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Physics of the future : how science will shape human destiny and our daily lives by the year 2100.
I would like to thank those individuals who have worked tirelessly to make this book a success. First, I would like to thank my editors, Roger Scholl, who guided so many of my previous books and came up with the idea for a challenging book like this, and also Edward Kastenmeier, who has patiently made countless suggestions and revisions to this book that have greatly strengthened and enhanced its presentation. I would also like to thank Stuart Krichevsky, my agent for so many years, who has always encouraged me to take on newer and more exciting challenges.
And, of course, I would like to thank the more than three hundred scientists I interviewed or had discussions with concerning science. I would like to apologize for dragging a TV camera crew from BBC-TV or the Discovery and Science channels into their laboratories and thrusting a microphone and TV camera in front of their faces. This might have disrupted their research, but I hope that the final product was worth it.
I would like to thank some of these pioneers and trailblazers:
Eric Chivian, n.o.bel laureate, Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical SchoolPeter Doherty, n.o.bel laureate, St. Jude Children's Research HospitalGerald Edelman, n.o.bel laureate, Scripps Research Inst.i.tuteMurray Gell-Mann, n.o.bel laureate, Santa Fe Inst.i.tute and CaltechWalter Gilbert, n.o.bel laureate, Harvard UniversityDavid Gross, n.o.bel laureate, Kavli Inst.i.tute for Theoretical Physicsthe late Henry Kendall, n.o.bel laureate, MITLeon Lederman, n.o.bel laureate, Illinois Inst.i.tute of TechnologyYoichiro Nambu, n.o.bel laureate, University of ChicagoHenry Pollack, n.o.bel laureate, University of MichiganJoseph Rotblat, n.o.bel laureate, St. Bartholomew's HospitalSteven Weinberg, n.o.bel laureate, University of Texas at AustinFrank Wilczek, n.o.bel laureate, MITAmir Aczel, author of Uranium Wars Uranium WarsBuzz Aldrin, former NASA astronaut, second man to walk on the moonGeoff Andersen, research a.s.sociate, United States Air Force Academy, author of The Telescope The TelescopeJay Barbree, NBC news correspondent, coauthor of Moon Shot Moon ShotJohn Barrow, physicist, University of Cambridge, author of Impossibility ImpossibilityMarcia Bartusiak, author of Einstein's Unfinished Symphony Einstein's Unfinished SymphonyJim Bell, professor of astronomy, Cornell UniversityJeffrey Bennet, author of Beyond UFOs Beyond UFOsBob Berman, astronomer, author of Secrets of the Night Sky Secrets of the Night SkyLeslie Biesecker, chief of Genetic Disease Research Branch, National Inst.i.tutes of HealthPiers Bizony, science writer, author of How to Build Your Own s.p.a.ceship How to Build Your Own s.p.a.ceshipMichael Blaese, former National Inst.i.tutes of Health scientistAlex Boese, founder of Museum of HoaxesNick Bostrom, transhumanist, University of OxfordLt. Col. Robert Bowman, Inst.i.tute for s.p.a.ce and Security StudiesLawrence Brody, chief of the Genome Technology Branch, National Inst.i.tutes of HealthRodney Brooks, former director, MIT Artificial Intelligence LaboratoryLester Brown, founder of Earth Policy Inst.i.tuteMichael Brown, professor of astronomy, CaltechJames Canton, founder of Inst.i.tute for Global Futures, author of The Extreme Future The Extreme FutureArthur Caplan, director, Center for Bioethics, University of PennsylvaniaFritjof Capra, author of The Science of Leonardo The Science of LeonardoSean Carroll, cosmologist, CaltechAndrew Chaikin, author of A Man on the Moon A Man on the MoonLeroy Chiao, former NASA astronautGeorge Church, director, Center for Computational Genetics, Harvard Medical SchoolThomas Cochran, physicist, Natural Resources Defense CouncilChristopher c.o.kinos, science writer, author of The Fallen Sky The Fallen SkyFrancis Collins, director of the National Inst.i.tutes of HealthVicki Colvin, director of Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology, Rice UniversityNeil Comins, author of The Hazards of s.p.a.ce Travel The Hazards of s.p.a.ce TravelSteve Cook, director of s.p.a.ce Technologies, Dynetics, former NASA spokespersonChristine Cosgrove, author of Normal at Any Cost Normal at Any CostSteve Cousins, president and CEO, Willow GarageBrian c.o.x, physicist, University of Manchester, BBC science hostPhillip Coyle, former a.s.sistant secretary of defense, U.S. Defense DepartmentDaniel Crevier, author of AI: The Tumultuous History of the Search for Artificial Intelligence, AI: The Tumultuous History of the Search for Artificial Intelligence, CEO of Coreco CEO of Corec.o.ken Croswell, astronomer, author of Magnificent Universe Magnificent UniverseSteven c.u.mmer, computer science, Duke UniversityMark Cutkosky, mechanical engineering, Stanford UniversityPaul Davies, physicist, author of Superforce SuperforceAubrey de Gray, Chief Science Officer, SENS Foundationthe late Michael Dertouzos, former director, Laboratory for Computer Science, MITJared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize winner, professor of geography, UCLAMariette DiChristina, editor in chief, Scientific American Scientific AmericanPeter Dilworth, former MIT AI Lab scientistJohn Donoghue, creator of BrainGate, Brown UniversityAnn Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, Cosmos