Beyond The Singularity
The Science and Technology of the Future
C&C User Forum & iEXPO2016 Special Lecture
December 16, 2016
It is predicted that robots before long will become smarter than humans. Famed physicist Michio Kaku dives into the mysteries of the future – but a future based on the facts and technologies available today. Predictions are coming true faster than we can imagine.
The Singularity – The Super Robots are Coming
Sometime in the future robots will become as smart as people. When this happens, says world-renowned theoretical physicist, Dr. Michio Kaku, we will see what some futurists call "the singularity".
Today's robots take care of the 3 Ds: dull, dirty, and dangerous work. Repetitive work is dull and boring. Cleaning sewers or cleaning up accidents is dirty and diffusing bombs is of course dangerous. Even though the most advanced robots are no smarter than a cockroach, they are getting smaller and smarter. Robots as yet do not have the skills required to clean up Fukushima but they will gradually become more intelligent and, predicts Dr. Kaku, will develop personalities that even include emotions. The robotics industry will create thousands of jobs for workers involved in service, maintenance, design and repair.
Dr. Kaku holds that it is only a matter of time until robots have the capacity to overtake humans but it won't be soon for three reasons. Robots are very bad at visual recognition, lack both common sense and self-awareness. Robots have a long way to go. Robots cannot help humans with intellectual capital, experience, knowhow, savvy, innovation, creativity, leadership or analysis. Robots can do none of these things. You cannot mass produce the brain.
Brainet – Send Your Feelings and Memories
Besides being a physicists, Dr. Kaku is a futurist and popularizer of science. He has written a number of books, including several best sellers, and made frequent appearances on radio, television and film. He points out that physicists love to invent things and have been behind many of the world's important discoveries, such as transistors, lasers, microwaves, MRI scanners, the space program, GPS systems and the World Wide Web.
Physics and prediction seems to go hand in hand with invention. But sometimes things don't always go in the predicted direction. The World Wide Web that provided information about everything also resulted in 5% of searches for pornography. Dr. Kaku has written about predictions for the next 50 to 100 years and even as far as 500 years. Predictions about space travel, even starships...and more importantly the meaning of intelligence. He calls the next generation of the Internet "brainet". People will be able to send their memories, emotions, feelings, and sensations on the Internet.
What's coming will be a combination of artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and biotechnology. The question becomes one of how to control the power of these three technological advances.
Cities on Mars
There are now three major initiatives capturing the imagination of the world's scientific community. The US has announced a goal of going to Mars in 15 to 20 years. There will be a new war on cancer, possible now because of new powerful computer power and technological expertise. And then the rather formidable goal of mapping the entire human brain. The goal of the BRAIN initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) and the Connectome Project is to being able to map the entire brain, including emotions feelings, sensations and memories.
The US announcement about a manned Mars mission will change the way that computers, artificial intelligence and communication is used. Although very expensive, the technological and scientific benefits gained will be immense. New technologies and a new generation of computers will be required. This will be a permanent base on Mars.
Besides the US, there are two other groups, Elon Musk and his SpaceX and Boeing Aircraft with its booster rockets, that have indicated plans to send people to or even colonize Mars. The importance here is the boost to technology and science. Because of NASA's space program in the 1960s, rocket miniaturization and augmented radio and communications were the drivers that led to technological advances.
Growing Your Own Heart
The second major scientific push is a cure for cancer. The early 1970s war on cancer failed because today's Genome Project did not exist. The Genome Project made it possible to understand that cancer is damaged genes. This can now be digitalized and that's why research is moving so quickly today. This is done by computers, not humans. Billions of base pairs can be analyzed by computers and transmitted to centers of learning. The key to a cure is computers and communication.
Sometime in 2016 the first liquid biopsy will be available. Cancer colonies can then be detected before they become a tumor. Computer chips will also be used in toilets to analyze proteins, enzymes and genes for cancer long before a tumor forms. The replacement of body parts is also beginning. Scientists are able to grow body parts as they wear out: ears, noses, cartilage and before long, even hearts.
