World-renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku is the next speaker in UNLV’s Barrick Lecture Series, and he has a lot on his mind.
“The Future of the Mind” is the title of Kaku’s talk at 7:30 p.m. Monday on the Las Vegas campus.
What does physics have to do with neuroscience or psychology? A better question would be to ask what physics does not deal with, from Kaku’s perspective. His work has broadened to such an extent that it now covers everything from the existence of God to extraterrestrials, immortality and predicting the future.
Unraveling the secrets of the universe is physics at its finest, after all.
“I think it is legitimate to ask the ‘why’ questions, because in some sense, our role in the universe – where do we fit in this larger scheme of things – that’s the ultimate goal of science itself,” Kaku said.
The same description could be applied to religion, and physics is one area where science and religion have blended to the point that many differences are merely a matter of semantics.
Kaku is most widely known as a popular science author and co-founder of string field theory. That’s a new approach to standard string theory, which is roughly defined as the belief that “all elementary particles are manifestations of the vibrations of one-dimensional strings.”
Most scientists have an easier time imagining self-contradictions such as one-dimensional objects than they do imagining God, but not Kaku.
“I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence,” he was quoted as saying in the Geophilosophical Association of Anthropological and Cultural Studies.
“In Dr. Kaku’s understanding, the Universe is possibly a symphony of vibrating strings emanating from the mind of God, with His cosmic music resonating through an 11-dimensional hyperspace,” states an article at GodReports.com.
This is an unexpected conclusion from someone like Kaku, who identifies himself as the standard-bearer for Einstein’s quest to come up with a mechanistic, unified “theory of everything” that would explain physics from the micro to the macro level. It’s a goal Einstein lamented his inability to achieve in the 20th century as he watched his own revolutionary concepts fall under the shadow of quantum physics.
Experiments that have demonstrated properties such as the “observer effect” and “quantum entanglement” have strained the credibility of science just as much as science has sought to supplant religion.
In a talk titled “Beyond 2018” at the Integrated Systems Europe conference, Kaku admits his string theory has some serious knots in it. But he goes on to describe how science is not only changing the world around us, it is changing our minds.
It should come as no surprise that “The Future of the Mind” as conceived by scientists involves connecting our brains with computers.
Kaku talks about how the Pentagon is spending $150 million to develop an exoskeleton that can be controlled by thought in order to create a real-life “Iron Man.” Comic book heroism aside, the suits would have the practical application of serving wounded soldiers when they return from war.
“We can also record memories now,” he declares. The recordings can be implanted via chips, a technique that will one day serve Alzheimer’s patients.
“And did you know that we can actually photograph a dream?” he asks the audience. “This is right out of science fiction, right out of Harry Potter.”
Kaku says scientists at Berkley “can scan the human brain with an MRI scan, divide blood flow into 30,000 dots, analyze these 30,000 dots and come up with a reasonable picture of what you are thinking about.”
His Power Point presentation includes images and matching computerized simulations resembling them.
Of course, if this is true – and Kaku only fabricates when he is trying to be funny – that means our souls and humanity itself could be reduced to mechanics, the very goal he and Einstein fruitlessly searched for.
“What this means is that in the future we will have a library of souls,” Kaku says.
He describes a world in which people will not need to read a biography in order to learn about someone. They will be able to call up a holographic image of anyone and even have a discussion with them.
“One day, perhaps, your great- great-great- great-grandchildren will be able to go to the library and talk to you, because your memories are encoded on a chip,” he says.
Kaku’s “library of souls” offers a type of immortality that is more palpable but less satisfying than religion’s promise of an afterlife.
Science and technology are quickly leading us into strange territory populated by artificially intelligent machines hoping to make us “transhuman.”
From there it is just a short step to believe the outrageous theories circulating on the internet that reality is a computer simulation and that we are mere avatars, as movies such as “The Matrix” have claimed.
Some of these ideas are so far out they may spawn a new religion — or turn people to traditional religion as a way to maintain their sanity.
Either way, both believers and nonbelievers should be interested in what Kaku has to say.
Thanks to an endowment from the late Marjorie Barrick, presentations in the UNLV lecture series are free of charge. But if you can’t make the 400-mile drive from Elko to Las Vegas, you can check out Kaku’s “The Future of the Mind” presentation on C-SPAN 2 television, which was posted to YouTube by Cuckoo for Kaku.