This year’s Keynote Presentation at the CEDIA Expo earlier this month was given by well-known physicist and television personality, Dr. Michio Kaku. Kaku is undeniably well-qualified to talk about technology…and the future. And although the official title of this keynote presentation was “The Intuitive Home of 2016,” – like all great keynote speakers, Kaku ignored that topic and spoke on one closer to his heart – the physics of the future.
And what a wild future he envisions…
It was a packed house in a fairly large ballroom. In listening to the chatter around me, I could tell that Kaku had been a significant draw to this presentation…and perhaps even to the show. Many in the audience talked about his television shows, books, articles, and other presentations. There was quite a buzz of anticipation.
Introduced by CEDIA Chairman Federico Bausone, there appeared to be a slight modification of the original topic of the presentation, as Bausone said Kaku would talk about the next twenty years and the home of the future. Kaku wasted little time in diving into a far broader topic of the science and technology of the future. And not just of the home.
One of the 100 smartest people in New York…
Kaku was obviously extremely comfortable talking to large group and he was animated, dynamic, and funny. He started off with a joke about being picked as one of the 100 smartest people in New York by New York Magazine.
“First of all, I have a confession to make,” Kaku began. “It is true that New York Magazine recently voted me as one of the 100 smartest people in New York,” Kaku’s setup continued. “But in all fairness…in all fairness, I have to admit that Madonna also made that same list,” Kaku cracked.
The crowd broke out into laughter, even if the celebrity reference was a little dated. “And next year, I understand that Lady Ga-Ga is going to push me off the list entirely,” Kaku deadpanned to another burst of laughter.
That great philosopher..Yogi…
Getting down to business, Kaku told the group that we’ll talk about the next twenty years and about “how technology will reshape how we live, how we play, and predicting the future of course is very difficult.”
To make the point, Kaku said he would quote “that great philosopher of the Western world…Yogi Berra.” Back to another joke. “Yogi Berra once said, ‘Prediction is awfully hard to do…especially if it’s about the future.'”
Inventing the future…
Physicists, Kaku told the group, were the ones who invented the laser, invented the transistor, assembled the first electronic computer, created the Internet, wrote the World Wide Web. “We” also invented radio, invented television, invented microwave ovens, invented most of the space program, the GPS satellites, the weather satellites.
“And now we are inventing the future,” Kaku summed up. “And we physicists love to make predictions. When we helped to assemble the Internet, one physicist made a prediction. He predicted that the Internet would become a forum of high culture, high art, and high society.” [Laughter from the audience] “So OK, we know that 5% of the Internet is pornography…but that’s because teenage boys log on to the Internet.” [More laughter]
Know when to keep your mouth shut…
At this point, Kaku told the group that it was time for a “cautionary story.” And he then told a story about the great French Revolution of over 200 years ago. This too turned out to be another funny story in which a physicist lost his head at a guillotine because he was too honest. The moral of the story?
“Sometimes, we physicists have to know when to keep our mouths shut,” Kaku cracked.
Looking forward – by looking back…
It was here that Kaku, started his talk of the future, by talking about the past. He noted that people are often skeptical of the physicists ability to predict the future. After all, he told the group, people said that the physicists didn’t predict the collapse of 2008.
Well that’s not entirely true, Kaku responded to the rhetorical complaint. It was here that he put up a slide of where wealth comes from. Wealth comes from science, Kaku suggested. But science occurs in “waves” creating for example, the steam engine technology…created a cascade of secondary invention.
“And what does that do? It creates wealth…fantastic wealth,” Kaku proposed. “Wealth beyond imagination.”
“And where does that wealth go,” he asked. “Wealth is restless, it goes into the stock exchange and creates a huge bubble. And when it pops, you get a depression.”
Of innovation, bubbles, and busts…
This somewhat simplistic explanation of financial markets would undoubtedly be disputed by economists…but this is a physicist’s viewpoint of the financial markets. And Kaku’s point is that history repeats itself approximately every 80 year.
The “first wave” as Kaku put it, “was steam power.”
Did we learn our lesson?…
And steam locomotives created railroads companies that became very rich and powerful. But in Kaku’s view, this lead to the stock market crash of 1850. Did we learn our lesson…”Oh no,” Kaku exclaimed.
The second wave was electricity and the internal combustion engine of the early 1900s. This also created a large and rich industry – the automobile industry. But this wealth led up to the stock market crash of 1929 and a depression that lasted until the 1950s.
The third wave…
And the third wave was high technology: transistors, lasers, the Internet, GPS, and the space program, Kaku proclaimed. On the screen was a picture of Europe taken from outer space. “You see the electrification of the entire planet!”
“But wealth is restless,” Kaku continued. And this was the bubble of 2008. In the U.S., this was in real estate according to Kaku. And in Europe, where Kaku said the bubble was popping “even as we speak.” But the wealth in Europe, he said, went to “maintaining the Mediterranean lifestyle.” And that is “unsustainable,” Kaku said dramatically.
