According to the internationally celebrated physicist, the future success of society depends on the future of science and education.
String theorist, futurist, and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku shared his predictions for the future with the Rollins community on Thursday, September 12. Presented by the Winter Park Institute, Kaku’s brief scholarly residency at Rollins occurred in conjunction with the dedication ceremony of the newly renovated Archibald Granville Bush Science Center, at which Kaku gave an inaugural address.
Throughout the day’s multiple presentations, including a private conversation with students and a public address to more than 2800 in attendance, Kaku painted a promising picture of the future of civilization. From his many predictions, four stood out as those that, if proven accurate, mark a substantial shift in the evolution of modern society.
1.) Science will continue to be the engine of prosperity.
Kaku explained that throughout history, the rise and fall of nations has been based on their acceptance of and investment in new and innovative technology. Five hundred years ago the Chinese empire invented the compass and gun powder and had the largest naval fleet in the world. But once the emperor became complacent and the civilization stopped innovating, the empire experienced hundreds of years of economic stagnation. The same was true for the Muslim empire, which invented algebra, but experienced economic and intellectual recession once emphasis was placed on the teachings of the Koran rather than nature.
Kaku believes the same thing is happening and will continue to happen to the United States if scientific thought and research continue to be underfunded and shunned from political discourse.
2.) The economy will shift from commodity capitalism to intellectual capitalism.
Kaku cited the effects globalization is having on the price of commodities like food, water, and fossil fuels. With commodities prices ever-dropping, intellectual capital will become the world’s most valuable natural resource. “Products of the mind cannot be massed produced,” he says. Thus, ideas, skills, and knowledge are ultimately the leading export of the U.S. economy.
“The United Kingdom now derives more revenue from rock and roll than it does from its coal mining operations,” Kaku says.
3.) The job market will favor non-repetitive workers.
The trend of technology replacing unskilled workers will continue. Mass production and high technology will eliminate the need for factory workers, brokers, agents, and tellers. Simultaneously, demand for intellectual workers with specialized skillsets in construction, design, and computing will increase. The jobs of the future are in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, nontechnology, and quantum physics. Nevertheless, artistic and creative skills will continue to be valued because Kaku says, “Computers can’t create…yet.”
4.) Education is absolutely essential.
Kaku believes the United States education system is falling behind that of developing nations because, “we are preparing students for careers of the 1950s.” To solve this, he says academia must focus on developing students’ high-level skills, emphasizing scientific education, and embracing new technology.
“The entire economy of today was built on the backs of physicists who invented the laser and the transistor,” Kaku says. Therefore, if we are to advance our society, we must train the next generation of scientists.
Additionally, the U.S. will continue to be a net exporter of arts, culture, and entertainment. According to Kaku, we cannot allow our society to diminish the importance of studying and practicing creative and expressive arts if we are to remain a global super power.
The next visiting scholar presented by the Winter Park Institute is peace activist Arun Gandhi, who will speak on Wednesday, October 2, at 7 p.m. in the Knowles Memorial Chapel. Find more information on Winter Park Institute visiting scholars and free public events.