StudiosFreeman Dyson, emeritus professor of physics, Inst.i.tute for Advanced Study, PrincetonJonathan Ellis, physicist, CERNDaniel Fairbanks, author of Relics of Eden Relics of EdenTimothy Ferris, emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley, author of Coming of Age in the Milky Way Coming of Age in the Milky WayMaria Finitzo, filmmaker, Peabody Award winner, Mapping Stem Cell Research Mapping Stem Cell ResearchRobert Finkelstein, AI expertChristopher Flavin, WorldWatch Inst.i.tuteLouis Friedman, cofounder, Planetary SocietyJames Garvin, former NASA chief scientist, NASA G.o.ddard s.p.a.ce Flight CenterEvalyn Gates, author of Einstein's Telescope Einstein's TelescopeJack Geiger, cofounder, Physicians for Social ResponsibilityDavid Gelernter, professor of computer science, Yale UniversityNeil Gershenfeld, director, Center of Bits and Atoms, MITPaul Gilster, author of Centauri Dreams Centauri DreamsRebecca Goldburg, former senior scientist at Environmental Defense Fund, director of Marine Science, Pew Charitable TrustDon Goldsmith, astronomer, author of The Runaway Universe The Runaway UniverseSeth Goldstein, professor of computer science, Carnegie Mellon UniversityDavid Goodstein, former a.s.sistant provost of Caltech, professor of physicsJ. Richard Gott III, professor of astrophysical sciences, Princeton University, author of Time Travel in Einstein's Universe Time Travel in Einstein's Universethe late Stephen Jay Gould, biologist, Harvard Lightbridge Corp.Amba.s.sador Thomas Graham, expert on spy satellitesJohn Grant, author of Corrupted Science Corrupted ScienceEric Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Inst.i.tute, National Inst.i.tutes of HealthRonald Green, author of Babies by Design Babies by DesignBrian Greene, professor of mathematics and physics, Columbia University, author of The Elegant Universe The Elegant UniverseAlan Guth, professor of physics, MIT, author of The Inflationary Universe The Inflationary UniverseWilliam Hanson, author of The Edge of Medicine The Edge of MedicineLeonard Hayflick, professor of anatomy, University of California at San Francisco Medical SchoolDonald Hillebrand, director of Center for Transportation Research, Argonne National LaboratoryFrank von Hipple, physicist, Princeton UniversityJeffrey Hoffman, former NASA astronaut, professor of aeronautics and astronautics, MITDouglas Hofstadter, Pulitzer Prize winner, author of G.o.del, Escher, Bach G.o.del, Escher, BachJohn Horgan, Stevens Inst.i.tute of Technology, author of The End of Science The End of ScienceJamie Hyneman, host of MythBusters MythBustersChris Impey, professor of astronomy, University of Arizona, author of The Living Cosmos The Living CosmosRobert Irie, former scientist at AI Lab, MIT, Ma.s.sachusetts General HospitalP. J. Jacobowitz, PC PC magazine magazineJay Jaroslav, former scientist at MIT AI LabDonald Johanson, paleoanthropologist, discoverer of LucyGeorge Johnson, science journalist, New York Times New York TimesTom Jones, former NASA astronautSteve Kates, astronomer and radio hostJack Kessler, professor of neurology, director of Feinberg Neuroscience Inst.i.tute, Northwestern UniversityRobert Kirshner, astronomer, Harvard UniversityKris Koenig, filmmaker and astronomerLawrence Krauss, Arizona State University, author of The Physics of Star Trek The Physics of Star TrekRobert Lawrence Kuhn, filmmaker and philosopher, PBS TV series Closer to Truth Closer to TruthRay Kurzweil, inventor, author of The Age of Spiritual Machines The Age of Spiritual MachinesRobert Lanza, biotechnology, Advanced Cell TechnologyRoger Launius, coauthor of Robots in s.p.a.ce Robots in s.p.a.ceStan Lee, creator of Marvel Comics and Spider-ManMichael Lemonick, former senior science editor, Time Time magazine, Climate Central magazine, Climate CentralArthur Lerner-Lam, geologist, volcanist, Columbia UniversitySimon LeVay, author of When Science Goes Wrong When Science Goes WrongJohn Lewis, astronomer, University of ArizonaAlan Lightman, MIT, author of Einstein's Dreams Einstein's DreamsGeorge Linehan, author of s.p.a.ceShipOne s.p.a.ceShipOneSeth Lloyd, MIT, author of Programming the Universe Programming the UniverseJoseph Lykken, physicist, Fermi National Accelerator LaboratoryPattie Maes, MIT Media LaboratoryRobert Mann, author of Forensic Detective Forensic DetectiveMichael Paul Mason, author of Head Cases Head CasesW. Patrick McCray, author of Keep Watching the Skies! Keep Watching the Skies!Glenn McGee, author of The Perfect Baby The Perfect BabyJames McLurkin, former scientist at MIT AI Laboratory, Rice UniversityPaul McMillan, director, s.p.a.cewatch, University of ArizonaFulvio Melia, professor of physics and astronomy, University of ArizonaWilliam Meller, author of Evolution Rx Evolution RxPaul Meltzer, National Inst.i.tutes of HealthMarvin Minsky, MIT, author of The Society of Mind The Society of MindHans Moravec, research professor at Carnegie Mellon University, author of Robot Robotthe late Phillip Morrison, physicist, MITRichard Muller, astrophysicist, University of California at BerkeleyDavid Nahamoo, formerly with IBM Human Language TechnologyChristina Neal, volcanist, Alaska Volcano Observatory, U.S. Geological SurveyMichael Novacek, curator, Fossil Mammals, American Museum of Natural HistoryMichael Oppenheimer, environmentalist, Princeton UniversityDean Ornish, clinical professor of medicine, University of California, San FranciscoPeter Palese, professor of microbiology, Mt. Sinai School of MedicineCharles Pellerin, former NASA officialSidney Perkowitz, professor of physics, Emory University, author of Hollywood Science Hollywood ScienceJohn Pike, director, GlobalSecurity.orgJena Pincott, author of Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes? Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes?Tomaso Poggio, artificial intelligence, MITCorrey Powell, editor in chief, Discover Discover magazine magazineJohn Powell, founder, JP Aeros.p.a.ceRichard Preston, author of The Hot Zone The Hot Zone and and The Demon in the Freezer The Demon in the FreezerRaman Prinja, professor of astrophysics, University College LondonDavid Quammen, science writer, author of The Reluctant Mr. Darwin The Reluctant Mr. DarwinKatherine Ramsland, forensic scientistLisa Randall, professor of theoretical physics, Harvard University, author of Warped Pa.s.sages Warped Pa.s.sagesSir Martin Rees, professor of cosmology and astrophysics, Cambridge University, author of Before the Beginning Before the BeginningJeremy Rifkin, founder, Foundation on Economic TrendsDavid Riquier, director of Corporate Outreach, MIT Media LabJane Rissler, Union of Concerned ScientistsSteven Rosenberg, National Cancer Inst.i.tute, National Inst.i.tutes of HealthPaul Saffo, futurist, formerly with Inst.i.tute for the Future, consulting professor at Stanford Universitythe late Carl Sagan, Cornell University, author of Cosmos CosmosNick Sagan, coauthor of You Call This the Future? You Call This the Future?Michael Salamon, NASA's Beyond Einstein programAdam Savage, host of MythBusters MythBustersPeter Schwartz, futurist, cofounder of Global Business Network, author of The Long View The Long ViewMichael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society and Skeptic Skeptic magazine magazineDonna Shirley, former manager, NASA Mars Exploration ProgramSeth Shostak, SETI Inst.i.tuteNeil Shubin, professor of organismal biology and anatomy, University of Chicago, author of Your Inner Fish Your Inner FishPaul Shuch, executive director emeritus, SETI LeaguePeter Singer, author of Wired for War, Wired for War, Brookings Inst.i.tute Brookings Inst.i.tuteSimon Singh, author of Big Bang Big BangGary Small, coauthor of iBrain iBrainPaul Spudis, Planetary Geology Program of the NASA Office of s.p.a.ce Science, Solar System DivisionSteven Squyres, professor of astronomy, Cornell UniversityPaul Steinhardt, professor of physics, Princeton University, coauthor of Endless Universe Endless UniverseGregory Stock, UCLA, author of Redesigning Humans Redesigning HumansRichard Stone, The Last Great Impact on Earth, The Last Great Impact on Earth, Discover Magazine Discover MagazineBrian Sullivan, formerly with the Hayden PlanetariumLeonard Susskind, professor of physics, Stanford UniversityDaniel Tammet, autistic savant, author of Born on a Blue Day Born on a Blue DayGeoffrey Taylor, physicist, University of Melbournethe late Ted Taylor, designer of U.S. nuclear warheadsMax Tegmark, physicist, MITAlvin Toffler, author of The Third Wave The Third WavePatrick Tucker, World Future SocietyAdmiral Stansfield M. Turner, former Director of Central IntelligenceChris Turney, University of Exeter, UK, author of Ice, Mud and Blood Ice, Mud and BloodNeil deGra.s.se Tyson, director, Hayden PlanetariumSesh Velamoor, Foundation for the FutureRobert Wallace, coauthor of Spycraft, Spycraft, former director of CIA's Office of Technical Services former director of CIA's Office of Technical ServicesKevin Warwick, human cyborgs, University of Reading, UKFred Watson, astronomer, author of Stargazer Stargazerthe late Mark Weiser, Xerox PARCAlan Weisman, author of The World Without Us The World Without UsDaniel Werthimer, SETI at Home, University of California at BerkeleyMike Wessler, former scientist, MIT AI LabArthur Wiggins, author of The Joy of Physics The Joy of PhysicsAnthony Wynshaw-Boris, National Inst.i.tutes of HealthCarl Zimmer, science writer, author of Evolution EvolutionRobert Zimmerman, author of Leaving Earth Leaving EarthRobert Zubrin, founder, Mars Society
Empires of the future will be empires of the mind.
INTRODUCTION: Predicting the Next 100 Years
When I was a child, two experiences helped to shape the person I am today and sp.a.w.ned two pa.s.sions that have helped to define my entire life.
First, when I was eight years old, I remember all the teachers buzzing with the latest news that a great scientist had just died. That night, the newspapers printed a picture of his office, with an unfinished ma.n.u.script on his desk. The caption read that the greatest scientist of our era could not finish his greatest masterpiece. What, I asked myself, could be so difficult that such a great scientist could not finish it? What could possibly be that complicated and that important? To me, eventually this became more fascinating than any murder mystery, more intriguing than any adventure story. I had to know what was in that unfinished ma.n.u.script.
Later, I found out that the name of this scientist was Albert Einstein and the unfinished ma.n.u.script was to be his crowning achievement, his attempt to create a "theory of everything," an equation, perhaps no more than one inch wide, that would unlock the secrets of the universe and perhaps allow him to "read the mind of G.o.d."
