The topic of of the keynote address at TCT2011, held this week in San Francisco, was certainly ambitious. Titled “The Future of Humankind,” it was delivered by Michio Kaku, Ph.D., a bestselling author and a professor at City College of New York who helped formulate string theory. He did not disappoint in his speculations of where healthcare would be 10, 20, even 50 years into the future.
As a physicist, he said he was in a unique position to reflect on what the future might hold. “Physicists invented the laser and the transistor. We helped to build the first computer. We wrote the World Wide Web. We created the GPS system. Along the way, we also invented television and radio. We discovered x-rays. And by the way, we also created the first MRI scan. The first PET scan. The first EEG. And nuclear medicine along the way.”
Because physicists have been involved in so many technological breakthroughs, they love to make predictions, he said, adding that such predictions don’t always pan out. He cited physicists’ early prediction that Internet would be a high-art, high-culture destination.
Kaku argued that physicists, nonetheless, are better than most at predicting the future. He explained that we can assume that Moore’s Law (although it's not a law of physics) will likely continue to hold. The law assumes computing power will double every 18 months and will likely continue to be valid for decades to come. “[Using that law], we can predict what will happen in 2020, 2030, reasonably well.”
Consider how far things have come already, Kaku recommended. “Your cell phone today has more computing power than NASA when they put two men on the moon,” he said. “And in the future, your bathroom will have more computer power than a modern university hospital today.”
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