serious reading ;)

for those who might have been worrying: I’ve been reading also serious books lately. Here are some excerpts from one of them, enjoy!

Michio Kaku, Physics of the Future, 2011

„it is impossible to predict the future with complete security. The best one can do … is to tap into the minds of the scientists at the cutting edge of research“ 3

Jules Verne, Paris in the Twentieth Century (written in 1863, unpublished till 1994)

1865, Jules Verne wrote From the Earth to the Moon: „he accurately predicted the size of the space capsule to within a few percent, the number of astronauts on the mission, the lenght of time the voyage would last, the weightlessness that the astronauts would experience, and the final splashdown in the ocean“ 5

da Vinci „sketched the blueprint for a mechanical adding machine, which was perhaps 150 years ahead of his time. In 1967, a misplaced manuscript was reanalyzed, revealing his idea for an adding machine with thirteen digital wheels. … The machine was built in 1968 and it worked.“ 5

„there are several reasons to believe that we can view the outlines of the world of 2100:

1. This book is based on interviews with more than 300 top scientists, those in the forefront of discovery.

2. Every scientific development mentioned in this book is consistent with the known laws of physics.

3. The four forces and the fundamental laws of nature are largely known; we do not expect any major new changes in these new laws.

4. Prototypes of all technologies mentioned in this book already exist.

5. This book is written by an ‘insider’ who has a firsthand look at teh technologies that are on the cutting edge of research.“ 9 f.

„By 2100, our destiny is to become like the gods we once worshipped and feared.“ 10

„The culimnation of all these upheavals is the formation of a planetary civilization, what physicists call a Type 1 civilization. This transition is perhaps the greatest transition in history. … Calculating the energy output of the planet, we can estimate that we will attain Type I status within 100 years.“ 11

some predictions don’t come true. Why?

„because of what I call the Cave Men Principle“ [System 1 bei Kahneman] 13

„Genetic and fossil evidence indicates that modern humans, who looked just like us, emerged from Africa more than 100’000 years ago, but we see no evidence that our brains and personalities have changes much since then. … So our wants, dreams, personalities, and desires have probably not changed much in 100’000 years. We probably still think like our caveman ancestors.

The point is: whenever there is a conflict between modern technology and the desires of our primitive ancestors, these primitive desires win each time. … There will be a premium placed on gossip, social networking and entertainment.“ 13 ff.

„the creation of art was not only for enjoyment but also played an important part in the evolution of our brain, which handles most information symbolically.“ 16

movie: Forbidden Planet, based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest

„of course, science is a double-edged sword; it creates as many problems as it solves, but always on a higher level. There are two competing trends in the world today: one is to create a planetary civilization that is tolerant, scientific, and prosperous, but the other glorifies anarchy and ignorance, that could rip the fabric of our society.“ 16

chapter 1

„The destiny of computers – like other mass technologies like electricity, paper, and running water – is to become invisible, that is, to disappear into the fabric of our lives, to be everywhere and nowhere, silently and seamlessly carrying out our wishes.“ 22 f.

„in the future, the Internet will be everywhere – in wall screens, furniture, on billboards, and even in our glasses and contact lenses. When we blink we will go online.“ 24

„Already, some software programs can recognize preprogrammed faces with better than 90 percents accuracy.“ 26

„cars will drive themselves.“ 27

The Pentagon’s DARPA sponsored a contest „in which laboratories were invited to submit driverless cars for a rece across the Mojave Desert to claim a $1 million prize. … In 2004, the contest had an embarrassing beginning, when not a single driverless car was able to travel the 150 miles of rugges terrain and cross the finish line. … But the next year, five cars complete an even more demanding course. … In 2007, DARPA sponsored an even more ambitious project, the Urban Challenge, in which robotic cars had to complete a grueling 60-mile course through mock-urban territory in less than six hours. The cars had to obey all traffic laws, avoid other robot cars along the course, and negotiate four-way intersections. Six teams successfully completed the Urban challenge.“ 27 f.

„The goal of ubiquitous computing is to bring the computer into our world: to put chips everywhere. The purpose of virtual reality is the opposite: to put us into the world of the computer.“ 32 f.

