Monday, March 26, 2012
Author: Michio Kaku
Genre: Nonfiction, science
Publisher: Doubleday, 2011
Read for: Indie Lit Awards
This is going to be a quick review because life is insane, but I am drastically behind in my reviews -- I have enough to make it to May without reading another book. So here goes. :)
Michio Kaku's book has an interesting premise: Take several different technologies, such as medicine, economics, robotics, computers, and nanotechnology, and evaluate what they will be like in 2030, 2050, and 2100.
Sounds cool, right? In many ways, it was. I was introduced to countless inventions and possibilites that had never crossed my mind, and the fact that when I was in elementary school, I still had never used the internet, had a cell phone, or heard of a blog show that drastic changes are certainly possible, considering that all of these things factor very significantly into my daily life. However, Kaku did not convince me that all of these inventions are in our future. He had an arrogant tone, saying that these inventions will definitely be a part of our future lives, while citing examples of others who had said the same thing about certain technologies we have yet to see. It seemed to me as if every time he was describing something especially revolutionary he would say, "You think that this won't happen -- but it will." I needed a little more evidence to back up those claims -- the "look how far we've come lately" argument isn't quite solid enough to convince me. Many of these claims were quite extremist -- for example, Kaku claimed that physicians would be completely outdated by the year 2100, and that nanobots would scour our bodies for rogue cells and microorganisms while a computer analyzed them and prescribed treatment according to an algorithm. While nanobots rooting out cancer sounds like an excellent idea to me, I don't think an algorithm will ever completely effective in prescribing and diagnosing. Each human body is so different, and each illness somewhat unique in its way -- I think there will always be a human behind the nanobot.
I also found Kaku's writing to be somewhat lacking. Of course, his primary goal was to convey information from his primary career, science. However, I think if someone endeavors to write a book, they owe it to their reader to write well -- writing not being their primary career is not an excuse. While Kaku's ideas were conveyed clearly enough, at times transitions or explanations were a bit awkward or simplistic, brimming with enthusiasm but not always content.
However, there were some interesting ideas. As mentioned before, I love the idea of nanobots living in our bodies and destroying rogue cells that could lead to cancer. I also found Kaku's ideas on information being inserted in a chip or some other internal device for constant access to be refreshing -- I usually feel pretty fatalistic about biotechnological enhancement, but he painted the picture much more brightly than I had perceived it.
Physics of the Future will appeal to technology and science buffs and futurists, but Kaku's claims must be taken with a grain of salt. He is eager to state that his ideas are the certain truth, which gave the entire book an air of incredulity. It is an interesting but flawed book.
Warnings: None I can think of