An Uncommon Man and the surprising nature of our universe, Roger Penrose and reality Part 2

roger penrose

Sir Roger Penrose, Oxford Univ

Is he the most brilliant man ever?

Part II

I told you a little about how our reality is definitely not the Minkowski 3 space and 1 time dimension we perceive.   Almost all physics agrees that our ultimate theories of the world are not likely to be limited to these 4 dimensions.

In order to understand what the problems that this new reality Roger has uncovered is needed and why our perceptions of a 4 dimensional universe are not consistent with reality you need to understand some of the perplexing things that force Physicists down the road to consider something else.

Some other interesting paradoxes science has uncovered

Richard Feynman said:  “If you think you understand quantum physics, this is proof you don’t.”   If Richard Feynman didn’t understand quantum physics, then you don’t either and neither does anyone else.   That is not to say you aren’t as smart as Feynman but the experimental results we’ve been getting over the last 100 years or so challenges anyone to come up with a reasonable explanation.

1)  The measurement problem : Decoherence

When we do a measurement in physics it causes something nobody expected. We still haven’t figured out if it is the human doing the measurement that is critical or if it is an artifact of the simple process of interaction with matter that forces this change.   We call this change decoherence or a “collapse of the wavefunction.”   What this means is that until we make a measurement, the particles we are attempting to measure are in a fuzzy quantum superposition of all possible states they could be in and therefore are in no particular state.   Sometimes this is called the quantum fuzz.   Nature seems to prefer to in most times be in a indeterminate kind of being in all places it could be all states it could be while we don’t look.

By definition you can’t observe the quantum fuzz because the instant you attempt to observe it, it collapses and acts like regular particles.   So quantum fuzz or the coherent state of particles is unobservable by definition.   We can’t look to see what’s happening because by definition the instant we look it collapses.  Isn’t that a pisser?

The other place I know in physics we see this definitional type of impossibility is black holes.  A black hole is defined by the event horizon where you can’t know, can never know what happens behind.   For all intents the horizon of a black hole is the edge of our universe because anything beyond the black hole event horizon is gone forever and no information about what is behind it can ever come back by definition.

Going back to Quantum mechanics and decoherence what this means practically is that a set of particles in this “quantum superposition” or quantum fuzz is in effect everywhere throughout all of space even possibly thousands of miles from here at the same instant of time filling space as if it was a presence everywhere. It seems the particles appear to be evolving as a wave together interfering with other waves acting differently than if they were particles figuring out what to do when we decide to look.   When we look the wavefunction collapses the particles become particles and “choose” a state usually the least energy transition from the previous state, what physicists call the eigenstates of the system, and the system acts like it wasn’t a wave anymore.  As soon as we look away it seems to go back into its fuzzy state acting like waves filling space.

How can a particle jump between a wave filling all of space and a particle with only a specific location and then go back to a wave instantaneously (1,000,000 times the speed of light or more?)

As you can imagine this is bizarre enough behavior to constitute a really mind bending set of explanations.  Physicists actually punted on this problem for 50 years or so preferring not to think about the headache producing problems of decoherence and just focusing on developing the math of how matter acts while in the coherent wavelike state.    In the meantime more than a dozen theories of what happens including something you’ve probably heard of called Many worlds interpretation became popular.

2) The collapse is instantaneous in all of space simultaneously.

At the instant we measure the particles they all take up real positions in space become real particles with definite energy.  When this collapse happens the entire wavefunction spread over thousands of miles instantly (1,000,000 times faster than the speed of light at least from our measurements) disappears and no longer exerts influence on far away particles.   It acts completely differently than it did an instant earlier.

This is true whether we are measuring 1 particle or more that are separated by thousands of miles.  They will all instantly (1,000,000 times faster than the speed of light or more) turn into real particles in space with defined results from quantum physics and disappear from the rest of space.

It is almost as if these particles when they are in the coherent phase are right next to each other in another dimension that allows them to be in instantaneous contact even though in the 3 dimensions we see they are separated by thousands of miles.  Unfortunately such a simple explanation that maybe there is another dimension that particles touch is outlawed by something called Bell’s inequality. So, we have proven experimentally that there can’t be some simple explanation like this for this behavior.

3) Nature does a calculation that seems impossible

We know the formulas for quantum physics.  We have demonstrated they work for 2 particles and more to incredible precision.  In fact the results from these calculations are the most proven most accurate calculations we have ever had for any physics.  We know to 10 digits of precision that quantum mechanics calculations are precisely and completely accurate prediction of what is happening in experiments.  It is the most successful scientific theory ever.

Testing the theory on larger aggregations of particles turns out to be extraordinarily hard not because the experiments are hard but because the calculations are unbelievably difficult.

The fact is that the quantum foam allows almost an infinite number of possible outcomes from any experiment means that to calculate what the result from any experiment we are going to do we are forced to examine nearly an infinite number of possible results and add them up to produce the result.   Somehow nature does this calculation instantly choosing the best least energy path effortlessly.

When we build a bridge we do a lot of calculations of what happens when you exert a force here or there.   After the bridge is built these calculations which are quite complicated sometimes in our computers is done by the molecules of the bridge instantly.  They react to the forces and we intuitively understand how that could be.

This could be looked at as similar to what the particles are doing with quantum calculations but it is fundamentally different.   In quantum mechanics nature picks a “random” result with some probability distribution.   It does this in such a way that it appears as if all possible results actually happen and we just happen to be in a universe where one of the possible results happens.  If we repeat the experiment with even the very same exact particles at a different time the results will interfere with previous results and future results so that overall all the results we get from all our experiments fit a probability distribution perfectly to within 10 digits of accuracy.

We have shown through Bells inequality that no other unknown force could be impacting the selection of random states chosen by nature.  It isn’t that we don’t have all the information to predict what the final state will be.  The underlying process is truly a random process.  There is no other information we are missing. This has been proven experimentally.

4) Natures calculations solve problems we know are incredibly hard

When a photon hits the clorophore molecule of a green leafed plant the photon is turned into a free electron that travels to the place in the plant where it is able to split a CO2 molecule into carbon and oxygen.    This travel is done using something called quantum tunneling.  The electron finds the least possible energy path to get from a to b.  To do this on our computers is an impossibly hard problem.   It is estimated that the plant using quantum tunneling photosynthesis is at least 10 million times more efficient than if the energy were transmitted using conventional macro atomic reactions.   In essence the plant couldn’t possibly survive on harvesting energy from the sun without quantum tunneling.  It would die from lack of energy.