„You will also, to a degree, have the ability to feel and touch objects in this cyberworld. This is called ‘haptic technology’ and allows you to feel the presence of objects that are computer generated.“ 33

„This will be essential for training surgeons in the future“ 34

your ‘doctor’ „will probably be a robotic software program that appears on your wall screen and that can correctly diagnose up to 95 percent of all common ailments. … To diagnose a problem, the ‘doctor’ will ask you to pass a simple probe over your body.“ 35

„Because computers will be able to locate many of the genes that control the aging process, we might be forever be young like Peter Pan.“ 36

Midcentury (2030-2070)

Moore’s law must end 37

„but precisely how it will end, and what will replace it, depends on the laws of physics.“ 38

„at some point, it will be physically impossible to etch transistors in this way that are the size of atoms. You can even calculate roughly when Moore’s law will finally collapse: when you finally hit transistors the size of individual atoms. Around 2020 or soon afterward, Moore’s law will gradually cease to hold true“ 39

„by midcentury we will live in a fully functioning cyberworld that merges the real world with images from a computer.“ 42

Beijing Institute of Technology re-created in cyberspace the fabulous Garden of Perfect Brightness

Nikolas Neecke has created a walking tour of Basel. „When you walk around its ancient streets, you see images of ancient buildings and even people superimposed on the present, as if you were a time traveler.“ 44

Far future (2070 – 2100)

„By the end of this century, we will control computers directly with our minds.“ 51

first significant breakthrough in 1998, tiny glass electrode directly in the brain of a paralyzed guy

„scientists have made remarkable progress in an area once thought to be impossible: taking a snapshot of our memories and possibly our dreams“ 56

„the endpoint of this progression is to attain telekinesis … by 2100, when we walk into a room, we will be able to mentally control a computer that in turn will control things around us.“ 62

„by 2100, we will also live in a world populated by robots that have humanlike characteristics. What happens if they become smarter than us?“ 64

Chapter 2 Future of AI

„we have to differentiate between two types of robots. The first is remote-controlled by a human or programmed and pre-scripted like a tape recorder to follow precise instructions. These robots already exist … should not be confused with the second type, which is truly autonomous, the kind that can think for itself and requires no input from humans.“ 67

„critics sometimes point out a pattern, that every thirty years, AI practitioners claim that superintelligent robots are just around the corner. Then, when the there is a reality check, a backlash sets in.“ 69

„In 1965, AI pioneer Herbert Simon declared, ‘Machines will be capable, within twenty years of doing any work a man can do’“ 69

„In fact, in the 1950s, real breakthroughs were made in AI, but because the progress was vastly overstated and overhyped, a backlash set in. In 1974, under a chorus of rising criticism, the U.S. And British governments cut off funding. The first AI winter set in.“ 69

„In the 1980s, enthusiasm for AI peaked once again. This time the Pentagon poured millions of dollars into projects like the smart truck … the only thing that the smart truck did was get lost“ 69 f.

„In 1997 IBM’s Deep Blue accomplished a historic breakthrough by decisively beating the world chess champion Gary Kasparov. … computing 11 billion operations per second. … it was obvious, that Deep Blue could not think … it would score 0 on an IQ exam. … it was the loser, Kasparov, who did all the talking to the press, since Deep Blue could not talk at all.“ 70

„One fundamental problem, as mathematicians now realize, is that they made a crucial error fifty years ago in thinking the brain was analogous to a large digital computer. But now it is painfully obvious it isn’t. … the brain is a learning machine of some sort, a collection of neurons that constantly rewires itself every time it learns a task … there are at least two approaches to modeling the brain. The first … is to treat robots like digital computers, and program all the rules of intelligence from the very beginning. … However, our brain has no programming or softweare at all. … Neural networks follow Hebb’s rule: every time a correct decision is made, those neural pathways are reinforced. IT does this simply by changing the strength of certain electrical connections between neurons every time it successfully performs a task… practice makes perfect“ 71

„If you remove a single transistor in the digital computer’s central processor, the computer will fail. However, if you remove large chunks of the human brain, it can still function“ 72

„computers have not been able to accomplish two key tasks that humans perform effortlessly: pattern recognition and common sense.“ 72

„Robots can see much better than a human, but they don’t understand what they are seeing. … After many hours of calculation, the robot may match these lines with chairs, tables, and people. By contrast, when we walk into a room, within a fraction of a second, we recognize chairs, tables, desks, and people. Indeed, our brains are mainly pattern-recognizing machines.“ 73

„The problem with the top-down approach is that there are simply too many lines of code for common sense necessary to mimic human thought. Hundreds of millions of lines of code, for example, are necessary to describe the laws of common sense that a six-year-old child knows.“ 73


„by then, our world may be full of robots, but we might not even notice them. That is because most robots probably won’t have human form. … These will be modular robots that can change shape depending on the task.“ 79

„The robot chief and robot musician are carefully programmed. They are not autonomous. Although these robots are quite sophisticated compared to the old player pianos, they still operate on the same principles. True robot maids and butlers are still in the distant future.“ 83

„by midcentury, the era of emotional robots may be in full flower.“ 83

„Scientists are now understanding the true nature of emotions. First, emotions tell us what is good for us and what is harmful. The vast majority of things in the world are either harmful or not very useful. … Each of our emotions evolved over millions of years to protect us from the dangers of a hostile world and help us to reproduce. Every emotion helps to propagate our genes into the next generation.“ 84

patients where the link between the thinking part of the brain and the emotional center was cut could not make decisions.

