In his new book, “The Future of the Mind,” theoretical physicist Michio Kaku explores how the next century of scientific innovation will expand the brain’s abilities. Kaku joins us to discuss the latest in neurological research, how the brain resembles a corporation, and the fantastic inventions that will change everything from entertainment to spying.

Dr. Michio Kaku, chair and professor of theoretical physics at The City College of New York; and author of "The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind"

  • Guest

    Comparing the mind to a “corporation” is lame bordering on servile, not to mention deluded. The unwarranted implication is that corporations are supposed to be in some way a good thing. Never mind the pollution they willfully create, the outsourcing of jobs and dumping of American workers, the price-fixing scandals, the rampant crime on Wall St., the theft of public money in the form of bailouts obtained via lobbyists, or the revolutionary hijacking of our democracy by corporations. In Kaku’s fairyland any loony comparison can be deployed if it sounds good to the right in-crowd. Considering the degree to which corporate money has corrupted science and academia, this comparison is especially awful.

    • geraldfnord

      This is largely because corporations 0.) are not held to the ‘for the public good’ element in their charters, and 1.) are great for mystifying and obscuring the personal responsibilities of those actual persons actually running it for their own gain, tilting the risk/benefit curve for bad actors in their favour, and 2.) typically deal with so many people at so distant a remove that responsibility for hurting any individual is difficult to prove, even when a business model depends on spending enormously to gull and lobby such that even more money will be made as a result, and a certain number injured.

      De la Femina or Katz never held down anyone to force them to smoke, but they did take a lot of money on the promise that their actions would result in more smoking…personal responsibility isn’t limited to one person per action, and what is one person’s 99% responsibility for her smoking against an ad-man’s 0.1% responsibilty for one hundred thousands’ smoking?

  • Bob Fry

    if they mention or discuss the Technological Singularity, most certainly it will be Ray Kurzweil’s lame version of it.

  • geraldfnord

    I’ve heard him elsewhere, and I’ve not heard him say anything that Djikstra or Vinge or Macleod or Stross or Doctorow or Banks or Stephenson hadn’t explored in detail by (say) 1999. No fault to him if goes further to connect those ideas to recent and nascent capabilities, but credit should be given where it were due.

  • Ben Rawner

    First of all. Welcome back Micheal, we missed u last week.
    To your guest. I was wondering if we can implant memories does that means we can also implant learning? So I can learn French or Japanese while sleeping? Or learn how to program in mere minutes?

    • geraldfnord

      We’ve already done this: Krasny was there all week, and you paid us to rer-remember it for you (retail).

  • Mood_Indigo

    Too much enthusiasm bordering on irrational exuberance, and as a engineering scientist, I’d say it’s way too much oversimplification of complex experiments with limited scope.

  • Archdoc

    When we have the capability of connecting the mind to the internet will we also have “Thought Crime”?

    • geraldfnord

      A danger, certainly, but think of tje improved accuracy in assessing intent as it pertains to crimes.

  • geraldfnord

    Uhh, from this sceptical physicist’s point-of-view, these tech near-certainties are _less_ speculative than string/brane theory, which is still a little deficient in falsifiable objective correlates…I like pretty math as much as the next man (probably much more, actually) but beauty is a great end-in-itself but no guarantor of reality, see the useful inelegance of much fluid dynamics (or of vertex functions) .

    • Mood_Indigo

      Agree with your basic point, but I’d contest that fluid dynamics is inelegant. See Professor van Dyke’s “An Album of Fluid Motion”. I keep a copy of it on my book shelf next to the Bhagwad Gita and the Upanishads 🙂

      • geraldfnord

        O.K., sure; I was thinking of the sorts of bpundary-layer work which (to my limited understanding) requires gigantic simulative calculation as compared to the derivation of Haeking Radiation, or even just the path-integral formulation for quantum field theory. Fluid dynamics _does_give us some of our purtiest pictures… maybe I’m just a sucker for closed-form answers, a vice I know….

    • jurban

      Agreed. I wonder if at some point in the future we determine that mathematics, itself, is an emergent property of our rational mind and not a fundamental descriptor of reality.