We have used quantum tunneling in computers and electrons as a side effect to make them fast and to perform certain electrical features we need at incredible speed and using very little energy.  See Tunneling Diode.

Quantum computers

We are now building quantum computers that can do astonishing things that are infinitely better at solving some problems.   The easiest way to think of this is to imagine that in a quantum computer all we do is run a quantum experiment every time we want to do an operation.  We observe what nature does and we then simply report the answer from nature.  Nature does the calculation. How it does it we have no idea.   It seems impossible however, it does and we therefore can utilize it to do incredible feats of computation.

It is as if engineers had a “reference bridge” built.  When they want to compute what forces are on the bridge at any point they have some  devices actually exert the forces asked for and measure the forces on the parts of the bridge in interest and report back to the computer what the measured forces are instead of computing the forces using Newton’s mechanics.  Such a solution is impractical for most engineering problems but it’s how we leverage the phenomenal compute power of the underlying reality we live in to solve problems for us.

D-Wave, a company from Vancouver area has built the only commercial quantum computers.  It’s latest model can put 1152 qubits into superposition.  In effect all 1152 qubits can be simultaneously in all possible states of 1152 bits simultaneously.  In practice what we do is load up the qubits with the states that we want to do the computation on (the numbers that represent the things we want to operate on.

Let us say we wanted to find a particular pattern in 32,000 patterns.  We would load the 32,000 patterns into a subset of the D-Wave qubits.  We would need only 15 or so but we might have additional information in the patterns we want, so it could we could use any number of qubits from 15 to 1152.

When we want to find if there is a matching pattern or a specific matching pattern all we do is twist some electrical fields which constrain the path of the qubits similar to the minefield an electron passes through the plants leaf to get to the CO2 molecule.  The path is represented as hurdles the patterns have to get through to emerge, essentially electrical walls of different heights depending on the bits we are looking for.  All we need is one operation to perform the match.

The quantum computer allows the one result which matches the barriers we set up just as the photon slinks its way through the barriers in the molecules as it goes to its destination the pattern that matches emerges magically in one step from the quantum computer.    In a normal computer matching algorithm this would take 32000 operations.

If the numbers had been organized in systematic way by putting them in a sorted key we could have done the match using a conventional computer in square root of the number of operations or maybe 200 operations.   The quantum computer did it in one operation and it didn’t need them sorted beforehand.    We could do the searching algorithm in one step if we had 32000 computers at our disposal.  Each computer would do a test against one pattern in its memory in one step.  Somehow the quantum computer acts as if it is 32000 computers doing the test against all 32000 numbers simultaneously.    Some have said that the quantum computer is using 32000 different universes to calculate the result.

Another more perplexing ability leverages the ability to do this quantum tunneling in a different problem.  We want to find the fastest way to our destination in the bay area.  There are thousands and thousands of roads and an exponential combination of roads, billions of possible paths.   We have GPS’s which seem to do this pretty good and fast.  However, these algorithms usually solve what is called a local minimal solution.  They find roughly the fastest way but they may in some cases fail to come up with the true fastest path.  I think we’ve all experienced this problem.  The computers in the GPS’s that do the solution take millions of steps to solve this problem and do so imperfectly.  A quantum computer solves this problem for the best solution in a single step.  More incredible, It is not tricked by what appears to be a fast route.  It finds the actual fastest route as if it had searched all the billions of possible paths in one step.

I am simplifying this a little.  It is not always one step in a quantum computer.  It depends on the number of factors but in any case for problems of this type which can be translated into problems that are similar to what quantum mechanics does the quantum computer can be in effect infinitely faster than a semiconductor logic computer.

5) Quantum foam, virtual particles exist empty space is bubbling hot with particles

Empty space is bubbling with particles of all types.  There is no such thing as empty space.  This is surprising to many people.  Quantum mechanics tells us that at any instant in time a particle could bump into any combination of virtual particles and make a transition to a huge number of possible other particles and combinations of particles resulting in a constant jumbling.  This is not a violation of conservation of energy because there is always a balanced pair of (what is called) virtual particles that exactly cancel each other out.  If the collision with a virtual particle happens the resulting particles must always obey the laws of nature conserving energy, angular momentum and of course the schroedinger equation.

Let’s say a proton and an anti-proton appear out of nowhere.  These particles can exist for a short amount of time, enough time to bump and interact with the real particles in our universe and cause them to undergo transformations or produce new particles that weren’t there before or they could just appear and disappear doing nothing.  Space appears to be a bubbling stew with things popping out all the time only to fall back into the stew after a short time.

This is not some joke.  When we do experiments in the LHC in Switzerland the results are billions of interactions many of which involve particle interactions with virtual particles and changes that directly prove that this bubbling foam really exists.  Further it has been shown that even in the space of a black hole boundary virtual particles pop in and out of existence.   When those particles pop up one inside the black hole event horizon and one outside the event horizon it is possible in some cases for the particle outside the event horizon to escape it’s cousin and emerge into space out of nowhere.   Hawking was able to show this radiation was real and that this was dubbed Hawking radiation.   It led to the bizarre result that black holes actually radiate energy not just suck energy in.

6) Time contracts with speed and mass

The speed of every particle in the universe is constant going the speed of light at all times.  This may seem ridiculous statement but it is true when you take into account the particles speed through time.  Some particles travel at the speed of light through space but travel through time at zero speed.   Some particles travel at close to the speed of light and travel slowly through time.  Some particles travel slowly in space and fast through time.  Essentially Vx^2 + Vy^2 + Vz^2 + Vt^2 = c^2 (the speed of light.)

Einstein showed in his paper in 1905 that our perspective on something traveling at close to the speed of light was distorted and that some observers see some things happen at different times and possibly even in different sequences than others who observe the same thing.

The particle of light is from its perspective stuck in one instant in time but because of our relative motion we perceive it as traveling through space and time.

This is sometimes called the twin paradox.  One twin is going close to the speed of light to travel say to Alpha Centauri the closest star system.  The twin on a space ship going at 99.9% of the speed of light would see the distance between Alpha Centauri and the Earth shrink.   Space itself as well as time appears to shrink or expand depending on our perspective.   The other twin would see his brother take years.   When he got back from Alpha Centauri the twin who travelled would be years younger than his brother.

Einstein showed that time is a dimension as are space dimensions.  They all distort, shrink and expand arbitrarily depending on our perspective.  That’s bizarre and makes you wonder if space and time are really real.   How could space contract?   How could I see 2 events occur in one order and someone else see them happen in a different order?

7) Entanglement – Particles can effect each other instantaneously even when separated by millions of miles

Two or more particles are entangled in some scenarios when they are created together or go through an experiment simultaneously which drives them to defined complimentary states.

