Popular Physicist Says Tech Tidal Wave Coming; He Calls It a Fourth Wave of Technological Innovation

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Byline: Wayne Ezell

Michio Kaku, a futurist and theoretical physicist, is predicting that molecular physics will trigger the next wave of innovation and be transformative for education, transportation and medicine.

The best-selling author has interviewed 300 of the world's leading scientists to get their view of what's ahead for computers, robotics, space travel, medicine and economics.

His latest book, "Physics of the Future," draws on that research to describe developments in the next 90 years that will affect our daily lives.

In an appearance Tuesday at the University of North Florida, he will discuss how wealth, politics and science will shape the future. Politics is driven by wealth and wealth derives from science, he said in an interview.

"Life is going to be digitized," in ways seldom imagined before now, Kaku said, adding that today's most powerful computer chips will cost less than a penny in the next decade or so.

"Technology is like a tidal wave," he said. "If you want to hang on to the old way, you will go bankrupt, but if you can accept it, you can ride the wave."

Look at how quickly the model changed for the music industry. Remember turntables, tape cassettes, record stores, receivers, CDs. Some thought people would always buy music the old way, but they went out of business.

"And who controls music and is making the money today?" Kaku asks. "Apple. Not a music company."

He points to three economic bubbles that have burst after a wave of technological innovation. First scientists invented the steam engine, which led to locomotives and industrial growth. But much of the wealth went to London financial markets where the bubble burst in mid-1800s.

Invention of the light bulb and electricity led to economic growth and then a bubble that burst in 1929. Then innovations in computers led to high tech mania and a bubble that burst in 2002.

A fourth wave will be triggered by developments in molecular physics in biotechnology, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and communications, he said.

The fourth wave Kaku describes will revolutionize transportation, education and medicine.

GPS enabled cars will drive themselves and be more efficient and convenient, but they will have virtually no crashes, Kaku predicts.

So-called cyber education will grow, reducing costs and increasing accessibility, but it will be tempered because of a missing link. Human relations, teacher-student interactions and peer relations are important to education and cannot be digitized. …