      • geraldfnord

        I ‘d say that any mathematics whose origins
        lay in counting sheep (or notches on the neolithic headboard) will have some degree of culling function in favour of things that map onto the universe.

        If this gentleman is right, though, well, ‘ Magic is loose!’, and Charles Stross’ “The Atrocity Archive” et seq. move to the top of the ‘survival’ list.

      • pbinCA

        At the time our country was founded, it was generally accepted that mathematics was a set of patterns of nature to be discovered, not something created by mankind. That view explains why the original patent law roped off pure mathematical ideas as unpatentable. However, mathematicians and computer scientists now tend to view their endeavors as constructive. For example, can you point to any phenomena in nature that presage Google’s spiders and search algorithms? RSA’s strong encryption technology? Barcoding objects to identify them? GPS positioning using satellites?

        A decade ago, I was working on a difficult 3D geometry problem, and invented a new algorithm for inferring the 3D orientation (attitude) of a platform by number-crunching the sightings of two known-direction points (I call it rotational inference). It’s a new mathematical result, and it never existed before 2003. I’ve presented at conferences, and I’ve never heard anyone opine that it was a pattern in nature waiting to be discovered. Sure, it’s still possible for some maths to be inspired by natural science, but more and more, it is building off of people’s imaginations of what might possibly be done with software.

  • Angela

    Can Dr. Kaku talk about how long the “trace” of memories might persist after death? Would it be possible at some future time to extract memories of murder victims?

  • Robert Thomas

    “Neil deGrassy Tyson?”

    Oh dear.

    Anyway… Professor Kaku has built a formidable career providing the media with science infotainment.

    • leahcar

      i think “deGrassy” is actually how deGrasse is pronounced

      • Robert Thomas

        Worse! I spelled his name “Niel”.

        Is that the way he pronounces it? I heard him say it on the _Fresh Air_ program the other day and I’m pretty sure he mentioned himself in third person as deGrasse, to rhyme with “pass”. I know I’ve heard him refer to his father as Cyril deGrasse Tyson, deGrasse to rhyme with “pass”.

        The Degrassi Canadian television phenomenon is certainly pronounced to rhyme with “classy”. I’ve never heard any interviewer or anyone else address the well-known astrophysicist and popularizer with that pronunciation of his name.

  • sean

    You said you could place the memory of a vacation in the mind, sounds exactly like total recall. Do physicists get ideas of what to explore from Sci Fi movies?

    • Robert Thomas

      Not particularly respectable physicists.

  • disqus_XhWYYhDyrI

    I am interested in hearing Prof. Kaku offer his thoughts on how this science of the mind is in discussion with philosophy of mind theorists. And who is responsible for analyzing the ethical implications of these technologies that scientists such as Prof. Kaku propose?

  • Larry F. Martinez

    Of course, the negative aspects of brain manipulation will make political ideology just another upload. The revolution in the social sciences will be profound

    • Guest

      Ideology often depends on personality type. Since that is not programmable, you won’t be able to make every person a fascist or whatever.

  • Ryan McCarthy

    How can the creation of a machine with super human intelligence, which can infinitely increase it’s processing power, ultimately mean anything but the destruction of the human race?

    • Bob Fry

      Perhaps they will tolerate and enjoy some of us, and put cute-human videos on their equivalent of YouTube.

      • leahcar


    • JimmyOo

      We seem to be getting there pretty well without it.

  • Edward Rooks

    In recreating a”mind”, or an artificial intelligence in a computer. Isn’t it important in recreating a mind, that the computer mind have the ability and feedback loops to react to and manipulate the real world?

    • maybe, just react to and manipulate the internet?? –or would that be even more difficult?

  • Dr Sook

    Odd to have a Master of the Cosmos opine on Mind….he is rather reductionsitic.
    Consciousness is fundamentally a crystallization of the entire brain, every region resonating with all others and experience, genetic diathesis, developmental accretions–there will never be a region like the Libido or Superego which we can upload

    ‘memories’ into. Seeing a region ‘light up’ is not the whole story of a thought or sense of Self.

  • Chris

    I am interested in the possibilty of the concept of “jacking in” where an individual’s whole consciousness is uploaded unto the internet.
    Good examples are “The Matrix” and “Ghost in the Shell.”
    Can the guest speaker comment on this idea?