When particles are entangled they maintain a connection even as they travel apart from each other.   This is what we talked about earlier where the particles that are entangled act as if they were right next to each other in some other dimension we can’t see even if they travel all over the place in the 3 dimensions we see.

We have created entangled states of 80+ particles at one time.  Let us just consider 2 particles entangled and flying apart from each other.   They may be billions of miles from each other.   When we shine a light on one (force decoherence) and the particle appears with definite position and state the other particle no matter how far away it is will instantaneously become a particle, lose its coherence and act like a billiard ball I described above revealing its true position and properties and not interfering with other particles but bounce off them like a solid particle.

8) Quantum Turing Zeno Paradox

Many particles decay after a certain “lifetime.”  This is well understood and will happen with remarkable precision.  However, Turing wondered if a watched kettle would boil in quantum mechanics.  A similar paradox is that when you look at an arrow moving at any specific point in time you don’t see it moving but obviously it is moving.  In this case Turing asked if a particle would decay while we looked at it.   In fact they don’t.

A particle can be stopped from decaying endlessly simply by “watching it.”   Any number of minor disturbances where you can see the particle on a regular basis apparently prevents it from decaying.  This is also known as stopping unitary time.

There are numerous paradox’s in Quantum mechanics that seem to be related to when you observe something as if nature knew we macro human level creatures were watching.   Other theories simplify this to any system that perturbs a coherent system in some “amount” causes it to decohere or prevent it from going into a coherent state.  If decaying particles change state and require that they first go into a coherent state before they change state then by watching the particle we prevent it from going into coherence and evolving.   We stop time.

9) Space can contract or expand faster than the speed of light

Like bizarreness #6 above space can contract or expand much faster than the speed of light.  During the inflationary period of the universe if it existed it is assumed that space expanded at a prodigious rate that within less than a microsecond most of the universe we see today was created consisting of billions of light years of space in all directions.

Simply accelerating to high speed can cause an arbitrary contraction of space to the thing undergoing the acceleration as their perception of both time and space changes.   This contraction is real to them in the sense that the distance they cover is amplified at a fantastic rate (although to them the distance itself will have shrunk to the stationary observer the distance will still be enormous.

This all implies that space and time are fungible quantities that don’t exist as real world entities because they seem to be able to be expanded or contracted at arbitrary rates depending on an observer.   The expansion and contraction happens in the eye of the observer telling us that real distance means nothing.  It is expandable and contractable at an instant and arbitrarily and can then be unexpanded similarly.   Absolute distance or absolute time mean nothing in that everything is relative.  It’s a simple matter of units.  4 Billion miles or 4 inches.  The distance seems irrelevant because we can change the interpretation and travel it in a flick of an eye or take all eternity depending on our perspective.

During inflation space expanded at an unbelievable rate or was it that time slowed at an unbelievable rate so that our perception of space and distance changed? Maybe space didn’t expand at all but time contracted at a prodigious rate.

10) We live in a 2-dimensional universe

A surprising fact discovered by the professor I have taken Physics classes at Stanford from is that the amount of mass you can cram into a black hole is limited by the size of the black holes surface area, not its volume.   If I try to pack stuff into a unit volume of space I can do so only up to the limit of the surface area of the space not the volume.

That’s strange in itself.  It implies we don’t live in a 3-dimensional universe at all. That we perceive a 3-dimensional universe could be no more than an artifact of our senses, our brains interpretation of what it takes in via our senses.   The fact is that we don’t really have full access to 3 dimensions and that if we try to access every place in 3-dimensions we will find ourselves limited and unable to access every point.

We are not sure what to make of this.  Are we smashed against the side of a black hole?   Are we projections from a 2-dimensional world like a hologram?

Interpretations of Decoherence

These are just some of the perplexing results of our physics experiments.  They have challenged everyone from Einstein who was a long opponent to quantum physics even as he won the nobel prize for figuring part of quantum physics out. He made the famous quote:  “God does not play dice.”  I mentioned the quote from Feynman no slouch in the brilliance department and every physicist I have talked to professes that these real experiments challenge the mind to make sense of them looking at our 4 dimensional world of time and space.

The standing rule in physics has been since scientists discussed this in the 1930s was called the Copenhagen interpretation.   At Copenhagen physicists agreed to table trying to understand physics from a physical point of view but to simply apply the Schroedinger wave equation and compute results.   They gave up trying to “understand” quantum mechanics, decoherence, the nature of reality and to become mathematicians when it came to quantum mechanics.

This is important because Penrose was an algebraic geometry mathematician and understood everything in terms of visual representations but every other physicist said:  I give up.  I’m not going to try and imagine how this is possible.  I’m just doing the math and telling you the answer.  Penrose wouldn’t do that.  He needed to try and conceptualize in geometry and his mind what was going on.

In these paradoxes above most physicists simply accept them as facts, do the calculations and don’t worry about how this could actually be.   We did the experiments.  The results are bizarre but as scientists we have to accept the data as real.  It is repeatable and our calculations using the math we have created works perfectly.   So, we have stopped trying to imagine how or why the universe does these things and simply accept it does.

Since Copenhagen more than a dozen other interpretations have emerged including the multi-worlds theory which if you subscribe to this theory then all simultaneous possible worlds that a particle could be in exist.  In this way the particle is actually in a specific place or time however it is in a different one in each world.   This makes the problem of decoherence go away because essentially the particle or particles split when they went into coherence into all possible subsequent states as different real universes.   All these universes exist and all possible states are realized.   We just happen to be in the universe that the one we observe the particle doing X.  Many Worlds  is actually the most believed theory today by physicists.  Even Steven Hawking has fallen into this camp.   I want to brag a little that when I first heard of the measurement problem I came up with many worlds conceptually.   The problem with many worlds is just as bad as decoherence though because how can all these universes be created?  It does seem troubling!

Another view on decoherence is very recent and says that space itself has memory and learns, like evolution.  In this model there is only one world but particles behave in what appear to be random probabilities because the space underneath the particles remembers all the other states of the particle or particles and keeps the particles or space producing what appears to be randomness.

Other theories of decoherence are for instance the Penrose quantum gravity interpretation of decoherence.   The Consistent histories interpretations, the pilot wave interpretations.  All in all there are about a dozen different theories for the measurement problem.  Surveys show physicists are split amongst all the theories but none seem to have garnered enough support to be considered really “the truth.”

