Michio Kaku: The Secret Weapon of American Science | Big Think

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  • ℹ️ Published 11 years ago

Michio Kaku: The Secret Weapon of American Science
One of the great questions in all of science is where consciousness comes from. When it comes to consciousness, Kaku believes different species have different levels of consciousness, based on their feedback loops needed to survive in space, society, and time. According to the theoretical physicist, human beings' ability to use past experiences, memories, to predict the future makes us distinct among animals — and even robots (they're currently unable to understand, or operate within, a social hierarchy).

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 at Princeton, as well as New York University (NYU).

MICHIO KAKU: In the entire universe, there are two great unsolved problems. The two greatest problems in all of science, first of all, is about the very big. It's about the origin of the universe. Why did it bang? Why do we have an expanding universe? And I personally work on something called the multiverse, which we think is the dominant source of theories that gives us the universe before creation itself-- the multiverse. But there is also the mystery of inner space, not outer space.

And that's the human mind. Where does consciousness come from? And I think that in my book, The Future of the Mind, I try to make a stab at what is consciousness? First of all, let me explain my theory. I have my own theory of consciousness. I think consciousness is the sum total of all feedback loops necessary to create a model of yourself in space, in society, and in time. Now, I'm a physicist. We like to measure things and quantify things. I think there is a unit of consciousness. If consciousness is a sum total of all feedback loops necessary to create a picture of yourself in space, in society, and in time, then the unit of consciousness is a thermostat.

A thermostat has one unit of consciousness, because it has one feedback loop-- measures temperature. Now, a plant has maybe five units of consciousness, because plants have to regulate temperature. They have to regulate humidity, the direction of gravity, when to sprout. So there are maybe five or so feedback loops in a plant. Then we go to alligators. The alligators are masters of the back part of the brain. And then you have maybe several hundred feedback loops that govern space. That's what alligators are very good at.

Their brain, if you look at the parts of the back of the brain, we, too, have the reptilian brain that governs our understanding of space, where we are in space. And then, going forward in time, evolution gave us the monkey brain, the center of the brain, the limbic system. And the limbic system, in turn, governs society. It governs where we are with respect to our elders, our children, other human beings. Pack mentality, wolves, all of them have a developed central part of the brain, the monkey brain. And then the front part of the brain is what distinguishes us from the animals. It is the temporal brain that constantly simulates the future.

Animals don't do that. In fact, animals don't even have much of a memory. When you look at a brain scan of what is the brain doing when it's thinking, thinking hard? What is the brain doing? You find out that the prefrontal cortex is active, and it is accessing memories of the past. You see, animals don't do that. Animals have not much of a memory. They don't see the future, because there's no necessity to see the future. There's no necessity to have much of a memory. In fact, the purpose of memory could be to simulate the future. Animals don't need it.

Why didn't the dinosaurs become intelligent? Well, they didn't need to become intelligent, because we humans sometimes overexaggerate the importance of intelligence. Intelligence is not necessary to live in the forest, but we are maladapted to live in the forest. We don't run very fast. We can't fly. Our skin...

💬 Comments

I could listen to this guy for hours, he makes even to most weird things make sense and makes it sound easy.

Author — Martin Berglund


This is the first 100% truth speech I've heard from him.  He is a great analyzer in this subject (regulation of science).

Author — Mr Autistic


You sir just gave an excellent example of the American education system. Thank you.

Author — TheLazyScotsman


That's how I like to view life as well, having fun, and having a sense of well-being.

But, I'm sure you guys can do it as well. I'm also British from my fathers side but was born in the US.

Author — Matt


I love how in so many of these videos this man is talking about topics that he doesn't even specialize, biology, neuroscience and computing. If there was a way to win the intellectual part of life, this man has done it.

Author — Jake Rogers


@Mythra13 Thank you. It's people like you that should be in charge of the country. The emphasis on sports and athletics is absolutely ridiculous. I am one of very few public school students that appreciates and plans on furthering my education for as long as I can, and I can say firsthand that the lack of appreciation is HUGE. All students should get help and learn at their ability level, NCLB was a terrible idea. I love my country, and it also pains me to see that patriotism is dying.

