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Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku sees two major trends today. One eventually leads to a multicultural, scientific, tolerant society that will expand beyond Earth in the name of human progress. The other trend leads to fundamentalism, monoculturalism, and — eventually — civilizational ruin. Whichever of these two trends wins out will determine the fate of mankind. No pressure, everyone.
Dr. Michio Kaku is the co-founder of string field theory, and is one of the most widely recognized scientists in the world today. He has written 4 New York Times Best Sellers, is the science correspondent for CBS This Morning and has hosted numerous science specials for BBC-TV, the Discovery/Science Channel. His radio show broadcasts to 100 radio stations every week. Dr. Kaku holds the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in theoretical physics at the City College of New York (CUNY), where he has taught for over 25 years. He has also been a visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study as well as New York University (NYU).
Question: What is the likelihood that mankind will destroy itself?
Michio Kaku: I say looking at the next 100 years that there are two trends in the world today. The first trend is toward what we call a type one civilization, a planetary civilization, a civilization that resembles something out of “Buck Rogers” or “Flash Gordon.” A type two civilization is stellar. They consume so much energy they can play with stars. That is for example the Federation of Planets in “Star Trek.” “Star Trek” would represent the typical type two civilization. Then we have type three, which is galactic like the Borg or “Independence Day” or the empire of “The Empire Strikes Back.” That is a type three civilization, which is truly galactic. Now by the time you reach type two, you are immortal. Nothing known to science can destroy a type two civilization. Comets, meteors, earthquakes, even a supernova a type two civilization would be able to survive even a supernova.
The danger is the transition between type zero and type one and that’s where we are today. We are a type zero civilization. We get our energy from dead plants, oil and coal. But if you get a calculator you can calculate when we will attain type one status. The answer is: in about 100 years we will become planetary. We’ll be able to harness all the energy output of the planet earth. We’ll play with the weather, earthquakes, volcanoes. Anything planetary we will play with. The danger period is now, because we still have the savagery. We still have all the passions. We have all the sectarian, fundamentalist ideas circulating around, but we also have nuclear weapons. We have chemical, biological weapons capable of wiping out life on earth.
So I see two trends in the world today. The first trend is toward a multicultural, scientific, tolerant society and everywhere I go I see aspects of that birth. For example, what is the Internet? Many people have written about the Internet. Billions and billions of words written about the Internet, but to me as a physicist the Internet is the beginning of a type one telephone system, a planetary telephone system. So we’re privileged to be alive to witness the birth of type one technology, a planetary telephone system. What is English? English is the beginning of a type one language. Everywhere I go around the Earth, people speak English because that is the lingua franca of science, technology, business. They all speak English. It is the number one second language on the planet Earth. And what is the European Union? The European Union is the beginning of a type one economy. And how come these European countries, which have slaughtered each other ever since the ice melted 10,000 years ago, how come they have banded together, put aside their differences to create the European Union? Well to compete with us and who are we? We are NAFTA, so we’re beginning to see the beginning of a type one economy as well.
Then we’re beginning to see the beginning of a type one culture. Everywhere I go you turn on the radio and what do you hear? Rock ‘n’ roll, you hear rap music. You hear youth music. Youth music is now planetary, knows no boundaries around the planet earth. Everywhere I go I see high fashion: Chanel, Gucci bags. We’re witnessing the birth of a planetary fashion.
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