But the other pivotal experience from my childhood was when I watched the Sat.u.r.day morning TV shows, especially the Flash Gordon Flash Gordon series with Buster Crabbe. Every week, my nose was glued to the TV screen. I was magically transported to a mysterious world of s.p.a.ce aliens, starships, ray gun battles, underwater cities, and monsters. I was hooked. This was my first exposure to the world of the future. Ever since, I've felt a childlike wonder when pondering the future. series with Buster Crabbe. Every week, my nose was glued to the TV screen. I was magically transported to a mysterious world of s.p.a.ce aliens, starships, ray gun battles, underwater cities, and monsters. I was hooked. This was my first exposure to the world of the future. Ever since, I've felt a childlike wonder when pondering the future.
But after watching every episode of the series, I began to realize that although Flash got all the accolades, it was the scientist Dr. Zarkov who actually made the series work. He invented the rocket ship, the invisibility shield, the power source for the city in the sky, etc. Without the scientist, there is no future. The handsome and the beautiful may earn the admiration of society, but all the wondrous inventions of the future are a by-product of the unsung, anonymous scientists.
Later, when I was in high school, I decided to follow in the footsteps of these great scientists and put some of my learning to the test. I wanted to be part of this great revolution that I knew would change the world. I decided to build an atom smasher. I asked my mother for permission to build a 2.3-million electron volt particle accelerator in the garage. She was a bit startled but gave me the okay. Then, I went to Westinghouse and Varian a.s.sociates, got 400 pounds of transformer steel, 22 miles of copper wire, and a.s.sembled a betatron accelerator in my mom's garage.
Previously, I had built a cloud chamber with a powerful magnetic field and photographed tracks of antimatter. But photographing antimatter was not enough. My goal now was to produce a beam of antimatter. The atom smasher's magnetic coils successfully produced a huge 10,000 gauss magnetic field (about 20,000 times the earth's magnetic field, which would in principle be enough to rip a hammer right out of your hand). The machine soaked up 6 kilowatts of power, draining all the electricity my house could provide. When I turned on the machine, I frequently blew out all the fuses in the house. (My poor mother must have wondered why she could not have a son who played football instead.) So two pa.s.sions have intrigued me my entire life: the desire to understand all the physical laws of the universe in a single coherent theory and the desire to see the future. Eventually, I realized that these two pa.s.sions were actually complementary. The key to understanding the future is to grasp the fundamental laws of nature and then apply them to the inventions, machines, and therapies that will redefine our civilization far into the future.
There have been, I found out, numerous attempts to predict the future, many useful and insightful. However, they were mainly written by historians, sociologists, science fiction writers, and "futurists," that is, outsiders who are predicting the world of science without a firsthand knowledge of the science itself. The scientists, the insiders who are actually creating the future in their laboratories, are too busy making breakthroughs to have time to write books about the future for the public.
That is why this book is different. I hope this book will give an insider's perspective on what miraculous discoveries await us and provide the most authentic, authoritative look into the world of 2100.
Of course, it is impossible to predict the future with complete accuracy. The best one can do, I feel, is to tap into the minds of the scientists at the cutting edge of research, who are doing the yeoman's work of inventing the future. They are the ones who are creating the devices, inventions, and therapies that will revolutionize civilization. And this book is their story. I have had the opportunity to sit in the front-row seat of this great revolution, having interviewed more than 300 of the world's top scientists, thinkers, and dreamers for national TV and radio. I have also taken TV crews into their laboratories to film the prototypes of the remarkable devices that will change our future. It has been a rare honor to have hosted numerous science specials for BBC-TV, the Discovery Channel, and the Science Channel, profiling the remarkable inventions and discoveries of the visionaries who are daring to create the future. Being free to pursue my work on string theory and to eavesdrop on the cutting-edge research that will revolutionize this century, I feel I have one of the most desirable jobs in science. It is my childhood dream come true.
But this book differs from my previous ones. In books like Beyond Einstein, Hypers.p.a.ce, Beyond Einstein, Hypers.p.a.ce, and and Parallel Worlds, Parallel Worlds, I discussed the fresh, revolutionary winds sweeping through my field, theoretical physics, that are opening up new ways to understand the universe. In I discussed the fresh, revolutionary winds sweeping through my field, theoretical physics, that are opening up new ways to understand the universe. In Physics of the Impossible, Physics of the Impossible, I discussed how the latest discoveries in physics may eventually make possible even the most imaginative schemes of science fiction. I discussed how the latest discoveries in physics may eventually make possible even the most imaginative schemes of science fiction.
This book most closely resembles my book Visions, Visions, in which I discussed how science will evolve in the coming decades. I am gratified that many of the predictions made in that book are being realized today on schedule. The accuracy of my book, to a large degree, has depended on the wisdom and foresight of the many scientists I interviewed for it. in which I discussed how science will evolve in the coming decades. I am gratified that many of the predictions made in that book are being realized today on schedule. The accuracy of my book, to a large degree, has depended on the wisdom and foresight of the many scientists I interviewed for it.
But this book takes a much more expansive view of the future, discussing the technologies that may mature in 100 years, that will ultimately determine the fate of humanity. How we negotiate the challenges and opportunities of the next 100 years will determine the ultimate trajectory of the human race.
PREDICTING THE NEXT CENTURY.