    • Guest

      So for instance, a person’s fascination with the scent of their own farts would appeal to you and is worthy of publishing?

  • 2skeptical

    Professor Kaku should stick to his own small area of science. The rest of his comments are mere speculation and fiction — no more credible than any other creative thinker or writer. Why this guy gets so much airtime is beyond me…

    • D’arcy

      Thats EXACTLY what i write all the time on YouTube, when the hell did he become the expert on EVERYTHING?? And I have caught him in multiple contradictions…He is CLEARLY a puppet mouth piece for The Powers that be…dont believe the hype folks…

  • Niketana

    I see good uses of robot technology, etc., in terms of fire fighting and protecting people from harm. On the other hand, these inventions seem naive in the face of 4 million years of evolution. We are still primates, social animals in need of face to face contact. When we have the capability to connect with the internet, we have access to all of that information and interactivity, but we also have another elaborate toy–and a distraction. And we have new waves of obesity in the form of people who don’t put down their devices long enough to take a walk into the sunrise.

    I also question the value of holding on to memories when it simply means romanticizing the past. But then, we can see how after an exciting romance, many people lost interest in Facebook and its resuscitation of the past. We move on. It was like a reunion–fun and touching for a few hours, then not.

  • Guest

    Kaku’s belief that identity is a collection of memories is patently false. If 100 people have the same 10 experiences, they do not become same person to any degree. Psychology is not his speciality and his fallacy is thinking that because he has knowledge in one area, he can call himself an expert in another area.

    His parting comment that his own book is #1 on some list turns my stomach. Does he have no shame?

  • kra

    I called in to the show and wanted to clarify–i was not asking about the ability to read minds from a distance. what i was asking about is what happens when people voluntarily connect (e.g., choosing to put on the headpiece that enables a device to read brain activity) and corporations have access to our brain activity. many people have privacy concerns arising from cell phone use, so what happens when our brains are online?

    • leahcar

      i clearly understood that that was your question, and it definitely wasn’t addressed properly. that being said, it seems like callers’ questions are rarely actually answered on forum; rather, the listener comments serve as a springboard for guests to keep talking about whatever they came to talk about.

  • Jack Sarfatti

    Michio Kaku’s new book Future of the Mind
    We will be able to test whether brain presponse for example is really retro causal
    Everything nick herbert envisioned in his elemental mind book is now either done in brain labs or will be soon including uploading memories and emotions into the internet immortality wit the connect dome. Hawking is now completely paralyzed cannot use his fingers but operates computer with brain waves via something like google glass.

    I do think Kaku is wrong about 11 dimensions and mind of god, however he may be right if I am wrong both pictures popper falsifiable eventually
    Indeed even the 11 d geometrodynamical Kaluza Klein super string field though rocklike has a thought like super quantum bit Bohm pilot field in Hilbert space

    Kaku is mistaken about Sri CIA RV he does not know about signal nonlocality and he says the empirical results were nothing

    It’s time for russell Targ to challenge Kaku on that

    Sent from my iPad

    On Mar 3, 2014, at 4:39 AM, Deepak Chopra wrote:

    This is Part 1 of a series of articles I’m writing with Menas Kafatos and Subhash Kak
    I’m horrified that intelligent people buy into the naive realism of Richard Dawkins and his pseudo skeptic gang
    From: Brian Josephson
    Sent: Monday, March 03, 2014 6:04 AM
    To: Deepak Chopra
    Cc: JACK SARFATTI; Bernard Carr; Ruth Kastner; creon levit; nick herbert; S-P Sirag; David Kaiser; Kim Burrafato; beowulfr@interlog.com Addinall; Fred Wolf; Dean Radin; George Knapp; Russell Targ; York Dobyns; Ronald Pandolfi
    Subject: Re: CTCFTLSignalsPhysRevA.89 nicks flash works w ctc

    On 3 Mar 2014, at 11:00, Deepak Chopra wrote:

    > Some future as yet unborn could access these emails – also in mind space Where is it located ?

    NSA? GCHQ? Are they, even now, figuring out how to take advantage of quantum entanglement?


