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Michio Kaku: Can you handle the future?

By Team ISTE 6/26/2016

When Michio Kaku — futurist, theoretical physicist and opening keynote speaker at ISTE 2016 — got the chance to operate a driverless car, his instructions were simple: “Trust me. Let go of the steering wheel.”

But string theory pioneer found that, despite all of his knowledge, it wasn’t easy to overcome his natural instinct to hold onto control.

Kaku, who holds professor posts at both The City College of New York and Princeton, drew on his research for his New York Times bestsellers, “The Future of the Mind” and “Physics of the Future,” to paint a vivid picture of what he says is education’s duty: to prepare students for the economy of the future.

"One professor once told me that our educational system is excellent in terms of preparing students to live in the world of 1950. The only problem is we don’t live in 1950 anymore," Kaku quipped. "That’s why we have to undergo a revolution in how we view education."

Science, Kaku believes, holds the keys to tomorrow’s careers. The rapidly approaching fourth wave of biotech, nanotech and artificial intelligence will place high dollar values on creativity, experience and critical thinking as technology replaces our current routines.

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Imagine, for an instant:

You will no longer use a standalone computer. Like electricity, our trusty laptops will melt into the walls, hidden from the world. Instead, our glasses and contact lenses will provide the information we need to research, converse in foreign languages and purchase goods. Even the wallpaper and paint in our homes and offices will be smart gadgets. Architects will be able to change their designs with a wave of the hand, and real estate agents will walk people through houses for sale from their offices.

MRIs and colonoscopies will be replaced with ordinary daily activities. Chips in your toilet will use your body fluids to detect cancers at the trace level, and cameras you can swallow will scope out body routes. The average medicine cabinet will hold more power than today’s hospitals.

You won’t worry about typos or autocorrect fails. E-paper will allow you to scroll out as big a screen as you need before you fold it back into your watch when your task is complete.

Everyone will be able to walk, wrestle and play video games. Ever see a paraplegic kick a soccer ball? In 2015, millions of people saw just that at the World Cup, thanks to exoskeleton robotics breakthroughs.

As Kaku pointed out, these advances will turn the job market upside down. But teachers’ roles will continue to be as secure as ever in the new order because they hold what robots will never provide: thinking intelligence.

His proof: Stanford University and MIT online graduate courses still approach a 90 percent dropout rate. Kaku chalks this up to the fact that students have no one to talk to.

“I see cybereducation and courses as an aid rather than a replacement,” he said. “In the future there’s going to be a balance. And teachers more and more are going to be in the business of mentoring and personal guidance, because you cannot get that on the internet.”

And that’s a fact that’s driving all of our futures.

 

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