Photographing Dreams and Living Forever
Mapping the entire human brain is very difficult to accomplish. But it is important in helping science find ways to treat and cure mental illness. Analyzing oxygen molecules and following the blood flow in the brain will show where electrical activity is concentrated. Thoughts will actually be seen as they move across the brain.
Understanding the brain extends to exoskeletons that help people regain movement. A new field, optogenetics, helps researchers understand how one part of the brain is connected to a particular part of the body. Other research is focusing on learning to record memories and being able to play them back. There may be a future chip to record your memories. It will even be possible to photograph dreams. And a bit farther into the future may see the digitalization of the brain. When you die your connectome (the "wiring diagram" or comprehensive map of neural connections) may continue on forever. In a sense, humans may become immortal.
The Internet – A Seamless Information Stream
The future Internet will utilize inexpensive chips. Even the word computer will have disappeared because the machines will be totally integrated into our lives...almost invisible. Integration of the Internet into daily life will be seamless and barely noticed. Dr. Kaku cites an example of future devices such as contact lenses, where it will be possible to walk as a tourist in Italy and see a virtual reality image of ancient Rome. In medicine, the beginnings of contact lens digitalization will also help diabetics by measuring insulin and blood sugar levels.
Intelligent Wallpaper and Infinite Information
How is information going to be used? Virtual reality is when you see realistic images and other sensations in a viewer. Augmented reality is when information is "imposed upon reality." In the future, Dr. Kaku says that we will be living in a combined virtual and augmented world with a "...seamless stream of information telling us what we need to know."
If you want to buy something it is easy to determine the price. Augmented reality will tell you the cost of everything. You can find details on profit margins. In the words of Dr. Kaku, "we'll have infinite information imposed upon reality."
He sees limitless possibilities. Call up instant information on somebody you know you should recognize but whose name you just can't recall. Shop and buy the perfect size using a 3D printer. Almost anything can be printed just for you on the spot. And not just clothing or accessories. Human body parts can currently be fabricated – cell by cell. Banking will also be changed. Everything will be in your smartphone. Just point and click and you're done.
In the future the functions of PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones will all be combined into a wallpaper screen that can be any size you want. When this wallpaper becomes intelligent you'll be able to talk to it and give instructions. If you have a medical or legal question you will be able to get fast and sound advice in any language you choose and almost for free.
No Jobs for Humans?
Some jobs will be eliminated in the future particularly those that are repetitive. But there are many things that only humans can do. Only humans can make legal arguments before a jury and judge. Only humans understand social ethics or have the ability to handle sensitive cases. Nevertheless, the future will bring robotics to the fore and humans will have to find new areas of specialization.
Dr. Kaku is a believer that the real meaning of the Internet is that it will be everywhere and nowhere. Moving from one platform to the next will be done "seamlessly without friction." The computer revolution will erase friction. Cars will drive themselves and in fact become robots. The automobile industry will be absorbed by the robotics industry. Friction will be eliminated and life will be "seamless and personalized." Flying cars will also be a reality but, except for the wealthy, cost prohibitive for the average person. But supersonic commercial travel will be available and affordable. Physics has helped design aircraft through simulations of supersonic airflow with a minimal sonic boom. Flights between New York and Tokyo will be about three hours. Even the cost of space travel will continue drop to a point where the average person may be able to ride into outer space.
The Future Will Be Frictionless – The New Capitalism
Dr. Kaku asks the question, "When we have computers and communications on this scale, what does it mean if we live in augmented reality, virtual reality...when life becomes frictionless, seamless and personalized." He answers that "capitalism becomes perfect." He defines capitalism simply as private ownership where prices are decided by supply and demand. Since present day capitalism is not perfect, you don't know much about what's going on behind the scenes – the true worth of something or who might be cheating you. As he puts it, "...capitalism become perfect because in the future you will know everything about what you are buying."