    PS when quite some time ago (pre-Snowden) there was news of internet problems with an underground cable I said to myself, aha! what’s really happening here is that they are breaking into that cable to plant a tap!

    Brian D. Josephson
    Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Cambridge
    Director, Mind–Matter Unification Project
    Cavendish Laboratory, JJ Thomson Ave, Cambridge CB3 0HE, UK
    WWW: http://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~bdj10
    Tel. +44(0)1223 337260/337254

  • How about building a mind machine/robot which starts off like a human mind at birth and has to learn how to function as do humans and other animals, with the aid of a few built-in abilities and a set of sensors and manipulators? Is this currently practical?

    • jurban

      I remember seeing a show about a group that was doing that. I think they were at MIT. The “robot” was connected to a “head” with video cameras and could swivel around. They said that it was building up its algorithms and learning. I’m unsure what is the state of that project.

  • Robert Thomas

    Look, Michio Kaku isn’t an idiot – he’s a smart guy.

    But after listening years ago to his vehement AND poorly informed opinions about the danger associated with the launch of the Cassini-Huygens orbiter-lander, I was alerted to his flamboyant ability to “stretch” facts to suit his ideological views.

    It seems to me that he also at some point decided to adopt a fabulist approach to popularization, giving the impression that he finds the resulting media attention thrilling.

    I admit that this may be my aesthetic prejudice, as my taste in popularizers tends to those of more reserved countenance, such as E.O. Wilson.

    • Kathy

      Yeah – he seems too self-promoting. He even sells t-shirts with his picture on them on his website.

      • D’arcy

        I’m want to puke, I wish u were joking…OMG his own picture?? What an arrogant A-Hole…I’ve never liked the guy as I’ve caught him in MANY inconsistencies over the years and am always battling his legion of fans on Youtube as I pose the question, when did he become the CNN go to guy for EVERYTHING from Sandy Hook, Quantum Theory, Ice skating, Fukushima, Dream recall ??? And on and on…When the mainstream media has an agenda and they want compliant mouth pieces that will say whatever they tell them too w/o question…The guy is a douche….wish more ppl realized…

      • chrisnfolsom

        It’s nice to have a mouthpiece for science, but he does seem to live on the fringe and push things a bit – and he is everywhere. The tech is nice to know, but is not “science fact” yet. I am very skeptical about the ability to “play back memories like a tape recorder” even with my admittedly low level of understanding of memory. The very “individual” nature of memory – I have done much work with computer API programming and such (I know, not entirely related, but similar) – I just don’t see how you will be able to transpose high level symbolic references between brains much less playing it back into the same brain, the same neurons, the same way….

        I might see augmentation, but it would still be routed through our sensory inputs of vision or sound… can’t see plugging it in beyond that, but I guess I could be wrong… Also, adding a memory chip to an Alzheimer’s patient will not recover lost memories – stopping the destruction is the prudent – and hopefully quick – solution.

        Nice to hear science on the radio though 😉

  • Robert Thomas

    Irreparable harm was done, here, in the campaign to entice our host to quell his on-air enthusiasm for non-sequitur invocation of the … Austrian psychoanalyst.

  • Kathy

    How the heck does Dr. Kaku know what a cat thinks when it rubs against you? I would imagine this is conjectured by having a place light up in the cat’s head that also lights up when a cat is marking it’s territory but a cat surely must be capable of feeling territorial about a human being as well as affectionate. Do we know where in a cat’s brain affection originates or is the assumption made it must be in the same place it originates in humans?

  • pbinCA

    Kaku undermined his premise on uploading memories during the discussion of muscle memory, in regards to “Will it be possible to learn to play piano by implant?”. He stated that, because complex fine motor skills are stored in more than one location in the nervous system (somatosensory cortex, brain stem, spinal cord) they are not as accessible to modification. But, all experiential memories are similarly distributed throughout the brain. He betrayed his lack of expertise when claiming that “some memories” are localized in one part of the brain, based on the observation that their associated emotional state activations can be seen as localized using fMRI. His mistake (undue reductionism) is in thinking an emotional state seen localized in brain tissue implies the experience that triggered that emotional state also resides in that small patch of tissue. But anger (or confusion, or elation) are nonspecific emotional states, nonspecific in that they occur in conjunction with a myriad of specific environmental situations — the specificity of experiences that can be remembered dwarfs the number of emotional states that can be distinguished by fMRI. Neuroscientists are certain that lifelong experience is not localized, based on the fact that lesions do not wipe out memory selectively — they wipe out functions selectively (speech, limb use, word comprehension) but not experiences selectively.

