Saturday, November 14, 2015

Physics of the Future, by Michio Kaku

Chapter Seven

1.  Kaku begins by noting, “Soon, the rise of science and technology in Europe began to weaken the power of China and the Ottoman Empire.  The answer to the question “What happened?” is clear. Science and technology happened. Science and technology are the engines of prosperity. Of course, one is free to ignore science and technology, but only at your peril. The world does not stand still because you are reading a religious text. If you do not master the latest in science and technology, then your competitors will.

- How has the Church fared in the midst of such historic upheaval?
- What have we learned from our bumps & bruises along the way?

2.  In the near future (present to 2030), Kaku notes, “So the evolution of computers is not a mystery; it is following the well-worn path of its predecessors, like electricity, paper, and running water. But the computer and the Internet are still evolving. Economist John Steele Gordon was asked if this revolution is over. ‘Heavens, no. It will be a hundred years before it fully plays out, just like the steam engine. We are now at the point with the Internet that they were with the railroad in 1850. It’s just the beginning.’”

- How might this evolution affect our personal & profession lives?

3.  “Thomas Friedman writes, ‘The early 21st century saw a boom, bubble and now a bust around financial services. But I fear all it will leave behind are a bunch of empty Florida condos that never should have been built, used private jets that the wealthy can no longer afford and the dead derivative contracts that no one can understand.’ But in spite of all the silliness that accompanied the recent crash, the irony here is that the wiring and networking of the world will take place after the crash of 2008. The heyday of the information revolution is yet to come.”

- What are the grounds for Kaku’s optimism here?

4.  By midcentury (2030 to 2070), “as technologies evolve, they create abrupt changes in the economy that sometimes lead to social dislocations. In any revolution, there are winners and losers. This will become more evident by midcentury. We no longer have blacksmiths and wagon makers in every village. Moreover, we do not mourn the passing of many of these jobs. But the question is: What jobs will flourish by midcentury? How will the evolution of technology change the way we work?”

- How does Kaku respond to these two questions?  Do you agree?

5.  “This also means that entire industries, such as entertainment, are undergoing a profound upheaval.”

- How will we evolve as consumers of entertainment?

6.  By the far future (2070 to 2100), Kaku predicts, “These new technologies that we have been discussing in this book are so powerful that, by the end of the century, they are bound to have an impact on capitalism itself.” These include: perfect capitalism; mass production to mass customization; mass technology as utility; and targeting your customer.

- How will each of these changes affect our economy?

7.  So far, we have asked only how technology is altering the way capitalism operates. But with all the turmoil created by the advances in high technology, what impact is this having on the nature of capitalism itself? All the turmoil that this revolution is creating can be summarized in one concept: the transition from commodity capitalism to intellectual capitalism. What is replacing commodity capitalism is intellectual capitalism. Intellectual capital involves precisely what robots and AI cannot yet provide, pattern recognition and common sense.

- How will this shift impact jobs?
- How will we prepare tomorrow’s leaders?
- How will the nations of the world share intellectual resources?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Physics of the Future, by Michio Kaku

Chapter Six

1.  Hollywood television and movies make space travel look so easy.  Who knew it was really so complicated?  In the near term (present to 2030), Kaku discusses the current state of affairs with our space program.  While advancements are meager, at best, there is small progress on the horizon. 

- What are the main challenges to locating and identifying other “earth-like” planets? 
- What is the “Goldilocks Zone?”  Why is Europa different?

2.  “While robotic missions will continue to open new vistas for space exploration, the manned missions will face much greater hurdles. This is because, compared to manned missions, robotic missions are cheap and versatile; can explore dangerous environments; don’t require costly life support; and most important, don’t have to come back.”

- What are the primary obstacles to manned space missions?
- What roles have politics and funding played in recent decisions?
3.  Kaku acknowledges, “The task of establishing a permanent presence on the moon faces many obstacles.”

- What are some of these obstacles?

4.  By midcentury (2030 to 2070), a mission to Mars may be in progress.  Yet, the challenges are numerous.

- Specifically, how do concerns about water and atmosphere affect potential trips to Mars?

5.  Kaku notes that by midcentury, we might have opportunity to engage in space travel via tourism (and lots of $$$).

- What’s our progress with space tourism so far?

 6.  Kaku notes that in the far future (2070 to 2100), “nanotechnology might even make possible the fabled space elevator. Like Jack and the beanstalk, we might be able to climb into the clouds and beyond. We would enter an elevator, push the up button, and then ascend along a carbon nanotube fiber that is thousands of miles long. This could turn the economics of space travel upside down.”

- All elevator jokes aside, why is this such a difficult project?

7.  “By the end of the century, even despite recent setbacks in funding for manned space missions, scientists will likely have set up outposts on Mars and perhaps in the asteroid belt. Next, they will set their sights on an actual star. Although an interstellar probe is hopelessly beyond reach today, within 100 years it might become a reality. The first challenge is to find a new propulsion system. Several designs and propulsions systems have been proposed for an interstellar craft:

“Solar sail, nuclear rocket, ramjet fusion, and nanoships.” 

- Discuss the mechanics of each.

8.  Kaku concludes, “Given the fact that earth will be the home of humanity for centuries to come, this raises another question:

- How will civilization itself evolve?
- How will science affect our lifestyle, our jobs, and our society?
- Science is the engine of prosperity, so how will it reshape civilization and wealth in the future?

- Your thoughts on these?