Michio Kaku is a futurist, popularizer of science, and theoretical physicist, as well as a bestselling author and the host of two radio programs. He is the co-founder of string field theory (a branch of string theory), and continues Einstein’s search to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into one unified theory. He holds the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in theoretical physics and a joint appointment at City College of New York and the Graduate Center of C.U.N.Y. He is also a visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.
Kaku launched his Big Think blog, "Dr. Kaku's Universe," in March 2010.
Michio Kaku: There’s no doubt that the internet is creating what is called an intelligent planet, that is, the skin of the planet earth is becoming a network by which intelligent creatures communicate with each other. But that's just the first step. Some people think that the next step in the coming decades is not going to be the internet. It's going to be Brain Net because we're at the point now where we can actually connect computers to the living mind. In fact, I was just at Berkeley a few weeks ago where I had a demonstration of this: we can actually create videos of your thoughts. These videos are not perfectly accurate, but I saw a demonstration in a laboratory at Berkeley where you can actually see in a video screen what people are thinking.
So with electrodes, perhaps, or EEG sensors in a helmet connected to our brain, perhaps one day we'll be able to have brain-to-brain communication, and that gives us the possibility of Brain Net. In fact, some of the leading neurologists doing these experiments have seriously proposed a brain net whereby you would exchange not just information like typing, but also emotions, feelings, because these are also part of the fabric of our thoughts.
And then what comes beyond that? Well, of course, beyond that is science fiction, and science fiction gives us all sorts of horror stories of things like Sky Net: maybe one day the internet will become sentient; maybe one day the internet will think that humans are in the way and perhaps the internet will take over just like in the Terminator series. Well, I don't think so.
The internet is simply a way in which minds can communicate with other minds. We see no self-awareness in the internet. Now some people say,”Well, what about some kind of collective consciousness that arises by an emergent phenomenon?” Well, that's a lot of gobbledygook. That's a lot of nice words. Maybe. Maybe not. But it's pure speculation at the present time. Even in the laboratory with our finest instruments and the latest developments in artificial intelligence, we cannot make a computer become self-aware.
You realize that one of our most advances computers was the IBM computer Watson, which defeated two humans on the program Jeopardy. At that point, many pundits said, “Oh my God, the end is near; the robots are going to put us in zoos; they're going to throw peanuts at us; make us dance behind bars when they take over, just like we make bears dance behind bars today.” Well, just remember that Watson, no matter how fast it is, was so stupid you couldn't congratulate it. You can't go up to Watson, slap its transistors and say, “Good boy!. You just beat two humans on Jeopardy. You made history. Let's drink to it!” You see, Watson is an adding machine, a very sophisticated adding machine. It adds billions of times faster than the human brain, but that's all it is. It's what is called an expert system. It deals with formalized inputs, formalized outputs. You talk to an expert system every time you're on the telephone, and the telephone says, “Please hit button one; please hit number two for the next option.” That's called an expert system. It's basically a sophisticated adding machine that sounds like it's thinking, but it's not. It's simply using a formalized logic. If you hit one, then you go there. If you hit two, you go someplace else. That's Watson -- of course on a very, very sophisticated level. So I personally think that we don't have to worry that that internet is going to become sentient.
Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd
Michio Kaku: In the entire universe the two greatest scientific mysteries are first of all the origin of the universe itself. And second of all the origin of intelligence. Believe it or not, sitting on our...