    Mr. Kaku is making wild leaps of unfounded speculation regarding uploading skills and memories into humans. This feat can only be done computer-to-computer based on the exact identicality of machine hardware/software. We all know that software crashes with as little as a single-bit chip defect, and that Mac vs. Windows depend on different hardware specs. These limitations go to fundamental aspects of symbolic representations — highly coded representations can only be decoded given knowledge of the representation process that gives rise to them.

    But each human brain is developmentally unique. This implies that the way your neurons code the experience of the Eiffel Tower is unique to your brain’s fine-structure, and mine will encode it differently because my fine-structure is different from yours.

    Kaku skirts the issue of developmental uniqueness by appealing to some magical “connectome”. One only has to realize that your sum total neural connection pattern is a unique result of your sum-total, lifelong sensory and motor datastreams. Once you admit the “connectome” cannot be simpler that the raw information streams your nervous system has absorbed over decades of living, it becomes clear that you would at least need to have recordings of two individual’s lifelong input-output streams, in addition to their instantaneous brain fine-structures, in order to figure out how to transfer an experience from individual A into person B (and have it come out the way you intend it).

    It’s a fundamental law of information science Kaku claims you can violate — pretty naive even for a physicist — symbolic representations are forever locked into the referent conditions and representation processes that created them. These representations don’t port across foreign substrates. Knowledge pills are therefore impossible for humans. Computers are able to perform this feat via uploading files and software because these compatible classes of machines, and their operating systems, are exact clones of the same representational system.

  • brucemorris

    There’s certainly some big ethical problem involved with uploading a new set of memories to a PTSD patient’s brain, aren’t there? That is, even if it could be done. Memories aren’t discrete events in the brain anyway, but are associated with emotions, sometimes in a very random way. They’re also moderated by the prefrontal cortex as part of a system process deep in the limbic system. How are you going to upload a whole process like that to create new good memories for old bad ones? Michio seems to talk Planck and Einstein but still sounds like Newton and Locke (like so many techies who never move much beyond the mechanistic assumptions of 19th century scientism).

  • JMS

    I’ve heard Dr Kaku now on a number of interviews, and each time he called Dr Tyson out on his criticism of Gravity (which I have yet to see). If he had paid attention, Tyson has always followed up with the fact he liked the movie, and he was pointing things out not to be critical, but to inform.

    Bottom line, when Kaku keeps referring to this anecdote incorrectly, it calls into question everything else he states.

  • Thurston Hunger

    Heard some of this driving into work earlier this week, and just now listened to it after the fact. In my opinion this is NOT worth listening to sadly, in case you are in a similar position.

    Maybe listen to it as a drinking game for every time Dr. Kaku says “I am a physicist”

    This is popular science with a significant emphasis on the former over the latter.

    I would have rather heard about Michael’s personal investigation into his headaches and what actual science was used in the pursuit of that. Or Kaku talk about the actual steps taken so far, and to be taken yet, towards creating dark matter in the lab.

    That being said maybe I’m being a bit harsh, here are links to a few things Kaku alluded to of some interest

    kind of a reverse engineering through pattern matching?

    “uploading a memory as Kaku stated? or just confusing neuron responses”

    curious about the exact wiring from one chimp to the other

  • simpleman56

    Fukushima got no coverage nor did Carlsbad NM WIPP site & the what the hell is going on at both places! We do know one thing that these corporations have lied to protect their asses. We know PU left the WIPP site & Fukushima has been releasing huge amounts of all forms of Radiation into the air & ocean & the USA & the rest of N America has become covered in hot particles that settles in the dust & grass & the food chain & water. So much for this useless show.

  • Hooch

    Once they can control your mind they can control your thoughts, “Minority Report & Total Recall” combined! Welcome to the New World Order!

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