„one of the chief purposes of emotions is to give us values.“ 84

„emotions will play a vital role in creating autonomous robots.“ 85

„by midcentury, we shoule be able to complete the next milestone in the history of AI: reverse engineering the human brain.“ 87

„the next step is to actually model the entire brain, using the latest in technology. There are at least two ways to solve this colossal problem, which will take many decades of hard work. The first is by using supercomputers to simulate the behavior of billions of neurons, each one connected to thousands of other neurons. The other way is to actually locate every neuron in the brain.. The key to the first approach .. is simple, raw computer power.“ 90

„There are serious problems, however, with modeling the entire human brain, especially power and hear. The Dawn computer devours 1 million watts of power and generates so much heat it needs 6,675 tons of air-conditioning equipment, which blows 2.7 million cubic feet of chilled air every minute. To model the human brain, you would have to scale this up by a factor of 1’000. … Amazingly, the human brain, by contrast, uses just 20 warrs. The heat generated … is hardly noticeable, yet it easily outperforms our greates supercomputer. Furthermore, the human brain is the moste complex object that Mother Nature has prodcued in this section of the galaxcy.“ 92 f.

Far future

„What happens when robots finally become as smart as us? … according to some experts, robot creations will gradually rise up the evolutionary tree. … AI researchers are split on the question when this might happen. … In 1993, Vernor Vinge said, ‘I’ll be surprised if this event occurs before 2005 or after 2030.’ On the other hand, Douglas Hofstaeder … says, ‘I’d be surprised if anything remotely like this happened in the next 100 years to 200 years.’“ 96

part of the problem: no consensus on the meaning of ‘consciousness’

„I personally think that one of the problems has been the failure to clearly define consciousness and then a failure to quantify it. But if I were to venture a guess, I would theorize that consciousness consists of at least three basic components:

1. sensing and recognizing the environment
2. self-awareness
3. planning for the future by setting goals and plans, that is, simulating the guture and plotting strategy.

In this approach, even simple machines and insects have some form of consciousness.“ 96 f.

„’singularity’. The word originally came from the world of relativistic physics … where a singularity represents a point of infinite gravity, from which nothing can escape, such as a black hole. … The idea of an AI singularity was first mentioned in 1958 in a conversation between two mathematicians, Stanislaw Ulam … and John von Neumann. … it was then amplified and popularized by science fiction author and mathematician Vernor Vinge in his novels and essays.“ 101 f.

Kurzweil: „by 2019, he predicts, a $1’000 PC will have as much raw power as a human brain. Soon after that, computers will leave us in the dust. … By 2045, a $1’000 computer will be a billion times more intelligent than every human combined. … After 2045, computers become so advanced that they make copies of themselves, that are ever increasing in intelligence, creating a runaway singularity. To satisfy their never-ending, ravenous appetite for computer power, they will begin to devour the earth, asteroids, planets, and stars, and even affect the cosmological history of the universe itself.“ 102 f.

„but many scientists are leaning toward something called ‘friendly AI,’, where we design our robots to be benign from the very beginning.“ 105

problem: the military is by far the largest funder of AI systems, and these military robots are specifically designed to hunt, track, and kill humans.“ 105

„No one knows when robots may become as smart as humans. But personally I would put the date close to the end of the century“ 115

Chapter 5 Future of Energy

„In this century, we will harness the power of the stars“ 210

„the world consumes about 14 trillion watts of power, of which 33 percent comes from oil, 25 percent from coal, 20 percent from gas, 7 percent from nuclear, 15 percent from biomass and hydroelectric, and a paltry .5 percent from solar and renewables.“ 211

peak oil near

„the average price of oil will continue to rise over the long term.“ 212

another issue: rise of middle class in China and India – „they also want to live the American dream of wasteful energy consumption“ 213

near future

the most promising successor to replace oil is solar/hydrogen power“ 213

„generating capacity from wind grea from 17 billion watts in 2000 to 121 billions watts in 2008“ 214

problems: „generated only intermittently, when the wind blows, and only in a few key regions of the world. Also, because of losses in the transmission of electricity, wind farms have to be close to cities, which further limits their usefulness.“ 215

