Engineers, scientists, and
mathematicians will be the creative minds sparking the innovations
leading the next technological wave that will create wealth and an
exciting new civilization.
That's the vision of theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, the
world's foremost authority on the future, who presented the Oscar
C. Schmidt Memorial Lecture during this year's homecoming
convocation. The event filled Hulbert Arena of the Sports and
Recreation Center with students, faculty, staff members, alumni,
and community residents.
Kaku, co-founder of string field theory, interviewed 300 of the
world's top scientists for his New York Times best-selling book,
Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our
Daily Lives by the Year 2100. He discovered science comes in waves,
sparked by a few key inventions.
"Science is the engine of prosperity, but innovation is the
rocket fuel of science. Without innovation you get stagnation. We
need more innovation," Kaku says. Steam-generated machines and the
locomotive created the first technological wave, during the 1800s,
and great wealth from the Industrial Revolution, he outlines.
Advances in electricity and automobiles provided the frontier of
the second wave in the early 1900s. Computing, satellites, lasers,
and telecommunications caused the third wave in the late 1900s.
Kaku believes it won't take another 100 years for the next
technological wave to take place. In fact, in many cases, it has
already started. This fourth wave will be based on a combination of
four scientific areas: biotechnology, computers/
telecommunications, artificial intelligence, and
This wave will feature the Internet being incorporated into
every aspect of people's lives, available through eyeglasses and
contact lenses; computers being as thin, flexible, and cheap as
paper; transparent screens bringing 3D technology to home
televisions; driverless cars, using GPS and radar; nanoparticles
the size of molecules will locate and kill cancer cells; smart
toilets will monitor personal health; persons will use thought
waves to control machines, robots, and computers; and a "human body
shop" will allow for the growth of new body organs from a person's
cells, greatly increasing life expectancy and quality of life.
"These are some of the most exciting times to be a scientist,"
Kaku says. "As a physicist we rank civilizations by energy. We're
now at a Type 0 civilization, getting our energy from dead plants
(coal and oil). A Type 1 civilization is truly planetary, mining
the oceans and harnessing the power of hurricanes and volcanoes.
Type 2 is stellar, a civilization that harnesses the power of two
nearby stars. Type 3 is galactic, harnessing the black holes and
"If I was an engineer today, I would be excited about the fact
that we're witnessing the birth of the greatest step in human
civilization, the transition from a Type 0 to a Type 1
civilization. It might be 100 years away, but every headline I see
points to the birth of this Type 1 society," he adds. "This Type 1
civilization will speak English, the first planetary language. The
Internet is a Type 1 telephone system. Rock-n-roll is the beginning
of a Type 1 youth culture. Chanel and Gucci are the beginning of
fashion that's planetary. So, the steps are in place for this
monumental shift toward a new type of civilization."
A theoretical physicist, Kaku's goal is to complete Einstein's
dream of a "theory of everything"-a single elegant equation that
unifies the fundamental forces of the universe. His two radio
programs, "Explorations in Science" and "Science Fantastic," focus
on topics such as frontiers in physics, black holes, time machines,
hyperspace, the human genome project, and genetic engineering.
In an exclusive Echoes interview, Kaku discussed a variety of
current topics about science and engineering, including:
Keeping America's High-Tech Edge: "America needs another
'Sputnik Moment' so that we can compete against China and India. We
could be losing that edge as other countries realize that high tech
is the meal ticket.
You don't need to tell China and India that high tech is their
meal ticket, but we need to get this message to the American
people. It will be difficult to create 'Sputnik Moments' if we keep
slashing science programs, like NASA."
Nurturing Future Innovators: "There are three ingredients
necessary to creating a scientist and engineer: parental support,
having mentors and role models, and being motivated to succeed.
Institutions like Rose-Hulman can play a significant role in
providing the right environment to nurture the engineers and
scientists of the future."
It's Not All About Money and Success: "Sometimes you have to
follow your star. The perfect job is to get paid for what you love.
Scientists and engineers need to love what they do. They shouldn't
be encouraged to go into the field because of the high salaries.
With great ideas comes great wealth. But the idea comes first."