But what is the fourth wave of innovation?…
And now the big question that physicists are asking, Kaku said, is “what is the fourth wave?” And his answer?
“Well we think, and this is the theme of today’s talk, [Ah…there it is!] it’ll be a combination of biotechnology, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology,” Kaku proclaimed. “That’s going to be the basis of the home of the future.”
How to ‘calculate’ the future…
Kaku then went into a discussion of Moore’s Law – the law that says computing power will double every 18 months. According to the physicist, the little chip in a birthday card today has more computing power than the entire Allied forces had during World War II.
And, Kaku said provocatively, the U.S. put a man on the moon in 1969. But do you realize, Kaku said – raising his voice – that you have more computing power in your cell phone today?!? That’s right, he maintained, today’s cell phone has more computing power than all of NASA in the late 1960s.
A penny for your thoughts…
We can extrapolate out based on Moore’s Law to see where technology is going. This is because, Kaku says that Moore’s Law has held up for 50 years. And based on this we can see that by 2020, the basic computer chip is going to cost about 1 penny.
When that happens, everything gets smarter. We’ll all be wearing smart glasses with the Internet accessible from it. This concept is already being tested by Google in their Google Glasses program.
We’ll all be wearing Google Glasses…
Don’t like glasses? Then you will wear Internet contact lenses. Everyone will be connected to the Internet everywhere…it will be totally ubiquitous.
But, Kaku maintains, you’ve seen this before. It’s called, he told the group, augmented reality. “Augmented reality is when virtual reality is imposed on real reality,” he said. And where have we seen it before? From Hollywood, Terminator had augmented reality as part of its plot.
On a roll now, Kaku picked up his pace and quickly began throwing predictions fast and furious including:
- Military applications of augmented reality.
- Portable electronic payment systems replacing cash.
- Cell phones with flexible screens that you will “unroll.”
- Intelligent wallpaper – colors and designs change by voice command.
- Animated pictures of your loved ones carried in your wallet.
- RoboDoc – On demand medical services on your intelligent wallpaper via a robotic doctor that can answer, with 99% accuracy, all of the most common medical questions. You will have a doctor anywhere you go. This will reduce medical costs.
- RoboLawyer – Also accessed through your intelligent wallpaper. He can answer 99% of all common legal questions.
- Cave – the living room of the future. You are surrounded by four walls each shooting out a three-dimensional image. You see a virtual three-dimensional world that you can interact with.
- Dating in the future will be done through your intelligent wallpaper.
- No glasses 3D TV’s – “We’ve talked about 3D TV for decades,” Kaku said. “But, it never arrived.” The successful 3DTV will use lenticular optics…glasses free 3D. But a very small “sweet spot.” The graphics on this slide looked surprisingly primitive to me.
- Scrap computers – The office of the future will no longer use paper, but intelligent paper or what Kaku called scrap computers. “Everything is in the cloud.”
- Business cubicle of the future – Your cubicle will feature a beautiful wrap-around, flexible, colorful, 3D computer monitor.
- Car of the future – You guessed it, it’s the Google driver-less car. “40,000 people a year die in car accidents,” Kaku intoned. “Google has said that in eight years, we will have this car in your garage.”
- A new level of interactivity among inanimate things – Your car will be electric; Your home will be electric; Your car will need to be recharged and it will talk to your house to recharge. This is a “theme of the future,” things will interact with each other. And things will have learning capability and will adapt to you and your tastes.
- Mass customization – Friction-less retail. Your credit card will know your clothing dimensions, clothes will be created on the spot to your exact size and deliverable within a day…for which you are billed the next day.
- Perfect capitalism – Consumers will know who has the best product at the best price…advantage shifts to the consumer. The protection for the company? How will companies compete in this new world? According to Kaku, “…branding, positioning, data mining, and targeted marketing.” And “common courtesy, one-to-one interactions” will become critical for survival in this brave new world of commerce.
- Smart pill colonoscopy – A simple pill with a camera will replace more problematical procedures.
- Nanoparticles – Already in testing is nanoparticles that target and kill specific types of cancer cells.
- Smart toilets – Chips in toilets will analyze your biological material to pre-diagnose emerging conditions.
- Personal tricorders – We will have personal tricorders or MRI machines small and with great computing power in our personal bathrooms.
- Personal genomics – We will all have our personal genetic sequences on a CD that we carry around with us.
- Biomedical advances – In the future we will grow replacement parts such as ears, noses, livers, etc.
- Synthetic telepathy – Paralyzed people will be able to use their brains to connect with the outside world.
- Physicists are now unlocking the genetic origins of aging and will ultimately create mechanisms to reverse aging.
Kaku then showed a video on the hospital of the future incorporating many of the ideas he had previously discussed.
Finally, Kaku finished his presentation with a humorous story about his hero, Albert Einstein. And with that – he opened up the floor to questions. And the first question? When is the next big crash? Based on what Dr. Kaku had presented earlier, the next financial crash should be in 2090 or about 80 years from the crash of 2008. Warn your grandchildren!