An Uncommon Man and the surprising nature of our universe, Roger Penrose and reality Part I

roger penrose

Sir Roger Penrose, Oxford Univ

Is he the most brilliant man ever?

daniel schechtman Danny Schechtman

Let’s start here.  Daniel was a chemist working at the NIST (National Institute of Standards).  He was a bright kid but apparently didn’t impress his boss.  He was looking in his microscope and he noticed that the sample in view had many properties of crystals but also appeared irregular under the microscope.  He remembered from some textbook or something that it was possible for structures to be tiled by irregular patterns.  He told his boss that the structure could be a crystal even though it was not a regular structure.  His boss pulled a paper that said crystals had to be composed of regular structures.  After Daniel insisted that it was possible, his boss fired him.  Twenty-five years later Daniel Schechtman was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for discovering Quasicrystals.   I can’t find the name of his boss.  I have a feeling that is someone who wouldn’t want to be remembered for firing a Nobel prize winning scientist who discovered Quasicrystals which turns out to be useful in semiconductors and other applications.   Sir Roger Penrose, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Oxford didn’t share that Nobel prize even though his mathematics is the basis for the discovery that Danny had.

einstien  Our lovable Einstein

Science and Math are intimately tied.  We don’t know why but it seems indisputable

It is a fact that if Einstein hadn’t had non-euclidean geometry he would never have been able to create General Relativity.   It turns out many scientists in Chemistry, Physics and possibly even biology can point to Roger Penrose for having made the math advances that made the science they did possible.  So, if Roger was simply a good mathematician I might find him impressive but RG did way more than some cool mathematics.

roger penrose Sir Roger Penrose

He has NOT gotten a Nobel Prize

He has contributed in substantial ways to algebraic geometry, Spinors, Twistors, Mandelbrot curves, Fractal Geometry, Cohomology and impossible figures, Relativity theory, Cosmology, Black Holes, the Big Bang, Particle Physics, String Theory, Loop Quantum Gravity, Quantum Mechanics, Brain Science, Penrose diagrams, Penrose Triangle the tri-bar.  There are many many such references to original work and yet curiously he has never won or been listed as a contributor on a nobel prize.  I find that bizarre.

nobel  Alfred Nobel

Most brilliant people find mathematics difficult enough and if you took a fraction of Roger’s contributions in math it would be impressive and leave him immortal as a genius.

Physics is pretty hard stuff.  The math in modern physics is incredibly complicated.  Just learning the math let alone the physics is a huge burden for even the smartest person. Most people limit themselves to a specialty within Physics or Math.  Roger has impacted a dozen branches of each field, has inspired artists to paint his ideas, has inspired biologists all over the world to work on his ideas as well as hundreds / thousands of the best physicists and mathematicians from every major science institution in the world.   His work is the basis for much of current physics and lots of modern mathematics and he is still contributing major things at 83 years old.

This puts Roger in a rather special place contributing to many fields makes him what used to be called a “Renaissance man”. Roger is also a controversial and contrary making bold claims about the brain as quantum computer, that inflation is a fantasy and even more claiming that things the brain does proves that quantum physics is incomplete.  Most scientists aren’t making earth-shattering discoveries in their 80s as Penrose did last year at 83 years old!!

There are many brilliant physicists and mathematicians but this is not a biography of Roger Penrose or an elaboration of his entire career.   I am telling you all this and writing it because he has done something that is mind blowing.

What we see is not reality.  We have known this for a while

Our senses give us a view of the world interpreted by our brains as a 4 dimensional universe of 3 space dimensions and 1 time dimension.

We know that at the small scale of quantum mechanics the universe “Looks” vastly different.   If our senses were tuned to that world we would see the universe vastly differently than the billiard balls we see at our level.    At the level of the electron or particle time changes speed or even freezes, particles appear out of space and disappear constantly as if by magic.

This was made really clear to me when Larry Susskind told us about the holographic principle he discovered 20 years ago.   In this discovery Susskind proved that the universe has only 2 dimensions of space from a quantum mechanics point of view.  We perceive 3 dimensions.  In fact it appears that we could be a projection possibly on the surface of a black hole.

The holographic principle is pretty unassailable.   It is a fact that we have seen that the entropy of a black hole goes up as the square of its radius not the cube. This is proven in numerous ways on basic levels and seen experimentally.   This means that information can only be packed into space in effect as if space was 2-dimensional.  More important a mapping was also found by a south american physicist which demonstrated how you can map our world from a 2-dimensional surface and keep all our physics we have today.   We see this effect in holograms where a 2-dimensional surface can project a 3 dimensional image with a laser.

String theory says we actually live in 11 dimensions 8 of which are curled up in microscopic balls the size of which determine some of the fundamental characteristics of our world.

Einsteins gravity and Penrose’s quantum gravity concepts say that space itself is created and bent by the presence of mass.

Most recently Penrose has provided us with a world of 5 dimensions 2 of which are complex dimensions, the Twistor Universe. None of these 5 dimensions are our time and space dimensions.   Our space and time dimensions emerge as “calculations” on the underlying fundamental geometry of discrete space.   Time and space have no intrinsic reality and are merely calculated from Twistor space.  As a result time and space can jump arbitrarily depending on the mapping.  They are simply calculated results.  There is no continuous space-time.

We perceive our reality because our eyes capture signals from these dimensions. Our brains then try to make sense of it by creating a Minkowski world (3 dimensions of space and 1 of time.)   In fact, the world does not have to be 4 dimensional space time Minkowski and almost all theories of physics now modify the number of dimensions and shape.   It is an artifact of how our brains make sense of the impact of things in this universe at the scale we are.   We see a ball traveling in a path because our brains can make a “prediction” about the path of the ball, can make sense of the ball and its motion by creating 3 dimensional world and time.  So, our brains construct this reality we see but it is NOT reality.  It is simply the simplest way our brains can perceive and predict what is happening at this macro level.

Our brains construct reality as the simplest way of understanding the macro motions of things that seem important

I believe Roger Penrose has uncovered the true reality of our universe.

It wasn’t an accident.  He’s actually been very purposeful in doing so.  I am going to attempt to explain in as simple a way as I understand it what our universe really is, what reality really looks like.

Here is the series on Roger Penrose and Reality:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Continuing Predictions and thoughts of the future Part V Space Travel

Space Travel

I am one of the believers in space travel.  I have long believed that we should eventually become more than a one-planet civilization.   For most people this seems like a crazy idea but I look at it as more of an existential thing.   We know we live in this universe and occupy a minor place in it.  We know that the universe has many dangers and is incredibly large.

