At warp speed: Can we be an interstellar species?

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku believes we are on the verge of using AI and nanotech to travel beyond our solar system, build habitable worlds on other planets.

books Updated: Apr 15, 2018 08:40 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times
Interstellar,Alien,Space travel
Films like Interstellar have already visualised the possibilities of travel to other galaxies, and the possibility of human settlements outside Earth.
The Future of Humanity
  • Author: Michio Kaku
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • Price: Rs 519 (Hardcover)

What is the future of humanity? Will climate change and resource depletion end human civilisation and life on earth as we know it? Or will doomsayers’ gloomy predictions implode as humanity terraforms planets to make new homes in distant star systems?

Happily for those of us who grew up dreaming of exploring galaxies far, far away and going where no (wo)man had gone before, theoretical physicist and string field theory co-founder Michio Kaku’s The Future of Humanity turns sci-fi into a future reality filled with interstellar travel and habitable intergalactic civilisations.

And it won’t be long now, he believes. Kaku, a professor of physics at the City University of New York, explains that life-changing scientific revolutions occur in waves, almost always driven by advancements in physics. In the 19th century, mechanics and thermodynamics led the industrial revolution; in the 20th, it was human mastery over electricity and magnetism that drove the advancements of electric age.

Quantum physics drove the third wave of science, in the 21st century, and made supercomputers, the internet and GPS an inseparable part of our lives.

The Future of Humanity explores a fourth wave of scientific innovation — artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and biotechnology. Kaku believes they will help build habitable worlds on our moon and Mars, on asteroids and on the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn. Wave five, he believes, will be driven by nanoships, laser sails, ramjet fusion machines and antimatter engines that will take exploration far beyond our solar system.

Characters from the most recent edition of Star Trek boldly go where no man has gone before, encountering new planets and galaxies using technology that seems just out of reach today. (Photo: Matthias Clamer)

Humans will also have to adapt and evolve to survive in deep space. Advances like the human connectome project, which is mapping neuron connectivity in the brain, could make it possible to laser-port connectomes into outer space to make a form of consciousness explore the universe at the speed of light.

“In other words, our destiny is to become the gods that we once feared and worshipped,” Kaku writes.

With Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk funding space programmes, interstellar exploration has already moved from the realm of sci-fi fantasy to the here and now.

“The first people on the historic mission to Mars are probably alive today, perhaps learning about astronomy at high school… After rigorous training, perhaps four candidates will be chosen for their skills and experience, probably including a seasoned pilot, an engineer, a scientist, and a doctor,” writes Kaku.

The starry future that Kaku paints for humanity is a compelling argument for young people with their heads in the sky to major in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and make their dreams our collective reality.

First Published: Apr 14, 2018 19:45 IST