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BOOK REVIEW
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 500-501

Michio Kaku: Future of the mind


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Date of Web Publication7-Jul-2015

Correspondence Address:
C R Sridhar
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How to cite this article:
Sridhar C R. Michio Kaku: Future of the mind. J Can Res Ther 2015;11:500-1

How to cite this URL:
Sridhar C R. Michio Kaku: Future of the mind. J Can Res Ther [serial online] 2015 [cited 2017 Nov 17];11:500-1. Available from: http://www.cancerjournal.net/text.asp?2015/11/2/500/160126


Author: Michio Kaku

Publisher: Random House

Price: US$ 25

Year of Publication: 2014

Mind has always been a mysterious concept in our daily discourse. Various hypotheses and definitions have been offered, but none has been accepted as a universal definition. Mind remains ubiquitous and undefinable. Is mind substantive? Is it made up of some "mind stuff?" Or it is nonmaterial but energy? These have been the questions without definitive answers. Equally difficult is the concept of consciousness. Enormous stuff has been written on consciousness by the erudite from science to spirituality, but the concept has escaped all of the erudition. However, what is universally accepted is that the brain is the seat of the mind. Thoughts appear in the mind. Hence, a safe definition seems to be "one's mind is the collection of one's thoughts." Since thoughts are made possible by the brain they can be "controlled" by manipulating the brain. That is the stance of scientists - physicists and neuro-scientists.

This book by Michio Kaku delves deep into the brain-machine science in some detail and he offers a peep into the future of the mind. Michio Kaku is a Nobel Laureate in Physics and his name to fame is the string theory, the theory that Einstein was looking for to explain everything that's happening in our world. The main problem that physics of today faces is the theoretical incompatibility between the microcosm and the macrocosm and string theory hopes to bridge the two.

The book addresses a lot of interesting questions. Is it possible to read thoughts using the currently available digital technologies? Kaku's interaction with scientists working in the brain-machine project shows that they have been able to read a person's thoughts by simply mapping the brain. If this is so then a whole new set of applications become possible and the technology is a game changer. Look at the plethora of medical applications this technology offers. A paralyzed person can do a number of things by attaching his brain to a robot through a "thought machine." An exoskeleton on a paralyzed person can make him move. The technology will make the concepts of telepathy and tele-kinetics shift from magic to reality. Just imagine the advantage a criminal investigator has trying to extract accurate information from a suspected criminal! The applications are vast and can make a huge impact.

The more difficult but an important question is: Is it possible to put thoughts into person's mind without his/her knowledge? Even this question is answered in the affirmative by the author. This technology has enormous medical applications but also can be a potential threat to the society at large. Schizophrenics, for example, can be cured by deadening certain parts of the brain and activating other relevant parts. The neural structures in any part of the brain can be replaced by customized chips. Just imagine this technology in the hands of a dictator, it is a pure nightmare.

The advances in neuro-sciences indicate that it will be possible to also transport the entire "mind" and place it outside the body. In the future, a person on earth can have his mind transported to Mars and keep his mind alive even after he is dead and gone! Also, a father can talk to his dead daughter. The landscape is enormous and exciting.
"One day, scientists might construct an "internet of the mind," or a brain-net, where thoughts and emotions are sent electronically around the world. Even dreams will be videotaped and then "brain-mailed" across the internet", says the author.

Going beyond mind, the author also addresses the issue of consciousness. So what is consciousness? Here is the definition by Michio Kaku. "Consciousness is the process of creating a model of the world using multiple feedback loops in various parameters (e.g., in temperature, space, time, and in relation to others), in order to accomplish a goal (e.g., find mates, food, shelter)." He uses this definition to classify all life into different classes. However, this definition, even though it is interesting, does not form the core of the book.

The author also has interesting results on savants, who display extra-ordinary skills like superfast computational skills. Most of the savants are autistic and others have a slight damage to the left frontal lobe. It is possible that many of the mystics and self-realized souls actually have had an alteration in specific areas of the brain. Experiments show that "God Realization" can be simulated in healthy normal human beings by stimulating specific areas in the brain. Maybe we will see clinics in the future that can give god experience, for a fee of course.

Michio Kaku paints a panoramic picture of where the scientists are taking the brain-machine science and what to expect out of these researches in the next years to come. As nano-technology become sophisticated, the computational capabilities shoot up exponentially the future of the mind becomes more certain. The future is fascinating and at the same time unnerving. The technology can free humans and at the same time imprison them in their own bodies. Where is all this advancement taking us? More we discover we realize smaller we are in the cosmic screen. "In other words, just as astronomy has reduced us to insignificant pieces of cosmic dust floating in an uncaring universe, neuroscience has reduced us to electrical signals circulating within neural circuits. However, is this really true?" asks Michio Kaku. We don't know, maybe the honest answer.

After the complete exploration of the brain biology and digital dredging the Nobel Laureate concludes with "the material world may come and go, but consciousness remains as the defining element, which means that consciousness, in some sense, creates reality. The very existence of the atoms we see around us is based on our ability to see and touch them."

Looks like the Upanishads saw this long ago, but then that's not science!




 

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