I also believe in humanity.  I’m a team player you could say for the human race.  In spite of our failures and clear mistakes as a species we have potential.  I would like to see us maximize that potential.   I believe that occupying more than one world and eventually making our presence felt beyond our solar system are necessary for us to achieve our full potential.

The biggest factor limiting our ability to do these things in space is the cost to lift mass out of our gravity well.    Therfore, to me and others the priority of our space program SHOULD HAVE BEEN to engineer the least cost way to get into space. Once we have accomplished that it drastically reduces the cost to do everything else making things that seem impossible today much more feasible.

For instance, it cost $200 billion to build the International Space Station.   This ridiculous waste of money was built on the flights mainly of the space shuttle which cost $2 billion / flight.   If we could have lifted mass into space at 1/10th this cost we could save maybe $100 billion or more.  Or the space station could have been 10 times bigger or some combination.   Therefore it was stupid to make a priority of building a space station when we hadn’t figured out how to make cheaper lifting mass into space.

Elon Musk has gone an incredible way in giving us a possible future here.  The development of inexpensive space travel (relatively) allows vastly more to be done with space than ever imaginable 5 or 10 years ago.    He is in the process of building the first reusable space rockets.   Such rockets cost $100 million to build with $200,000 of fuel.   Every flight we throw away the 100 million dollar space ship.   That makes space travel a lot more expensive.

Why isn’t the US governments main goal to build something like the Falcon?  Why wasn’t it it’s mission 20 years ago?  I lay the blame at government.   Driven by politics they did what was sexy in the moment and then driven by the need of jobs for the existing space program we kept doing what made no sense.   We have to make a change to a rational goal directed space program.

The first step in any space program must be the reduction in cost of delivery of mass into space

Let’s say we do that and we have a nice cheap way to go to space.   We are left with why?  Why spend the money or time?

Most people seem unmotivated about the subject.  It is not clear what the compelling motive would be besides people with an adventurous explorative and future thinking mindset.

There are 3 things I think could be compelling about going into space:

1) Financial:  There is the idea that asteroids have nearly an infinite amount of resources we could mine.  It is not clear we need all those resources if we keep the population of the earth reasonable or that they can be mined economically but we ought to find out because if there is good financial basis for going to space this would be the best reason.  Beyond this is the use of near earth space for satellites or simply transportation quickly around the earth.   Some have postulated we could get energy from the sun in solar cells and beam it back to the earth efficiently.  If any of these could be made practical they could provide financial basis for going into space and building a presence.

2) Exploration/Science:   We have a compelling need to go to space to do things to expand our knowledge of ourselves (looking back on the earth) and to do experiments for science.   We have reached to pluto and now to the very edges of the solar system.   I believe eventually we will expand this research to include other solar systems.  This will involve creation of new drive systems.

3) Colonization:    Let’s assume that for whatever reason people do decide to colonize mars or the moon for instance.    I believe by the end of the century we will have a colony on mars and that it will be thriving and large.  Possibly thousands or even millions of people.  I believe there are materials on Mars or closeby that could sustain a civilization.  I believe that our technology will be advanced enough to get around the problems of mars environment.   Eventually in hundreds of years we may terraform the planet.

Mars represents our only real second possible home other than space itself.  The other planets like Mercury and Venus seem incredibly inhospitable especially in the short term.

Development of a colony on mars or in space depends on the advancement of materials technology, robotics, health improvements, possibly genetic improvements will be utilized eventually to make us more hospitable to Mars rather than the other way around.  Certainly this makes sense from a simple economics point of view.

The cost to terraform a whole planet will be enormous and problematic.   However, modifying our genes and supplying improvements in our bodies and implants to support living in a less hospitable world seems infinitely easier and less expensive albeit with possible aesthetic concerns to most.

Speedier Space Travel

We have long theorized about other ways than the current combustion rockets we use today to get around in space.   Since our main problem has been getting out of the gravity well of earth the only techniques available had to have very high specific thrusts capable of overcoming the force of gravity on earth.   When you get to space numerous other space technologies become much better.   Most of these technologies use much lower specific thrust (acceleration) but last much longer enabling achievement of much higher velocities with far less mass consumption.

Ion solar powered propulsion:   The basic idea is to leverage the suns energy to accelerate particles backward from the spacecraft at incredibly high velocity.  In spite of the very low mass of the particles emitted their high velocity means that they impart a steady increase in velocity that could mean months instead of minutes of continuous acceleration.   What starts off small eventually becomes huge.   This type of propulsion is limited to very light spacecraft.

Nuclear propulsion:   A similar concept is powered instead by a nuclear source.   The nuclear source could produce many more particles at high speed much faster.   It is possible to build space ships of significant mass that use this method that can make the trip to Mars in one or two months rather than 9 or 10.

Both of these methods have already been tested and are quite practical and likely to emerge rapidly once we are simply traveling around in space from a space station.

Bussard Ramjet:   If you can put out a sail you can ride the waves of the sun.   The sun emits radiation and particles.  It is an outward wind.  Many have thought you could like a sailboat sail in space by leveraging the solar wind.  It would require a sail of incredible thinness and lightness as well as many miles in radius.  Like a sail on the ocean you would have to be able to move it to take advantage of the wind.   In some variations you use the sail to collect particles emitted by the sun, hydrogen particles in particular and then use them to create a propulsive force.  A simple Jet-like constriction, acceleration and combustion of the hydrogen would produce the thrust.  Sometimes the sail is simply left out to collect particles that are later ejected like the ion engine above to create acceleration.  The advantage of a Bussard Ramjet is that it is self-refueling.  Like the sail on the ocean this spacecraft would never be “stranded” as it could always leverage the wind in space to get around.   The continuous acceleration provided by the infinite fuel capacity means that theoretically the speed of a Bussard Ramjet is close to the speed of light eventually.    This could enable much faster space travel but it would still be years to even the closest solar system and the slow acceleration means it would still take a long time to get around our solar system.

Travel outside the solar system

Space travel outside the solar system is fiction or fantasy at this point except in the most rudimentary way.    We could send spaceships to other solar systems but it would be something different than has ever been represented in science fiction movies.   It would be extremely dangerous, costly and time consuming.   We have voyager breaking through the barrier at the edge of our solar system now, 40 years after launch.

We could shorten dramatically the time to get to the nearest solar system.   Numerous technologies are practical to tremendously cut down the space travel time but new knowledge about the nature of the universe may unlock the way we eventually solve this problem.   I don’t think anyone can rule out discoveries that may make what we think of today as impenetrable barriers suddenly available.  I do think the nature of our universe is far different than the 4 dimensional Minkowski space our senses perceive.

