjamin Rosenfeld, a physics professor at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, stated in an interview. He continued, “taking a quantum computer as a computer, there’s basically not much you can do with this at the moment;” however, he went on to explain that this may soon be changing.

To break this down, there are only two quantum algorithms at the moment, one to allow a quantum computer to search a database, and the other, Shor’s algorithm, which can be used by a quantum computer to break encryption.

Notably, during the conference, Mikhail Lukin, a co-founder of the Russian Quantum Center and head of the Lukin Group of the Quantum Optics Laboratory at Harvard University, announced that he had successfully built and tested a 51-qubit quantum computer…and he’s going to use that computer to launch Shor’s algorithm.

Vladimir Shalaev, who sits on the International Advisory Board of the Russian Quantum Center and is a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University, takes a more nuanced approach to this question, saying it is neither a tool of destruction nor creation—it is both: “I would disagree with him. I think I would say that any new breakthrough breeds both evil and good things.”

Quantum computers may not be capable of the physical destruction of a nuclear bomb, but their potential application is the digital equivalent.

He evoked the development of laser technology as an example, saying, “Lasers changed our lives with communications, surgery, their use in machinery, but they are also used in missiles to destroy buildings. But I think this is life. Nothing comes with only good, there is always bad as well. So I don’t think it is just a destructive technology, it could also be a constructive one.”

There is a great deal of truth to Shalaev’s assessment. Nuclear technology was primarily developed as a destructive tool. After the war, many more positive applications were found, impacting energy, medicine, and agriculture, among many other fields. Quantum computers may not be capable of the physical destruction of a nuclear bomb, but their potential application in relation to encryption is the digital equivalent, making this topic worthy of reflection in these early stages.

What Good May Come?

So, if quantum computers do have such dangerous potential, why are we pursuing them? As Lukin expounds, there are other potential applications outside of encryption breaking, applications that many experts are excited about.

For example, Lukin sees enormous potential in quantum sensors. “It has the potential to change the field of medical diagnostics, where some of the tasks which require huge labs can be performed on the scale of an iPhone. Imagine the implications for third world countries in parts of the world like Africa. It can really allow to diagnose and treat patients. I think there’s actually a huge impact on society,” he explained.

Also, the processing power of quantum computers could push research in artificial intelligence (AI) forward by leaps and bounds. Indeed, it could assist this field to such a degree that AI could be a part of the answer to the problem proposed by Lvovsky. To that end, Lukins asserts, “I’m fairly convinced that, before quantum computers start breaking encryption, we will have new classical encryption, we will have new schemes based on quantum computers, based on quantum cryptography, which will be operational.”

Much like lasers or nuclear weapons, the scientists involved in creating quantum computers are unable to predict the total utility of this technology. There very well could be a host of world changing applications for quantum computers. Still, even with just considering the encryption busting potential of the technology, we must remain cognizant of the power we are unleashing.

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