The average human brain weighs about 3 pounds, and uses roughly 12 watts of power (less than most standard light bulbs). Yet, as of this writing, the world’s largest supercomputer, which is weighed in tons and uses enough electricity to power a small city, still cannot match the processing power of the human brain. In fact, it doesn’t even come close.
The brain is a fascinating organ because it does so much with so little. That’s why when I saw the book The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance and Empower the Mind by Michio Kaku (aff link), I knew I had to read it.
If you’ve ever seen Michio Kaku on TV (you probably have if you watch the Discover or Science Channels), you know he has a distinctive way of talking and describing complex ideas. He uses that same style in his newest book. A physicist by trade, he also has a deep interest in the human brain, and tries to apply some physics to understanding the brain, how it works, how it can be manipulated, and the possibilities the future holds.
Because the future is central to the premise of this book, Kaku spends much of it speculating about what will be possible down the road. To do this, he uses assumptions based on current technology and our current understanding of the brain (surprisingly, we don’t understand a whole lot).
Kaku uses the beginning of the book to really educate the reader about the brain, even going as far as using graphics to illustrate his point. Sometimes it reads like a textbook. Luckily for us laymen, he tries to keep things simple. Kaku has a natural talent for explaining complex ideas so anyone can understand them.
The book does dive into some philosophical issues that naturally arise when talking about the brain. For example, Kaku talks about consciousness. Where does it exist (in any one part of the brain)? He talks about the nature of reality as it applies to consciousness and the brain. How do we perceive the world? What parts of the brain are active when we perceive the world with our various senses? Simply put, philosophy is essential to talking about the mind, especially when one thinks about the future of neuroscience and what will eventually be possible.
Kaku then talks about how brains are being connected to computers. I think this is the most fascinating part of the book. What’s even more fascinating is that this topic doesn’t belong to the realm of science fiction anymore – it’s already happened! He gives example after example of how scientists figured out how to connect brains and computers. And always the futurist, he goes into great detail about the exciting possibilities this has for the future of mankind.
Kaku keeps a light and optimistic tone throughout the book, even when diving into the tedious parts about how the brain functions. Like I said, parts of it can read like a textbook. But it’s still interesting reading and you will probably learn more about the brain from The Future of the Mind than you did in your high school biology class. At the same time, if you’re looking for some serious neuroscience, this book will probably fall short.
I loved reading The Future of the Mind and I’m already eyeing some of Kaku’s other books about physics. He really has a gift for taking complex topics and breaking them down into bite-sized chunks for us regular people.
I can definitely recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the science of the brain and how it intersects with current (and future) technology.
P.S. Don’t forget to watch the video I posted of Michio Kaku talking consciousness.
- Title: The Future of the Mind
- Author: Michio Kaku
- Format: Ebook
- Price I Paid: $11.99 (full price as of this writing)
- Published: 2014
- Publisher: Doubleday