Indirect Space Travel

The rate of progress in physics is impressive.  It is possible that in 20-40 years we uncover some remarkable tricks to circumvent limitations in travel.

One possibility I have never seen written about is the idea that if eventually our consciousness could be encoded into a stream of some sort of information then with an appropriate transducer at the other end we could send ourselves at the speed of light to the destination.    Such travel would have the advantage that for us traveling at the speed of light time would stop moving so that when we arrived it would seem like an instant later.  Although many tens or hundreds or thousands of years may have passed here it would allow a commuting of the species.

Predictions:

10 years:  We will be building a bigger much better space station based on reusable low cost transportation system to space.  It will be a rotating space station similar conceptually to the one in 2000: A space odyssey (25 years late) We will have a new space telescope capable of seeing vastly deeper and better at planets with potential life on them.   We will have advanced in materials and robotics to do more of the construction in space.

20 years:  We will have landed and built a permanent base on Mars or the Earth albeit with very few people and possibly not occupied continuously.   We will have explored numerous asteroids and tried to mine or deliver some material from one to earth.

30 years:  We will have a real permanent colony on mars and in orbit in space.  We will be mining some asteroids for some rare minerals.  Almost all work in space or mars will be robotic.   We will have discovered evidence of primitive life on mars.  We will be building a space telescope 10 times bigger than the James Webb telescope able to see planets around other solar systems close-by.   We will be going to another solar system with robots to explore.   We will have ion and nuclear rocket engines to make space travel 10 times faster than today allowing us to get to Mars in a month or to other solar systems in a decade.

50 years:  We will have built our first bussard ramjet type spacecraft for interstellar travel allowing us to send some spacecraft on journeys that are tens of light years distant.   We will have colonies on mars and the moon and space itself.   These colonies will be using resources mainly from asteroids and mars itself.    I believe we will have possibly civilizations with 100,000 people in them by the end of the 21st century on mars or in space.

Continuing Predictions and thoughts of the future Part IV Physics

Physics

Predicting the future does have something to do with physics.  It always has.   Since Newton and the development of the 3 laws of motion we have been able to do more and more in our physical world because of what we have discovered in physics.

Quantum Chemistry and Quantum Biology

The discovery of quantum mechanics is having significant impact on our understanding of plants, animals and the brain as well as the operation of the real world.   We are building “quantum devices” and have been doing so for some time.   We have new fields called quantum biology and quantum chemistry.

There are estimates that as much as 10% or more of our economy is based on quantum mechanics already.

The reason quantum mechanics is having an effect and will have more of an effect on our real world and our use of the real world is because quantum mechanics allows nature and us to perform tricks that otherwise seem impossible. Let me explain a few of the tricks quantum mechanics allows that will change our world.

Quantum mechanics is behind how the plant is able to ferry photons of light to break up CO2 10^7 times more efficiently than if you were to try to do it with classical physics and chemistry.   Quantum mechanics is behind things like the sensitivity of our eyes to single photons and our hearing sensitivity, our noses and birds finding their way around, the reason animals can detect earthquakes.

Quantum mechanics allows nature to perform miracles of sensitivity and efficiency that we cannot explain any other way.   If we can utilize it in our technology we can create incredibly more sensitive instruments, new efficient ways of distributing power or using power infinitely more miserly.   Putting intelligence into devices at microscopic level and increasing computer power by billions of times.

A lot of this benefit will depend on discovering the way nature is able to leverage quantum effects at room temperature.  Apparently the shape of molecules outer shells of electrons can be made to cohere in some way that nature can achieve magnification of quantum mechanical effects to macro world phenomenon.   We do some of this in diodes in electronics today.

When we discover like nature has how to do high temperature quantum mechanics for biology and chemistry we will have a breaking point in the use of this technology and it will have an enormous impact.

In the shorter term we can use these quantum effects in computers and in power grids, large scale facilities.

Learning quantum mechanics is going to be like learning Newtons three laws.  It will be necessary because more and more we will depend on things that utilize this physics.

We live in a quantum mechanical world and I believe that this quantum mechanics is essential to the very existence of everything.   A classical physics world is impossible I suggest.   I believe the fact that quantum mechanics exists is one of the great “anthropomorphic mysteries” like the reason the speed of light is what it is or the strong force/weak force ratio is what it is or the mass of the proton to electron is what it is.  These are amazing coincidences that make life, specifically human intelligent life possible.

I believe a non-quantum universe is an uninteresting universe with dead billiard balls that don’t interact.  Many physicists liked the simple equations of Newtons universe, the simple movement of objects.   Quantum mechanics provides quantum foam the constant bubbling of energy and randomness in empty space that drives interactions, makes our universe alive, active.   Without it, it’s not clear how things would “happen.”  Classical physics is dull and lifeless without quantum mechanics.  Plants couldn’t live without quantum mechanics so nature needed tricks to create life.

I believe we will discover that quantum effects allow the smallest single cell creatures to exhibit learning and pattern matching ability that is critical to the evolution of life.   We have seen just the beginning of how dependent we and nature are on quantum mechanics and therefore we are vastly underutilizing one of the most important basic tools of nature.   When we learn how to harness quantum mechanics in our biology and chemistry we will have massive changes in our abilities.

Twistor Theory, Unification, Theories of Gravity

I believe that during the next 50 years we will see the emergence of a theory of everything that will radically change our perception of what reality is.   We already know that reality is not what we think it is.   Aristotle said that we only “see” paintings on the walls of caves.   What he said seemed very theoretical but is profound beyond belief.   Our senses give us a view of the world interpreted by our brains as a 4 dimensional universe of 3 space dimensions and 1 time dimension.

We know that at the small scale of quantum mechanics the universe “Looks” vastly different.   If our senses were tuned to that world we would see the universe vastly differently than the billiard balls we see at our level.    At the level of the electron or particle time changes speed or even freezes, particles appear out of space and disappear constantly as if by magic.

At our macro level it was proven by Larry Suskind, Prof Physics at Stanford University that the 3 physical dimensions we see is really 2 dimensions.  We could be observing each other on the surface of the cave wall literally.  In this case the cave wall is the boundary of a black hole, possibly a black hole that we all are living on the surface of.

String theory says we actually live in 11 dimensions 8 of which are curled up in microscopic balls the size of which determine some of the fundamental characteristics of our world.

Einsteins gravity and Penrose’s quantum gravity concepts say that space itself is created and bent by the presence of mass.