Predicting the next few years, let alone a century into the future, is a daunting task. Yet it is one that challenges us to dream about technologies we believe will one day alter the fate of humanity.
In 1863, the great novelist Jules Verne undertook perhaps his most ambitious project. He wrote a prophetic novel, called Paris in the Twentieth Century, Paris in the Twentieth Century, in which he applied the full power of his enormous talents to forecast the coming century. Unfortunately, the ma.n.u.script was lost in the mist of time, until his great-grandson accidentally stumbled upon it lying in a safe where it had been carefully locked away for almost 130 years. Realizing what a treasure he had found, he arranged to have it published in 1994, and it became a best seller. in which he applied the full power of his enormous talents to forecast the coming century. Unfortunately, the ma.n.u.script was lost in the mist of time, until his great-grandson accidentally stumbled upon it lying in a safe where it had been carefully locked away for almost 130 years. Realizing what a treasure he had found, he arranged to have it published in 1994, and it became a best seller.
Back in 1863, kings and emperors still ruled ancient empires, with impoverished peasants performing backbreaking work toiling in the fields. The United States was consumed by a ruinous civil war that would almost tear the country apart, and steam power was just beginning to revolutionize the world. But Verne predicted that Paris in 1960 would have gla.s.s skysc.r.a.pers, air conditioning, TV, elevators, high-speed trains, gasoline-powered automobiles, fax machines, and even something resembling the Internet. With uncanny accuracy, Verne depicted life in modern Paris.
This was not a fluke, because just a few years later he made another spectacular prediction. In 1865, he wrote From the Earth to the Moon, From the Earth to the Moon, in which he predicted the details of the mission that sent our astronauts to the moon more than 100 years later in 1969. He accurately predicted the size of the s.p.a.ce capsule to within a few percent, the location of the launch site in Florida not far from Cape Canaveral, the number of astronauts on the mission, the length of time the voyage would last, the weightlessness that the astronauts would experience, and the final splashdown in the ocean. (The only major mistake was that he used gunpowder, rather than rocket fuel, to take his astronauts to the moon. But liquid-fueled rockets wouldn't be invented for another seventy years.) in which he predicted the details of the mission that sent our astronauts to the moon more than 100 years later in 1969. He accurately predicted the size of the s.p.a.ce capsule to within a few percent, the location of the launch site in Florida not far from Cape Canaveral, the number of astronauts on the mission, the length of time the voyage would last, the weightlessness that the astronauts would experience, and the final splashdown in the ocean. (The only major mistake was that he used gunpowder, rather than rocket fuel, to take his astronauts to the moon. But liquid-fueled rockets wouldn't be invented for another seventy years.) How was Jules Verne able to predict 100 years into the future with such breathtaking accuracy? His biographers have noted that, although Verne was not a scientist himself, he constantly sought out scientists, peppering them with questions about their visions of the future. He ama.s.sed a vast archive summarizing the great scientific discoveries of his time. Verne, more than others, realized that science was the engine shaking the foundations of civilization, propelling it into a new century with unexpected marvels and miracles. The key to Verne's vision and profound insights was his grasp of the power of science to revolutionize society.
Another great prophet of technology was Leonardo da Vinci, painter, thinker, and visionary. In the late 1400s, he drew beautiful, accurate diagrams of machines that would one day fill the skies: sketches of parachutes, helicopters, hang gliders, and even airplanes. Remarkably, many of his inventions would have flown. (His flying machines, however, needed one more ingredient: at least a 1-horsepower motor, something that would not be available for another 400 years.) What is equally astonishing is that Leonardo sketched the blueprint for a mechanical adding machine, which was perhaps 150 years ahead of its time. In 1967, a misplaced ma.n.u.script was rea.n.a.lyzed, revealing his idea for an adding machine with thirteen digital wheels. If one turned a crank, the gears inside turned in sequence performing the arithmetic calculations. (The machine was built in 1968 and it worked.) In addition, in the 1950s another ma.n.u.script was uncovered which contained a sketch for a warrior automaton, wearing German-Italian armor, that could sit up and move its arms, neck, and jaw. It, too, was subsequently built and found to work.
Like Jules Verne, Leonardo was able to get profound insights into the future by consulting a handful of forward-thinking individuals of his time. He was part of a small circle of people who were at the forefront of innovation. In addition, Leonardo was always experimenting, building, and sketching models, a key attribute of anyone who wants to translate thinking into reality.
Given the enormous, prophetic insights of Verne and Leonardo da Vinci, we ask the question: Is it possible to predict the world of 2100? In the tradition of Verne and Leonardo, this book will closely examine the work of the leading scientists who are building prototypes of the technologies that will change our future. This book is not a work of fiction, a by-product of the overheated imagination of a Hollywood scriptwriter, but rather is based on the solid science being conducted in major laboratories around the world today.
The prototypes of all these technologies already exist. As William Gibson, the author of Neuromancer Neuromancer who coined the word who coined the word cybers.p.a.ce, cybers.p.a.ce, once said, "The future is already here. It's just unevenly distributed." once said, "The future is already here. It's just unevenly distributed."
Predicting the world of 2100 is a daunting task, since we are in an era of profound scientific upheaval, in which the pace of discovery is always accelerating. More scientific knowledge has been acc.u.mulated just in the last few decades than in all human history. And by 2100, this scientific knowledge will again have doubled many times over.
But perhaps the best way to grasp the enormity of predicting 100 years into the future is to recall the world of 1900 and remember the lives our grandparents lived.
