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How to lose the future

March 10, 2012

Physicist Michio Kaku

You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

To comprehend the world we’re entering, consider another word that will disappear soon: “tumor.” “We will have DNA chips inside our toilet, which will sample some of our blood and urine and tell us if we have cancer maybe 10 years before a tumor forms,” Mr. Kaku says.

When you need to see a doctor, you’ll talk to a wall in your home, and “an animated, artificially intelligent doctor will appear.” You’ll scan your body with a hand-held MRI machine, the “Robodoc” will analyze the results, and you’ll receive “a diagnosis that is 99 percent accurate.”

In this “augmented reality,” as Mr. Kaku calls it, the Internet will be in your contact lens. “You will blink, and you will go online,” he says. “That’s going to change everything.” Students will look up the answers to tests while taking them. Actors will cheat from their scripts while performing onstage. Foreigners will translate their conversations with natives instantly. Job-seekers will identify “who to suck up to at any cocktail party” surreptitiously. And President Obama “will never have to have teleprompters in front of him,” he jokes.

But our best and brightest are majoring in the skimming of wealth off the top of wealth transfers. And not in the creation of wealth through science, development engineering, entepreneeurship, salesmanship, and capital property ownership.

It is government tax and regulation policy that has increasingly been rewarding the unproductive in the name of fairness and equality. The best and the brightest have naturally gravitated to what they see best for themselves and their families, the most lucrative forms of non-productivity.

Now, he says, the U.S. is losing its edge because we’re not producing enough scientists. “Fifty percent of Ph.D. physicists are foreign-born, and they’re here compliments of the H1-B visa,” Mr. Kaku relates. “There’s a brain drain into the United States; that’s why we’re still No. 1. But it can’t last forever.” China and India are slowly luring back their natives, while our top students are eschewing the hard sciences for lucrative careers in areas such as investment banking.

“I have nothing against investment banking,” Mr. Kaku says, “but it’s like massaging money rather than creating money. If you’re in physics, you create inventions, you create lasers, you create transistors, computers, GPS.” If you’re an investment banker, on the other hand, “you don’t create anything new. You simply massage other people’s money and take a cut.” It’s a shame, because Mr. Kaku believes humans are natural-born scientists.

“When we’re born, we want to know why the stars shine. We want to know why the sun rises.” But then we hit “the danger years” for young people: high school. “And we lose them by the millions—literally by the millions. Why? It’s a combination of bad teachers and no inspiration.” – ibid.

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