Most recently Penrose (Professor Mathematics and Physics Oxford Univ)  has provided us with a world of 5 dimensions 2 of which are complex dimensions, the Twistor Universe. None of these 5 dimensions are our time and space dimensions.   Our space and time dimensions emerge as “calculations” on the underlying fundamental geometry of discrete space.   Time and space have no intrinsic reality and are merely calculated from Twistor space.  As a result time and space can jump arbitrarily depending on the mapping.  They are simply calculated results.  There is no continuous space-time.   This explains things like how entangled particles can communicate at 1,000,000 times the speed of light.

We perceive our reality because our eyes capture signals from these dimensions. Our brains then try to make sense of it by creating a Minkowski world (3 dimensions of space and 1 of time.)   In fact, the world does not have to be 4 dimensional space time Minkowski and almost all theories of physics now modify the number of dimensions and shape.   It is an artifact of how our brains make sense of the impact of things in this universe at the scale we are.   We see a ball traveling in a path because our brains can make a “prediction” about the path of the ball, can make sense of the ball and its motion by creating 3 dimensional world and time.  So, our brains construct this reality we see but it is NOT reality.  It is simply the simplest way our brains can perceive and predict what is happening at this macro level.

Our brains construct reality as the simplest way of understanding the macro motions of things that seem important

Penrose has shown that the human brain is capable of deductions that cannot be made by machines operating by conventional mathematical logic, what we call Von Neuman machines.  He suggests that quantum mechanics is an integral part of how our brains operate and that the ability of the brain to make these deductions suggests that even quantum mechanics needs to be modified or a new physics is necessary to explain how the human brain can “see” things that a von Neuman machine can’t.

Penrose is saying that our intelligence (consciousness) actually resides in the quantum foam.  Some evidence of this is available in several ways.  One way is possible because experiments have shown that the body and nerves can react to a thought that doesn’t emerge into our consciousness until 100s of milliseconds after the signals have been sent to the body to perform the action we later think of. There are several ways to think this is possible.  However, in the Penrose interpretation consciousness is in the quantum foam and our brains or our neurons are simply transducers or proxies allowing the flow of information from our senses and brains “consciousness” to the quantum foam and back.   The real “thinking” is done in the quantum foam.

In this world our neurons are the gateways to the real intelligence which exists in quantum foam.

Another theory gaining strength (Quantum Darwinism) says that the quantum foam itself is capable of learning, remembering and evolving.     Our DNA may simply be a natural “analog” to this quantum evolutionary capability.   It makes sense that evolution and something like DNA would happen if underlying structure of the universe was evolutionary then the emergence of evolution is natural consequence of the very nature of space itself.

These theories may seem speculative but they are all driven by the bizarre scientific experimental results we see.   We see entanglement and particles reacting at 1,000,000 times the speed of light, we see the universe expanding, we see particles created out of nothing and disappearing.  We see particles traverse impossible paths or switch from particle to wave phenomenon and disappear only to reappear almost anywhere.   We see particles interfering with future versions of themselves and past versions.   These are real experiments that drive these bizarre seeming theories.  These are real things our eyes don’t see but that are actually happening, the way the universe really is not how we wish it were.

As we discover the “real universe” we live in we will learn the real limitations of things we can and can’t do.  Until then we can’t say what are our limitations.  Therefore whatever theory emerges from our current mess of theories as real will emerge because we are able to see scientific results which validate it.   That means we may find ways to travel faster than light or to leverage energy sources we never imagined, to tap into intelligence we never imagined, even to re-imagine what life and evolution, where consciousness resides or to reinvent ourselves.

The possibilities remain all in play because nature has decided to give us a much more complicated universe than Newton or classical physics allowed.   We should be grateful because a Newtonian billiard ball universe would be boring and have so many limitations surely man would commit suicide for lack of interesting things to do with ourselves.   This universe is bizarre and we are going to figure out a lot more of it in the next 50 years but I strongly believe that somehow we will not come to the end of our understanding of the universe in 50 years.  I believe that the universe will continue to show depth like a fractal.  As we uncover more and more we will discover an infinite depth to this.  Certainly we don’t seem close to being able to the end now.

We keep looking for a “simple” formula as Stephen Hawking said to explain the universe.   Every few decades we seem to have a “revelation” that reveals an underlying simplicity, i.e. strings.  When first proposed they seemed so simple.  All of nature could be reduced to a simple vibration of a string.  Different vibrations resulting in different particles.   The structure of the strings determining the constants of nature.  Simplicity like Newtons simplicity, like the atom, nucleus electron simplicity and then the quark simplicity.  Each time we saw a simple way to describe things that somehow become complicated as we delved into it.

In the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance the protagonist in the book describes how a motorcycle engine can be broken down into pieces, simple pieces but as you examine each piece the complexity increases and the way you broke down the motorcycle turns out to be arbitrary.  There are many ways to think about the motorcycle engine components and functions.  The more you look at it the more everything gets confusing.

In a similar way it may simply be an artifact of reality that no manner of organizing it, breaking it down can fully simplify the complexity.   Whether this leads to abilities to travel faster than light or discover other creatures in the universe to talk to I have no idea but we are definitely not anywhere near the end of the journey of discovery, so we shouldn’t be putting bounds on what is possible just quite yet.

The Speed of Light

There are several ways physics could go that could impact our future.  We could find that the universe has “tricks” like quantum tricks that allow us to travel long distances easily.

There are several ways around the limitations of the speed of light that we know about.  1) It is proven that the information transfer that happens during decoherence is at least 1,000,000 times faster than the speed of light.  2) While particles themselves cannot travel faster than the speed of light space itself can shrink or expand faster than the speed of light. 3) it is theoretically possible to traverse a wormhole through connected parts of space enabling us to travel distances that would otherwise take billions of years at the speed of light in a fraction of that time.  4) There may be ways to move around twistor space that jump around in physical space and time arbitrarily.

Twistor Space and Roger Penrose

It is not clear if any of these are possibly leverage-able in a real way by human beings.  If Roger Penrose is right and our space fundamentally is not a Minkoski 4 dimensional space time but a 5 dimensional Twistor space then space and time are discrete and are not fundamental.  This means that jumping around among discrete points in Twistor space can jump around arbitrarily in Minkowski space time.   This would explain a lot of confusing things about quantum mechanics.  It would also mean that we may not be limited by our perception of what is possible in Minkowski space-time.