„Ultimately, all energy comes from the sun. Even oil and coal are, in some sense, concentrated sunlight, representing the energy that fell on plants and animals millions of years ago.“ 215

solar cells are not efficient

„Solar voltaic production is growing by 45 percent per year, almost doubling every two years. … In 2008, Florida Power & Light announced the largest solar plant project in the United States. The contract was given by SunPower, which plans to generate 25 megawatts of power. … In 2009, BrightSourceEnergy, based in Oakland, California, announced plans to beat that record by building fourteen solar plants, generating 2.6 billion watts, across California, Nevada and Arizona. … In 2009, First Solar, the world’s largest manufacturer of solar cells, announced that it will create the world’s largest solar plant just north of the Great Wall of China.“ 216

„the Tesla Roadster, which has no gasoline engine at all. It is made by Tesla Motors“ 217

„After the fully electric car, another car that will eventually hit the showrooms is the fuel cell car. … It runs by combining hydrogen and oxygen“ 218

„as we make the transition from gasoline to electricity, we need to replace the coal-burning plants with an entirely new form of energy.“ 219

possible candidate: nuclear power

the problem … „is that when you split the uranium atom, you produce enormous quantities of nuclear waste, which is radioactive for thousands to tens of millions of years.“ 220

in the US (after cancelling the Yucca Mountain site) there is no permanent waste-storage facility 221


global warming in full swing

„sunlight easly passes through carbon dioxide. But as sunlight heats up the earth, it creates infrared radiation, which does not pass back through carbon dioxide so easily.“ 227

„By midcentury, a new option arises that is a game changer: fusion. … Fusion power relies on fusing hydrogen atoms with great heat, thereby releasing vastly more energy (with very little waste). Unlike fission power, fusion power unleashes the nuclear energy of the sun. Buried deep inside the hydrogen atom is the energy source of the universe.“ 234 f.

that is the key: heating and compressing hydrogen gas until the nuclei fuse, releasing cosmic amounts of energy.“ 235

„The problem is that no one has been able to reliably attain cold fusion on demand.“2 237

„if laser fusion does not work as expected there is another, even more advanced proposal for controlled fusion: putting the sun in a bottle. … ITER uses a magnetic fiels to slowly compress hydrogen gas. The machine looks very much like a huge hollow doughnut made of steel, with magnetic coils surrounding the hole of the doughnut. The magnetic field keeps the hydrogen gas inside the doughnut-shaped chamber from escaping. Then an electrical current is sent surging through the gas, heating it. The combination of squeezing the gas with the magnetic field and sending a current surging through it causes the gas to heat up to many millions of degrees. … The problem is that the magnetic field has to be precisely tuned to that the gas is compressed evenly without bulging or becoming irregular.“ 241

but: „The ITER is still just a science project. It is not designed to produce commercial power.“ 243 f.

far future

„sometimes in this century, it is likely that physicists will find their holy grail: room temperature superconductors.“ 247

„most of the gasoline we use in our cars goes to overcoming friction.“

„the key to this technology is superconductors. Ot has been known since 1911 that mercury, when cooled to four degrees (Kelvin) above absolute zero, loses all electrical resistance. … These superconductors have strange but marvelous properties, but one severe disadvantage is that you have to cool them to near absolute zero with liquid hydrogen, which is very expensive. Therefore, physicists were in shock in 1986 when it was announced that a new class of superconductors had been found that did not need to be cooled to these fantastically low temperatures. … ceramics … became superconductors at 92 degrees (Kelvin) above absolute zero.“ 247 f.

„room temperature superconductors could produce supermagnets capable of lifting trains and cars so they hover above the ground.“ 249

„The road would be made of superconductors instead of asphalt. … The car would float.“ 250

„Even without room temperature superconductors, several nations have produced magnetic levitating trains (maglev) that hover above a set of rails containing magnets.“ 250

Ausschnitt aus Chapter 7 (Future of Wealth)

Four stages of Technology

„Mass technologies usually evolve in four basic stages. … In stage I, the products of technology are so precious that they are closely guarded. … Paper entered stage II around 1450, when Gutenberg invented printing from movable type. This made possible the ‘personal book’, so that one person could possess one book containing the knowledge of hundreds of scrolls. Before Gutenberg there were only 30’000 books in all Europe. By 1500, there were 9 million books, stirring up intense intellectual ferment and stimulating the Renaissance.

