Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Imagine the Future

What will the future look like? Here's one man's opinion. From the Wall Street Journal online, their weekend interview with physicist Michio Kaku:

"Captain Michio and the World of Tomorrow" by Brian Bolduc

Always fascinating to think about what the future holds. In one man's opinion we won't even use the word "computer," not because they won't exist but because they are everywhere, and it will be superfluous to even use the word.

"Instead of one chip inside a desktop, we'll have millions of chips in all our possessions: furniture, cars, appliances, clothes. Chips will become so ubiquitous that 'we won't say the word "computer,"' prophesies Mr. Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York. 'We'll simply turn things on.'"

But there is also concern. Kaku worries that the U.S. is falling behind technically.

"And woe to the nation that loses its edge. Great Britain became a world empire when it pioneered steam power in the 19th century, Mr. Kaku recounts. In the 1920s, however, Britain began to rest on its laurels. British industry lost its focus on developing the latest technology, thus solidifying the country's status as a declining world power. 'And who took over? Germany.' German scientists split the atom and developed aeronautics. 'So the cutting edge in science shifted from England to Germany with catastrophic results' in World War II, Mr. Kaku concludes."

"Now, he says, the U.S. is losing its edge because we're not producing enough scientists. 'Fifty percent of Ph.D. physicists are foreign-born, and they're here compliments of the H1-B visa,' Mr. Kaku relates. 'There's a brain drain into the United States; that's why we're still No. 1. But it can't last forever.' China and India are slowly luring back their natives, while our top students are eschewing the hard sciences for lucrative careers in areas such as investment banking."

"'I have nothing against investment banking,' Mr. Kaku says, 'but it's like massaging money rather than creating money. If you're in physics, you create inventions, you create lasers, you create transistors, computers, GPS.' If you're an investment banker, on the other hand, 'you don't create anything new. You simply massage other people's money and take a cut.'"

"It's a shame, because Mr. Kaku believes humans are natural-born scientists. 'When we're born, we want to know why the stars shine. We want to know why the sun rises.' But then we hit 'the danger years' for young people: high school. 'And we lose them by the millions—literally by the millions. Why? It's a combination of bad teachers and no inspiration.'"