Why I Chose this Book
While on Overdrive.com I searched through the science section for audiobooks. I saw an interesting title by a familiar name. I had previously read the book The Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku and thought that it had some interesting concepts, especially the different levels of consciousness existing in entities ranging from plants to humans. Before then, I would occasionally see Kaku on a video or somewhere as an expert on some scientific topic. He always seems engaging enough. Seeing this book, I figured I would give it a try.
The Future of Humanity
The main focus of this book is on humanity’s history and future with space exploration and astrophysics. The space race between the U.S. and Russia was a pivotal moment in our history. Who knows where we’d be without it. Keep this in mind though, the U.S., which would come out the victor in this race and would go on to lead the world in space exploration and cosmology only got involved for ego purpose, basically. Ego and war.
Once the U.S. “won”, it failed to have a similar push towards space research since. The U.S. government even cut the budget for space exploration in hopes that the private sector would pick it up. We, the U.S. and other countries, have continued to progress since then though and we have continued to envision the future of space travel.
Technology such as solar sails and light sails, which were concepts discussed many years before now provide unique ways to travel. People such as Bill Nye, yes the Science Guy, have been involved in testing some of this technology. Space exploration is important not only for learning about the universe, but potentially for the survival and growth of the human species.
Centuries ago, our ancestors migrated out of East Africa and we have flourished since then. Not everyone lived to make it to the end destinations though. Most of the time, they might not have known exactly what they were looking for when they migrated elsewhere, but they knew they were looking for more. These daring explorations laid the foundation for future generations. That is where we are with space exploration.
Although the idea of planetary hopping, sending satellites to other star systems, and mining gold from asteroids might seem like science fiction, but they are in the realm of possibility and people are working on achieving those goals.
One known consequence of migration here one Earth was the diversification of the human species. Although we are all still mostly genetically the same, we did evolve adaptations to our environments as well as random mutations. Similarly, we are likely to change as a race if we travel space and live on different planets. Kaku asks how likely is it that we will become separate species? One way to tackle this question is to study how our ancestors who were geographically separated for thousands of years changed from one another. Studying the DNA of our pre-human ancestors, our human-like cousins such as neanderthals and denisovans, as well as our human ancestors from thousands of years ago we can see how DNA has changed over time and at what frequency. If I remember correctly, we know that over approximately 100,000 years there’s about a 0.1% change in our DNA.
So, relatively speaking, this amount of change in DNA is small. Traveling to different solar systems and galaxies may indeed take thousands of years, but we’ll basically still be considered genetically human.
One concept that has stayed with me from this book is the classification system of different levels of civilizations. This was something even Carl Sagan was known for discussing. Essentially, if we were to discover other civilizations living on other planets, one way to determine how advanced they are is based on how they harness and use energy. I think the different levels range from 0 to 5. Human civilization on Earth is at a 0.
We currently get most of our energy from natural resources such as coal and fossil fuels. The next levels of civilizations basically harness their energy from the sun, which is in effect limitless. At higher levels, those civilizations harness that energy from the sun more efficiently.
Kaku brings up many intriguing concepts. I think what is particularly interesting is that many concepts discussed in the book were originally created decades ago and may have even seemed like science-fiction, at least to the public. Now, however, we have the resources and wherewithal to actually realize these ideas. Accomplishing these goals is simply a matter of money and effort. There’s still a lot to learn about astronomy and astrophysics. It may take full support of national governments and citizens to progress even further.
Personally, it is somewhat disheartening that many of these discoveries and advancements will probably occur past our lifetimes, but the future is exciting, nonetheless.
The narrator sounds a lot like President Obama. He has the speaking rhythm of President Obama. You know it when you hear it. Even the sound of his voice. If narrators were known to have pen names, I wouldn’t be surprised if later we learned that President Obama narrated books every once in awhile.