But around 1930, paper hit stage III, when the cost fell to a penny a sheet. This made possible the personal library, where one person could possess hundreds of books. … Now, we are in stage IV, where paper is a fashion statement.“ 300

The same applies to running water (ancient times / early 1900s / after world War II / today)

also electricity: … / after World War I / … / today)

the computer follows the same pattern

not all technologies enter stages III and IV, e.g. locomotive

„as technologies evolve, they create abrupt changes in the economy that sometimes lead to social dislocations. In any revolution, there are winners and losers. … the jobs that will survive in the future are, in the main, those that robots cannot perform – ones that require“ pattern recognition and common sense. … Any factory work that can be reduced to a set of scripted, repetitive motions will eventually disappear. … The winners will be those whoe perform nonrepetitive work that requires pattern recognition. Garbage collectors, police officers, construction workers, gardeners, and plumbers will all have jobs in the future. …

Among white-collar-workers, the losers will be those involved in middleman work taking inventory and ‘bean counting’. This means low-level agents, brokers, tellers, accountants etc. …

the corporate pyramid will be thinned out. … among white-collar-workers, the winners will be those who can provide useful common sense. This means workers involved with creativity – artwork, acting, telling jokes, writing software, leadership, analysis, science, creativity – qualities that ‘make us human’“. 307

Chapter 8 Future of Humanity

„When physicists try to analyze civilizations, we rank them on the basis of the energy they consume. This raking was first introduced in 1964 by Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev, who was interested in probing the night sky for signals sent from advanced civilizations in space. … He proposed three theoretical types: A Type I civilization is planetary, consuming the sliver of sunlight that falls on their planet, or about 10^17 watts. A Type II civilization is stellar, consuming all the energy that their sun emits, or 10^27 watts. A type III civilization is galactic, consuming the energy of billions of stars, or about 10^37 watts.

… Our present-day civilization is Type 0. … Carl Sagan … tried to get a more precise estimate … we are actually a Type .7 civilization … we can mathematically estimate that we will attain Type I status in about 100 years, given an average rate of our economic growth.“ 329 ff.

„The Internet is the beginning of a Type I plnetar telephone system. For the first time in history, a person on one continent can effortlessly exchange unlimited information with someone on another continent. … A handful of languages, led by English, followed by Chinese, are rapidly emerging as the future Type I language. On the World Wide Web, for example, 29 percent of visitors log on in English, followed by 22 percent in Chinese, 8 percent in Spanish, 6 percent in Japanese, and 5 percent in French. … English has emerged as the lingua franca. … currently, there are 6’000 languages being spoken on earth, and 90 percent of them are expected to become extinct in the coming decades, according to Michael E. Krauss.“ 331 f.

„Backpacking youths of today who stay in budget youth hostels around the world will become the leaders of tomorrow.“ 336

„The transistion between our current Type 0 civilization and a future Type I civilization is perhaps the greatest transition in history. … This transition is extremely dangerous because we still have all the barbaric savagery that typified our painful rise from the swamp. … However, once we make the transition to a Type I civilization, we will have many centuries to settle our differences. … the generation now alive is the most important ever to walk the surface of the earth, for we will determine if we will reach a Type I civilization or fall into the abyss.

But science by itself is morally neutral. Science is like a double-edged sword. One side of the sword can cut against poverty, disease, and ignorance. But the other side of the sword can cut against people. How this mighty sword is wielded depends on the wisdom of its handlers.

The key, therefore, is to find the wisdom necessary to wield this sword of science. As the philosopher Immanuel Kant once said, ‘Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.’ In my opinion, wisdom is the ability to identify the crucial issues of our time, analyze them from many different points of view and perspectives, and then choose the one that carries out some noble goal and principle. In our society, wisdom is hard to come by.“ 347 ff.


David Archer, The Long Thaw, 2009

Max Brockman, What’s next? 2009

Damien Broderick, Year Million, 2008

Lester Brown, Plan B 4.0, 2009

James Canton, The Extreme Future, 2006

Joseph Coates, 2025, 1997

Paul Davies, The Eerie Silence: Renewing our search for alien intelligence, 2010

Howard Didsbury, 21st Century Opportunities and Challenges, 2003

Freeman Dyson, The Sun, the Genome and the Internet, 1999

George Friedman, The Next 100 years, 2009

Hamish McRae, The World in 2020, 1995

Clifford Pickover, Visions of the Future, 1994

Steven Rose, The Future of the Brain, 2005

Charles Sheffield et al., The World of 2044, 1994

Richard Watson, Future Files, 2008

Jonathan Weiner, Long for this World: The Strange Science of Immortality, 2010

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