In case you haven’t heard: the future is now, and Michio Kaku’s new book, The Future of the Mind, more or less proves it. If you’re familiar with Oliver Sacks’ work, this book is your next stop. While not nearly as literary as Sacks, Kaku discusses some lofty possibilities for the future, while remaining grounded in scientific studies and experiments. The Future of the Mind is an expansive look at brain science, from mapping to mind control and beyond. Looking for a primer on the future of life as we know it? Read on.
The book takes us through a brief and basic history of brain tech (MRI, EEG, PET, CT), and also discusses the latest tools in the neuroscientist’s war chest, such as transcranial electromagnetic scanners and optogenetics (basically a way to control behavior by shining a light on the brain, NBD!).
Very quickly Kaku moves to the present, adding substance to brainy news headlines we’ve seen in the last year or so, starting with President Obama’s promise to fund projects aimed at reverse engineering the brain. Kaku then jumps to a discovery that garnered a memorable headline from the New York Times: “Brains as Clear as Jell-O for Scientists to Explore.” In the spring of last year, scientists at Stanford University revealed a study wherein they turned a whole mouse brain and part of a human brain entirely clear, allowing scientists to watch neurons send and receive information. “Deciphering the intricate neural circuitry of the brain, once considered hopelessly beyond the scope of modern science is now the focus of two crash projects that, like the Human Genome Project, will change the scientific and medical landscape,” writes Kaku. Very soon the nuances of the brain’s internal workings may be at our fingertips—and some of our science-fiction fantasies may soon become a reality.
Kaku takes a moment to define consciousness from “a physicist’s viewpoint” before jumping into the real meat of the book: telepathy, telekinesis, mind control, and artificial intelligence. For all these subjects he provides evidence of their eventuality: a team of scientists at USC Wake Forest that were able to record and implant memories from one mouse to another; Brown University’s development of Braingate, a chip that allows quadriplegics to use motorized appendages simply by thinking. Kaku also provides lengthy discussion not only about the philosophical and physical repercussions of these discoveries, but guidelines for how we can move forward from them.
True to Kaku’s reputation, the book is remarkably simple to understand. He doesn’t delve too deeply into the actual science, but rather keeps the book focused on concepts. It’s an exciting and fast-paced read, despite its 340 pages. If robots are your thing or you’d love some insight into a potentially Orwellian future, this is definitely your next read.
Limited-edition signed copies of The Future of the Mind are now available on barnesandnoble.com. Get yours today!