Having written the enthusiastic but strictly science-based Physics of the Impossible (2008) and Physics of the Future (2011), Kaku (Theoretical Physics/City Univ. of New York) turns his attention to the human mind with equally satisfying results.
Aware that predictions limited to a lifetime are usually wrong—where are the flying cars, cancer cures and Mars colonies foretold in the 1950s?—the author expands his forecasts to the next few centuries. He has no trouble foreseeing telepathy, telekinesis, intelligence pills, artificial memories and mind control. He agrees that centuries of research by physicians and neuroscientists has borne fruit, but he boasts that the end of the 20th century saw his own profession, physics, produce spectacular advances, with more to come. Acronymic high-tech machines (fMRI, PET, ECOG, DTI) allow researchers to watch the brain reason, see, remember and deliver instructions. Telepathy is no longer a fantasy since scanners can already detect, if crudely, what a subject is thinking, and genetics and biochemistry now allow researchers to alter memories and increase intelligence in animals. Direct electrical stimulation of distinct brain regions has changed behavior, awakened comatose patients, relieved depression, and produced out-of-body and religious experiences. Similar to the human genome program, massive research efforts in the United States and Europe to reverse-engineer the brain have the potential to vastly increase human potential as well as relieve disease and injury. “[W]e should treasure the consciousness that is found on the Earth,” writes the author. “It is the highest form of complexity known in the universe, and probably the rarest.”
Kaku is not shy about quoting science-fiction movies and TV (he has seen them all). Despite going off the deep end musing about phenomena such as isolated consciousness spreading throughout the universe, he delivers ingenious predictions extrapolated from good research already in progress.