Journalist Mark Sullivan asks us to imagine someone reading a newspaper in the year 1900: In his newspapers of January 1, 1900, the American found no such word as radio, for that was yet twenty years in from coming; nor "movie," for that too was still mainly of the future; nor chauffeur, for the automobile was only just emerging and had been called "horseless carriage...." There was no such word as aviator.... Farmers had not heard of tractors, nor bankers of the Federal Reserve System. Merchants had not heard of chain-stores nor "self-service"; nor seamen of oil-burning engines.... Ox-teams could still be seen on country roads.... Horses or mules for trucks were practically universal.... The blacksmith beneath the spreading chestnut-tree was a reality.
To understand the difficulty of predicting the next 100 years, we have to appreciate the difficulty that the people of 1900 had in predicting the world of 2000. In 1893, as part of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, seventy-four well-known individuals were asked to predict what life would be like in the next 100 years. The one problem was that they consistently underestimated the rate of progress of science. For example, many correctly predicted that we would one day have commercial transatlantic airships, but they thought that they would be balloons. Senator John J. Ingalls said, "It will be as common for the citizen to call for his dirigible balloon as it now is for his buggy or his boots." They also consistently missed the coming of the automobile. Postmaster General John Wanamaker stated that the U.S. mail would be delivered by stagecoach and horseback, even 100 years into the future.
This underestimation of science and innovation even extended to the patent office. In 1899, Charles H. Duell, commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents, said, "Everything that can be invented has been invented."
Sometimes experts in their own field underestimated what was happening right beneath their noses. In 1927, Harry M. Warner, one of the founders of Warner Brothers, remarked during the era of silent movies, "Who the h.e.l.l wants to hear actors talk?"
And Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, said in 1943, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
This underestimation of the power of scientific discovery even extended to the venerable New York Times. New York Times. (In 1903, the (In 1903, the Times Times declared that flying machines were a waste of time, just a week before the Wright brothers successfully flew their airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. In 1920, the declared that flying machines were a waste of time, just a week before the Wright brothers successfully flew their airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. In 1920, the Times Times criticized rocket scientist Robert G.o.ddard, declaring his work nonsense because rockets cannot move in a vacuum. Forty-nine years later, when criticized rocket scientist Robert G.o.ddard, declaring his work nonsense because rockets cannot move in a vacuum. Forty-nine years later, when Apollo 11 Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon, the astronauts landed on the moon, the Times, Times, to its credit, ran the retraction: "It is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum. The to its credit, ran the retraction: "It is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum. The Times Times regrets the error.") regrets the error.") The lesson here is that it is very dangerous to bet against the future.
Predictions for the future, with a few exceptions, have always underestimated the pace of technological progress. History, we are told over and over again, is written by the optimists, not the pessimists. As President Dwight Eisenhower once said, "Pessimism never won a war."
We can even see how science fiction writers underestimated the pace of scientific discovery. When watching reruns of the old 1960s TV series Star Trek, Star Trek, you notice that much of this "twenty-third-century technology" is already here. Back then, TV audiences were startled to see mobile phones, portable computers, machines that could talk, and typewriters that could take dictation. Yet all these technologies exist today. Soon, we will also have versions of the universal translator, which can rapidly translate between languages as you speak, and also "tricorders," which can diagnose disease from a distance. (Excepting warp drive engines and transporters, much of this twenty-third-century science is already here.) you notice that much of this "twenty-third-century technology" is already here. Back then, TV audiences were startled to see mobile phones, portable computers, machines that could talk, and typewriters that could take dictation. Yet all these technologies exist today. Soon, we will also have versions of the universal translator, which can rapidly translate between languages as you speak, and also "tricorders," which can diagnose disease from a distance. (Excepting warp drive engines and transporters, much of this twenty-third-century science is already here.) Given the glaring mistakes people have made in underestimating the future, how can we begin to provide a firmer scientific basis to our predictions?
UNDERSTANDING THE LAWS OF NATURE.
Today, we are no longer living in the dark ages of science, when lightning bolts and plagues were thought to be the work of the G.o.ds. We have a great advantage that Verne and Leonardo da Vinci did not have: a solid understanding of the laws of nature.
Predictions will always be flawed, but one way to make them as authoritative as possible is to grasp the four fundamental forces in nature that drive the entire universe. Each time one of them was understood and described, it changed human history.
The first force to be explained was the force of gravity. Isaac Newton gave us a mechanics that could explain that objects moved via forces, rather than mystical spirits and metaphysics. This helped to pave the way for the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of steam power, especially the locomotive.
The second force to be understood was the electromagnetic force, which lights up our cities and powers our appliances. When Thomas Edison, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, and others helped to explain electricity and magnetism, this unleashed the electronic revolution that has created a bounty of scientific wonders. We see this every time there is a power blackout, when society is suddenly wrenched back 100 years into thepast.
The third and fourth forces to be understood were the two nuclear forces: the weak and strong forces. When Einstein wrote down E E = = mc mc2 and when the atom was split in the 1930s, scientists for the first time began to understand the forces that light up the heavens. This revealed the secret behind the stars. Not only did this unleash the awesome power of atomic weapons, it also held out the promise that one day we would be able to harness this power on the earth. and when the atom was split in the 1930s, scientists for the first time began to understand the forces that light up the heavens. This revealed the secret behind the stars. Not only did this unleash the awesome power of atomic weapons, it also held out the promise that one day we would be able to harness this power on the earth.
