by STIRworldMay 11, 2020
What is the name of the book?
Paul Cocksedge (PC): The Future of Humanity.
Who is the author?
PC: American theoretical physicist and futurist Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics in the City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center.
What is the genre?
PC: Non-fiction, mind-blowing read!
Why this book? Could you highlight any notable aspects of it?
PC: The content of the book; it focuses on life over and beyond our lifetime, terraforming Mars, interstellar travel, the future of AI, basically our destiny beyond earth.
Did you get any significant insights? Did you gain knowledge or did it help unwind?
PC: The book is full of information, future predictions, based on scientific facts and the author’s interviews with his colleagues. I particularly enjoyed the part about terraforming Mars, a big topic of the moment with tech entrepreneurs racing with national space programmes. Kaku explains the various ways of how to make our neighbouring planet habitable – including harvesting energy from the sun with large solar parks and heating the atmosphere of Mars so that liquid water can flow on the Red Planet for the first time in three billion years. And as Kaku says, “This would make agriculture, and eventually, cities possible.”
Is there any one thing that you would take home from the read?
PC: Aside from thinking beyond our planet and solar system, the book also explores the future of AI and ‘immortality’ of human beings. Kaku lists pros and cons for both predictions, but to me personally, these thoughts and ideas seem daunting at the moment. However, I agree that we need to carefully research all possibilities and get the greatest minds of our globalised world together to contemplate the future - humanity will have to evolve in line with its technological progress. The progress is continuous and unstoppable, our planet is becoming slowly inhabitable. We will ultimately have to find a solution to save our own species. My interest would then lie in applying design thinking on these solutions.
What I would literally like to take home and would love to use in my work is rare earth and valuable metals that we can apparently mine on asteroids. They contain the likes of platinum, palladium and rhodium; imagine re-visiting my Freeze collection with those metals!
What is your favourite quote from the book? Why?
PC: I can’t simply select one favourite quote as the whole book is full of great information. What I do love, though, is how Kaku himself uses quotes and parallels with science fiction work, including pop-culture icons such as Total Recall and Superman to illustrate how these could be translated into ‘real life’.
“The year is 2084, Arnold Schwarzenegger is an ordinary construction worker who is troubled by recurring dreams about Mars. He decides that he must venture to the planet to learn the origin of these dreams. Although these imaginary cities on Mars make great setting for Hollywood, building them with our current technologies would, in practice, break the budget of any NASA mission. Remember that initially, every hammer, every piece of paper, and every paper clip would have to be shipped to Mars, which is tens of millions of miles away.”
When do you read?
PC: Whenever I can get a moment between projects or on a quiet weekend. I cycle everywhere, so unfortunately reading on the tube is not an option for me.
What is your take on the book and one reason why you would recommend it?
PC: It’s great! When designing, you zoom in on details and focus on just that one thing, even if in a broader context. There is something about getting a larger perspective on our core existence, realising where we have come from and where we are headed. Without perspective, we get blinkered.
Look up more such interesting reads from the series ‘What Am I Reading’ and watch out for more.