For theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, the human brain is a source of enduring fascination and wonder. Though it weighs in at a modest three pounds, the brain is one of the most complex objects in the solar system. If nothing else, this should make all of us feel a certain pride of ownership.
In his book The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind, the prolific author, well-known lecturer, and radio program host focuses his prodigious mental energy on what the future might hold. For instance, Kaku ponders whether it might one day be possible to download memories, create a backup copy of our brain, or use the knowledge gleaned from brain scans to invent cures for devastating afflictions like depression, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s. Will we be able to replace damaged cells with healthy ones?
Because our understanding of how the brain functions has increased exponentially since the introduction of MRI technology and brain scans and continues to rise every year as significant money is poured into research, Kaku believes such outcomes are within reach. He even contemplates the possibility of human consciousness existing outside the physical body. This is exhilarating stuff.
Kaku skips across considerable territory in Future of the Mind, from neuroscience and physics to artificial intelligence and the possibility of alien life to the meaning of consciousness itself, but he does so with the ease of an affable docent. Kaku’s writing is fired by the fierce and incurable curiosity that has led to every scientific breakthrough human beings have achieved. The encouraging news is that we have much more to learn, understand, and appreciate about the untapped potential of the human mind.
Michio Kaku will discuss his book Wednesday, January 28, 8 p.m., the Granada Theatre, 1214 State Street. For tickets, call 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.