Author — Mattallurgy


It's truly sad when the vast majority of the students in my high school 12th grade English class are unable to pronounce words with more than 4 syllables. My school's API score is 871, and we're an independent charter school in Southern California. And yet I still find myself surrounded by people who can't read through a passage in a book (not even of a high reading level) without stuttering, pausing, or completely mispronouncing words.

Seniors in highschool, and English was our first language.

Author — ProbablyNothing


Well said, Michio, I always said that grade school and high school was a total waste.

My schooling did a few things for me, I learned how to type using all ten digits on my hands, I learned English gramar and sentence structure along with some foreign language skills and some math and science along with history because my schools were excellent. It does not take twelve years to learn those things!

A lot of bright kids do slip through the cracks because of drugs and such, finacial hardships etc

Author — Jungle Jargon


The issue with american schools is they value knowledge of facts over understanding of concepts.  

Author — B Ruth


Man, michio you could not be more right!
I agree people who work hard and are smart flourish in america and thats why foreigners flock here!

Author — Tycoon


I know how you feel. I've been struggling through AP (advanced placement) classes in English just to get into a good college. I hate English with a passion (not saying it's pointless, I just can't do very well in it). That is an issue with the U.S school system- they want renaissance men but will ignore superiors in single subjects. I hope you find a nice job somewhere, doing something you love. You should become a spokesman for a new type of education.

Author — Here Again


@MegaTouchy I agree completely. Down here in Virginia Beach we had one of the best education systems in the country, but it fell flat on its face all becuase of a lack of funding. We had some of the highest scores in the country on SATs, we had several academies that are nationally accepted as some of the best, but the the state went and pulled $40 million from the education budget to build a damned rec center and an animal shelter. Are you seriously going to take all that over EDUCATION?

Author — Mother3pla3r


The secret weapon of the US is money.
When you're among the best at sth. and want to become rich, then going to the US is usually a good choice.
It's brain-draining several other countries, but it also gives those people that go to the US opportunities that they wouldn't have otherwise.
Anyhow, I think that the US could do far better if the educational standards would be higher.

Author — BobTheTrueCactus


@butterfliwashere no, i agree with him. I learned nothing new in math, nothing new in english, nothing new in history, and a bit in chemistry. But what i did learn took 60 minutes could have easily been done in 20min or so. It really is the teacher's fault. Instead of telling the people that dont understand it too well to just meet with them after class, they continue to answer their irrelevant questions for like 30 minutes. It is ridiculous and frustrating. Plus teachers get off topic too easly

Author — Sarsaparillamann


that is so true! I am in college, and Ive been learning everything that I should have learned while growing up in middle/high school.

Author — Paul Walker


Your observations are absolutely true, professor! Please keep up the good work.

Author — Hla Myo Kyaw


American philosophy: Defense Defense Defense Defense OIL Defense

Author — Ryan .P.


You're right; I inferred by his posting the complaint on a very science oriented video series, particularly one featuring the physicist Dr. Michio Kaku, and including in his complaint his tendency towards science with "as i do learning algebra, calculus, etc, or chemistry, physics, or biology, " that he would be going into a science field.
I may have inferred incorrectly, but I don't think so.

In any case, what I said still applies widely to non-science related fields.

Author — Stephen Davis


I didn't want to spend years reviewing what I already knew so I did what I wanted mixed with some of the school work and got decent grades but had to finish on a modified diploma. I haven't written by hand for more than a paragraph since 3rd grade when my teacher seemed to like to take me and two other kids work and read out loud and explain what was wrong with what we wrote and why. I literally mean she chose the same 3 everytime to use as examples for what was wrong and 3 for what was right.

Author — trentnmiller


PS - I also wanted to add that when I was transferred to the school I graduated from, my councilors told the principal there that in a nutshell.. I wasn't smart.

I got my revenge though when I took the HSPA test. My councilor made my mom sign a form for me saying I had a disorder and could get my diploma even if I didn't pass my state exams. When the tests came though, I passed the highest in the district in literature and math.

Author — Pea G