File Under "Still Not Getting It"

String theorist and self-described futurist Michio Kaku has a two-page ad for his upcoming BBC TV series Visions of the Future (masquerading as an article) in the Nov 3 issue of New Scientist. It's pretty depressing: the title is, "Are you ready to play god?", and he spends a few paragraphs gushing about ubiquitous machine intelligence, growing new organs for people in the lab, and how nanotechnology could let us build elevators into orbit. Nowhere does he mention the millions of people who die every year in developing countries from starvation, war, and preventable diseases. Human rights? Bah---science is about more toys for the haves. It's about putting a handful of well-fed representatives of the industrialized world on Mars to do things that robots can do at a twentieth of the cost, not about stopping HIV/AIDS from destroying entire cultures in sub-Saharan Africa, or figuring out what the people of Dhaka are supposed to do when sea levels rise.

What makes it ironic (as well as depressing) is that Kaku regularly gripes about how uninterested most people are in science. Maybe they're just uninterested in his kind of science. Ending segregation in the American South was a more passionate issue than going to the Moon, and rightly so; if scientists Kaku understood that figuring out how to raise a billion people out of abject poverty, and then doing it, would be a greater adventure than bending light to make things invisible, maybe more people would choose to become scientists.

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