Today, we have a fairly good grasp of these four forces. The first force, gravity, is now described through Einstein's theory of general relativity. And the other three forces are described through the quantum theory, which allows us to decode the secrets of the subatomic world.
The quantum theory, in turn, has given us the transistor, the laser, and the digital revolution that is the driving force behind modern society. Similarly, scientists were able to use the quantum theory to unlock the secret of the DNA molecule. The blinding speed of the biotechnological revolution is a direct result of computer technology, since DNA sequencing is all done by machines, robots, and computers.
As a consequence, we are better able to see the direction that science and technology will take in the coming century. There will always be totally unexpected, novel surprises that leave us speechless, but the foundation of modern physics, chemistry, and biology has largely been laid, and we do not expect any major revision of this basic knowledge, at least in the foreseeable future. As a result, the predictions we make in this book are the product not of wild speculation but are reasoned estimates of when the prototype technologies of today will finally reach maturity.
In conclusion, there are several reasons to believe that we can view the outlines of the world of 2100: 1.This book is based on interviews with more than 300 top scientists, those in the forefront of discovery.
2.Every scientific development mentioned in this book is consistent with the known laws of physics.
3.The four forces and the fundamental laws of nature are largely known; we do not expect any major new changes in these laws.
4.Prototypes of all technologies mentioned in this book already exist.
5.This book is written by an "insider" who has a firsthand look at the technologies that are on the cutting edge of research.
For countless eons we were pa.s.sive observers of the dance of nature. We only gazed in wonder and fear at comets, lightning bolts, volcanic eruptions, and plagues, a.s.suming that they were beyond our comprehension. To the ancients, the forces of nature were an eternal mystery to be feared and worshipped, so they created the G.o.ds of mythology to make sense of the world around them. The ancients hoped that by praying to these G.o.ds they would show mercy and grant them their dearest wishes.
Today, we have become ch.o.r.eographers of the dance of nature, able to tweak the laws of nature here and there. But by 2100, we will make the transition to being masters of nature.
2100: BECOMING THE G.o.dS OF MYTHOLOGY.
Today, if we could somehow visit our ancient ancestors and show them the bounty of modern science and technology, we would be viewed as magicians. With the wizardry of science, we could show them jet planes that can soar in the clouds, rockets that can explore the moon and planets, MRI scanners that can peer inside the living body, and cell phones that can put us in touch with anyone on the planet. If we showed them laptop computers that can send moving images and messages instantly across the continents, they would view this as sorcery.
But this is just the beginning. Science is not static. Science is exploding exponentially all around us. If you count the number of scientific articles being published, you will find that the sheer volume of science doubles every decade or so. Innovation and discovery are changing the entire economic, political, and social landscape, overturning all the old cherished beliefs and prejudices.
Now dare to imagine the world in the year 2100.
By 2100, our destiny is to become like the G.o.ds we once worshipped and feared. But our tools will not be magic wands and potions but the science of computers, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and most of all, the quantum theory, which is the foundation of the previous technologies. But our tools will not be magic wands and potions but the science of computers, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and most of all, the quantum theory, which is the foundation of the previous technologies.
By 2100, like the G.o.ds of mythology, we will be able to manipulate objects with the power of our minds. Computers, silently reading our thoughts, will be able to carry out our wishes. We will be able to move objects by thought alone, a telekinetic power usually reserved only for the G.o.ds. With the power of biotechnology, we will create perfect bodies and extend our life spans. We will also be able to create life-forms that have never walked the surface of the earth. With the power of nanotechnology, we will be able to take an object and turn it into something else, to create something seemingly almost out of nothing. We will ride not in fiery chariots but in sleek vehicles that will soar by themselves with almost no fuel, floating effortlessly in the air. With our engines, we will be able to harness the limitless energy of the stars. We will also be on the threshold of sending star ships to explore those nearby.
Although this G.o.dlike power seems unimaginably advanced, the seeds of all these technologies are being planted even as we speak. It is modern science, not chanting and incantations, that will give us this power.
I am a quantum physicist. Every day, I grapple with the equations that govern the subatomic particles out of which the universe is created. The world I live in is the universe of eleven-dimensional hypers.p.a.ce, black holes, and gateways to the multiverse. But the equations of the quantum theory, used to describe exploding stars and the big bang, can also be used to decipher the outlines of our future.
But where is all this technological change leading? Where is the final destination in this long voyage into science and technology?
The culmination of all these upheavals is the formation of a planetary civilization, what physicists call a Type I civilization. This transition is perhaps the greatest transition in history, marking a sharp departure from all civilizations of the past. Every headline that dominates the news reflects, in some way, the birth pangs of this planetary civilization. Commerce, trade, culture, language, entertainment, leisure activities, and even war are all being revolutionized by the emergence of this planetary civilization. Calculating the energy output of the planet, we can estimate that we will attain Type I status within 100 years. Unless we succ.u.mb to the forces of chaos and folly, the transition to a planetary civilization is inevitable, the end product of the enormous, inexorable forces of history and technology beyond anyone's control.
WHY PREDICTIONS SOMETIMES DON'T COME TRUE
But several predictions made about the information age were spectacularly untrue. For example, many futurists predicted the "paperless office," that is, that the computer would make paper obsolete. Actually, the opposite has occurred. A glance at any office shows you that the amount of paper is actually greater than ever.
