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The Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku

April 6, 2014

Future

According to Kaku, the two great remaining frontiers are space and the human mind. The latter may seem like the lesser of the two, but Kaku makes the point that there are as many cells in the human brain as there are stars in the galaxy (roughly 1 billion). The amount we know about the human brain has been increasing exponentially since we first pondered how we ponder, but we still know a tiny fraction of what’s actually happening in there. Simultaneously, our technological capabilities have also been increasing exponentially. A typical smartphone today has more computing power than all of NASA when it put a man on the moon. We are entering an age where our technology will work to supplement and extend our human abilities, eventually anticipating our needs so that the boundary between us and our technology will be essentially meaningless.

When we look something up on our phone, we are using the Internet as an extension of our own brain. But that is just the simplest example. Prosthetic limbs, controlled by our minds. Computers that can produce images of what we’re thinking. Memories implanted into our brains. Consciousness downloaded to a hard drive. Telepathy and telekinesis. Many of the things that were once science fiction could become reality in the next century.

Kaku explores many different aspects of the human mind, its function and its future. He gives a broad overview of what’s understood about consciousness. And he explains in plain terms how existing technologies work and the principles that might allow for future technologies. This book overlaps quite a bit with Ray Kurzweil’s How to Create a Mind. But Kurzweil is an inventor and futurist whereas Kaku is a theoretical physicist, so their approaches are slightly different. Most notably, Kaku wanders off onto some tangents that are only tenuously tied to his main thread. For example, there’s an extended section about alien brains and space travel, which could have been left out. But aside from that, this is a pretty interesting read. The concepts here are more tangible than what he tackled in Hyperspace, and Kaku does a good job at making the science very accessible.

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