Science With a Side of Humor
Michio Kaku’s The Future of the Mind deftly explores the brain, adding speculation and witty asides.
So you think you’re smart? After you read The Future of the Mind by Dr. Michio Kaku, you may be far more aware of your limitations — and more excited about your future possibilities. Kaku is a theoretical physicist working at The Institute for Advanced Study at CUNY. He is best known for his writings on string theory and futurism. In his new book, Kaku delves inward, exploring the many mysteries of our complex operating system, the brain.
What you may remember about your mind from Biology and Psychology classes will be challenged on every page of this startling, and often inspiring, book. Beginning with a crash review of brain physiology and ending with a call for courage in research, The Future of the Mind is a veritable travelogue of current scientific findings. Much of the language is daunting, but Kaku is excellent at explaining complex ideas in simple terms, without stripping away their inherent complexities.
In the introductory chapters, Kaku makes important distinctions among our definitions of the brain, the mind, and consciousness. These foundational explanations lay the groundwork for a wild mixture of research and speculation. It is here that you may find your credulity strained. While all of Kaku’s information seems soundly based on current research, his extrapolations may separate the true believers from the skeptics.
In the second section of more speculative chapters, titled “Mind Over Matter,” Kaku allows himself to wander freely over subjects like telepathy, telekinesis, mind control, and brain enhancement. While this is fascinating stuff, you may wonder about the reality of the suppositions. One of the things that helps you soldier through this difficult material is Kaku’s seemingly endless references to popular culture. From Star Wars to Star Trek, from The Matrix to The Planet of the Apes, the good doctor uses it all, often to very illuminating effect.
In the third and final section, entitled “Altered Consciousness,” Kaku ruminates on dreams, various states of altered consciousness, robotics, and reverse engineering the brain via the multi-year BRAIN Project announced by President Obama and the EU. Throughout the hard science, there are nuggets of entertaining trivia and often witty quips. Who says scientists have to be humorless?
Kaku also takes on the anti-science bias found in many American institutions. He sees this fear of knowledge as the root of much evil in the world today. While he acknowledges that science does not have all the answers, he decries the failure to seek solutions to our worst problems just because we don’t understand it. Kaku admits that many of the ideas in his book need rigorous ethical examination to assure that we don’t lose sight of our values. He is not predicting a future utopia, but he doesn’t want us to miss progress because some hold back in a dark age of unconsidered prejudice. The final action must come from the reader. Are we ready for the future or too scared to go forward? The Future of the Mind helps us decide.
Upcoming area Book Events:
Saturday, March 22 (7:00 PM): Brandon Sanderson, author of Words of Radiance: Volume 2 of the Stormlight Archive at Boswell Book Company.
Sunday, March 23 (2:00 PM): Angie Trudell Vasquez and Devin Trudell Book Release Reading at Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 East Locust Street, Milwaukee. (414) 263-5001 firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, March 23 (7:00 PM): Reading with Daniel Parker, Abigail Zimmer, and Tyler Cain Lacy at Woodland Pattern Book Center.
Tuesday, March 25 (7:30 PM): Brigid Pasulka, author of The Sun and Other Stars at Boswell Book Company.
Wednesday March 26 (7:00 PM): “Ready for National Poetry Month!” with Angela Sorby, co-editor of Over the River and Through the Wood: An Anthology of Nineteenth-Century American Children’s Poetry at Boswell Book Company.