Some also envisioned the "peopleless city." Futurists predicted that teleconferencing via the Internet would make face-to-face business meetings unnecessary, so there would be no need to commute. In fact, the cities themselves would largely empty out, becoming ghost towns, as people worked in their homes rather than their offices.
Likewise, we would see the rise of "cybertourists," couch potatoes who would spend the entire day lounging on their sofas, roaming the world and watching the sights via the Internet on their computers. We would also see "cybershoppers," who would let their computer mice do the walking. Shopping malls would go bankrupt. And "cyberstudents" would take all their cla.s.ses online while secretly playing video games and drinking beer. Universities would close for lack of interest.
Or consider the fate of the "picture phone." During the 1964 World's Fair, AT&T spent about $100 million perfecting a TV screen that would connect to the telephone system, so that you could see the person whom you were talking to, and vice versa. The idea never took off; AT&T sold only about 100 of them, making each unit cost about $1 million each. This was a very expensive fiasco.
And finally, it was thought that the demise of traditional media and entertainment was imminent. Some futurists claimed that the Internet was the juggernaut that would swallow live theater, the movies, radio, and TV, all of which would soon be seen only in museums.
Actually, the reverse has happened. Traffic jams are worse than ever-a permanent feature of urban life. People flock to foreign sites in record numbers, making tourism one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet. Shoppers flood the stores, in spite of economic hard times. Instead of proliferating cybercla.s.srooms, universities are still registering record numbers of students. To be sure, there are more people deciding to work from their homes or teleconference with their coworkers, but cities have not emptied at all. Instead, they have morphed into sprawling megacities. Today, it is easy to carry on video conversations on the Internet, but most people tend to be reluctant to be filmed, preferring face-to-face meetings. And of course, the Internet has changed the entire media landscape, as media giants puzzle over how to earn revenue on the Internet. But it is not even close to wiping out TV, radio, and live theater. The lights of Broadway still glow as brightly as before.
CAVE MAN PRINCIPLE.
Why did these predictions fail to materialize? I conjecture that people largely rejected these advances because of what I call the Cave Man (or Cave Woman) Principle. Genetic and fossil evidence indicates that modern humans, who looked just like us, emerged from Africa more than 100,000 years ago, but we see no evidence that our brains and personalities have changed much since then. If you took someone from that period, he would be anatomically identical to us: if you gave him a bath and a shave, put him in a three-piece suit, and then placed him on Wall Street, he would be physically indistinguishable from everyone else. So our wants, dreams, personalities, and desires have probably not changed much in 100,000 years. We probably still think like our caveman ancestors.
The point is: whenever there is a conflict between modern technology and the desires of our primitive ancestors, these primitive desires win each time. That's the Cave Man Principle. For example, the caveman always demanded "proof of the kill." It was never enough to boast about the big one that got away. Having the fresh animal in our hands was always preferable to tales of the one that got away. Similarly, we want hard copy whenever we deal with files. We instinctively don't trust the electrons floating in our computer screen, so we print our e-mails and reports, even when it's not necessary. That's why the paperless office never came to be.
Likewise, our ancestors always liked face-to-face encounters. This helped us to bond with others and to read their hidden emotions. This is why the peopleless city never came to pa.s.s. For example, a boss might want to carefully size up his employees. It's difficult to do this online, but face-to-face a boss can read body language to gain valuable unconscious information. By watching people up close, we feel a common bond and can also read their subtle body language to find out what thoughts are racing through their heads. This is because our apelike ancestors, many thousands of years before they developed speech, used body language almost exclusively to convey their thoughts and emotions.
This is the reason cybertourism never got off the ground. It's one thing to see a picture of the Taj Mahal, but it's another thing to have the bragging rights of actually seeing it in person. Similarly, listening to a CD of your favorite musician is not the same as feeling the sudden rush when actually seeing this musician in a live concert, surrounded by all the fanfare, hoopla, and noise. This means that even though we will be able to download realistic images of our favorite drama or celebrity, there is nothing like actually seeing the drama on stage or seeing the actor perform in person. Fans go to great lengths to get autographed pictures and concert tickets of their favorite celebrity, although they can download a picture from the Internet for free.
This explains why the prediction that the Internet would wipe out TV and radio never came to pa.s.s. When the movies and radio first came in, people bewailed the death of live theater. When TV came in, people predicted the demise of the movies and radio. We are living now with a mix of all these media. The lesson is that one medium never annihilates a previous one but coexists with it. It is the mix and relationship among these media that constantly change. Anyone who can accurately predict the mix of these media in the future could become very wealthy.
The reason for this is that our ancient ancestors always wanted to see something for themselves and not rely on hearsay. It was crucial for our survival in the forest to rely on actual physical evidence rather than rumors. Even a century from now, we will still have live theater and still chase celebrities, an ancient heritage of our distant past.
In addition, we are descended from predators who hunted. Hence, we love to watch others and even sit for hours in front of a TV, endlessly watching the antics of our fellow humans, but we instantly get nervous when we feel others watching us. In fact, scientists have calculated that we get nervous if we are stared at by a stranger for about four seconds. After about ten seconds, we even get irate and hostile at being stared at. This is the reason why the original picture phone was such a flop. Also, who wants to have to comb one's hair before going online? (Today, after decades of slow, painful improvement, video conferencing is finally catching on.) And today, it is possible to take courses online. But universities are bulging with students. The one-to-one encounter with professors, who can give individual attention and answer personal questions, is still preferable to online courses. And a university degree still carries more weight than an online diploma when applying for a job.