Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Future of the Mind

The Future of the Mind: the Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind
© 2014 Michio Kaku
400 pages

In The Future of the Mind, physicist Michio Kaku talks with psychologists and neurologists like V.S. Ramachandran (Phantoms in the Brain, The Tell-Tale Brain) and Steven Pinker (The Blank Slate, The Language Instinct) to find out: what do we know about the brain, and how will we be using that in the future?    Although he's confessedly writing outside of his arena, Kaku  does his best to pass along current progress in neurology, which is beginning to understand how memories are stored, how the brain is networked, and is even attempting to manipulate the brain according to this fledgling knowledge.  Especially provoking is the idea that the two lobes of our brain are both semi-conscious, constantly jostling for attention,  The essential thing to realize about the brain, says Kaku, is that it runs on electromagnetism like thing else: we can thus contrive machines to gauge its activity and even interact with it. This is starting to be done on a small scale as scientists manipulate mice by stimulating certain parts of their brain with light or somesuch, triggering them to blink at will.  These machines can in a limited sense even "read" minds, or at least determine whether a person is thinking about another person, or an object, or music -- different areas of the brain light up depending.  But more technological-neurological interaction may one day allow stroke victims to once again interact with their environment, and to counter diseases like Alzheimers.  Kaku also includes wilder speculation like recording dreams and downloading memories, and as in his Physics of the Future includes a great many pop culture references -- using films like The Matrix and Surrogates.    Of course, a book on technology and intelligence can't very well miss robotics and artificial intelligence, so there's a good dose all around. I found this book much more interesting than Physics of the Future, in part because Kaku focused so much on toys, and here there's a great deal of emphasis on health.  It's very speculative in parts, but I found the science and the work in progress today to be utterly fascinating, especially appreciating the comments on artificial intelligence and robots.


  1. Broca's Brain was a good one(Carl Sagan); i still maintain that consciousness is an illusion... i'll have to put this one on my tbrl...

  2. You might want to try: The Self Illusion: Why There is No 'You' Inside Your Head by Bruce Hood.

  3. I find books like this fascinating. I am particularly interested in consciences as well as where humanity is headed to in the future.

    I find it appealing that the author includes input from Steven Pinker. He is a favorite of mine.

  4. @mudpuddle Kaku writes on "Broca's Brain" early in the mood!

    @Cyberkitten: Sounds interesting -- given that neural plasticity is now accepted as a lifelong possibility, the Buddhists seem right on the nose with their notion of "no self".

    @Brian Joseph: Same here...this idea of neural-technological connection is simultaneously scary and awe-some. Right now it seems to require fairly elaborate gear, though.