You may think my discussion above of Twistor space is random and just some bizarre ideas I have.   I strongly encourage you to read current physics.  Twistor space is becoming more and more a centerpiece of how people are doing quantum mechanics today.  It is also become an underpinning of string theory.  It is critical to quantum gravity theories.    Roger Penrose invented Twistor space. He is a mathematician and physicist who helped Einstein with papers about the big bang and Steven Hawking with papers on black holes.   Twistor space is behind the latest advancements in quantum mechanics like the Amplituhedron which is allowing us to calculate quantum states billions of times faster than we could with Feynman diagrams.   Roger is 84 years old and just published a paper last year which challenges the existence of Inflation theory.  If you don’t know about this man then you really should read about him more.   I plan a separate blog entry on him soon.

The future is still wide open

There are no obvious applications immediately to these physics ideas  I discuss above than there were obvious applications of quantum mechanics or special relativity or all kinds of things in physics yet ultimately they enable us to do things that seem like magic.

20 years:  Significant advances in unifying physics

30 years … I really have no idea.  I don’t think anybody could.  It’s sheer speculation.  However, I think we will discover or prove that our universe is far different than we see.  Possibly that Twistor space is “real” space.   We will discover that the quantum foam is where consciousness originates.   We will explain why at least some of the “constants” of nature are why they are and it will have some kind of anthropomorphic element.

Here are the areas I have written prognostication and thoughts about:  

Food and Transportation

Computers and AI

Space Travel

Physics

Healthcare

 Society

Continuing Predictions and thoughts of the future Part III Computers and AI

Computers / IOT / Robots / Communication / AI

This is an enormous topic.  Because of the nature of advancement it is hard to come up with a precise way to break this area down into appropriate areas without knowing in advance how the technology will evolve.  Nevertheless, let’s try this.

Computers

As far as computers are concerned we can divide thinking into the 3 fundamental resources of a computer.  All computers are fundamentally composed of these resources in different quantities:  Compute, storage and bandwidth, ie communication.

Computation

We are on a path to building Quantum computers today.  I expect that over the next 10-20 years we will see a revolution in computing related to this.   The reason quantum computers represent such a “jumping” in technology is that as quantum computers increase the number of qubits they can operate on simultaneously the power of their computation ability climbs exponentially not linearly.    It is not clear why such exponential growth cannot continue for a long time so that within 10 years we may have a single quantum computer that is capable of more than the conventional computing power of the world combined today.  The power of billions of computers in one machine.   This might lead to a recentralization of computation.

It is also quite possible that high temperature quantum computers are possible leading to distributed quantum computers in robots, IOT devices and handheld devices.  If quantum computers are necessary for simulating brain function as some think then this is something we will have to figure out.

Without quantum computers conventional computing is reaching some breaking points in calculation ability.  We are dividing computation into multiple processors but this depends on being able to divide problems into pieces that can be independently computed.  Some problems are amenable to this and some are not.  Without quantum computers we will see advancements in speed but not on the order of the past.

The most important thing happening now is cost reduction and size reduction, power reduction.  This trend may continue for a long time.    Computers are vastly less efficient than biologic computers in terms of energy consumed.  A human brain more powerful than thousand of computers runs on 15 cents of materials and few watts of energy.  We are seeing dramatic improvements in size and energy consumption allowing us to embed computation into smaller and smaller devices.  Ultimately we can imagine everything having “computation” ability.  I don’t have a good sense of what that could be used for longer term but I’m sure that as you look at all the problems in the future they will find use for ever smaller and cheaper less resource consuming computation ability.  It will be the raw material for everything.

Networking

10 years ago people at home frequently had thousands of bits/second to their home and their phones or data communications over wireless was practically nonexistent and very slow hundreds of bits/second.

10 years later LTE is common which allows communication at 10s of millions of bits/second over wireless and many homes have 100s of millions of bits/second.  We are talking about a 10,000 increase in performance in 10 years.  I am frankly shocked this was possible.  Nyquist-Shannon showed in 1959 that there were limits to the amount of data one could transmit over a certain bandwidth.  Todays cell phones seem to break these laws.   They achieve these amazing feats by employing a tremendous amount of sophistication combining data from multiple antannae with mathematically complex calculations cell phones are able to do what should be impossible.

What if we could do this again and get another 10,000 increase in performance? One question is what would be the use of 10,000 times the performance we have today?  Such a level of performance would be mind-boggling.  It may be impossible to achieve wirelessly but wired communications could certainly see such increases.   The purpose of such communication for the average person could only be for virtual reality.   If I could create a 3d impression of a distant place here to a realistic enough level I may not need to travel to X to basically experience X.    This I believe is where we will be in 50 years.

The continued acceleration and improvement of bandwidth makes it possible to do more and more over virtual connections than physical connections.  Today you can buy a device for a few thousands dollars that rolls around with your face on a screen.  The device is cute and allows you to be virtually in someplace.   You can control the remote robot and run into people in the hall, come up to them at their desk and talk to them.

It’s not hard to imagine that these devices become more and more anthropomorphic.  If the remote “me” was connected to my brain in such a way that I could control it simply by thinking then I could believe I was in this remote place.  I might need sensors that could feel the other location, smell it, taste it remotely.  In this version of virtual reality I have a “alternate physical self” that I can be connected to and experience life from where I am.

Another version of virtual reality would not have a physical presence of yourself but the other place would be presented to you in full 3d.  This is a simplified virtual reality but still compelling and useful.

It is clear bandwidth requirements of the future are huge if we want to go towards this virtual reality.

Storage

I did not anticipate the increases in bandwidth possible and similarly I am shocked by the gains in storage density.   We have chips that fit on the surface of the end of your baby finger that have 256 billion bytes of information.   In order to do this we have to write 1.5 trillion transistors onto a surface 0.02 square inches in size.  I didn’t think it was remotely possible or if it was possible that it would cost a fortune and be available in 100 years.   It is consumer cost and available last year.  These things go beyond our ability to comprehend.  It is virtually like magic.

It is clear that we need huge advancements in storage to handle the future.   Right now people are fretting over the amount of data a few billion stupid IOT devices will generate.  I think we have not thought carefully enough about the issues of bigdata becoming really big, i.e. a million or billion times more than we have today.  So, as incredible as the storage increases we’ve made are we need lots more.

Fortunately storage is one of the ones that one can imagine easily could be made almost infinite.   A simple expansion of our current storage technology is possible simply by making 3d versions of the storage devices we have today.  I have no doubt we will find incredible increases in storage are possible.   I would be surprised if the future did not see storage devices millions of times more dense than we have today not by going farther in 2 dimensions but by utilizing 3 dimensions.

AI

The future of AI is complicated.  When I first started studying computers everyone thought the human brain must be fairly simple combination of nerves and that we could figure out how to make smart computers pretty quickly.  That was really wrong.  40+ years later we are no closer than we were then making me wonder if this is actually impossible.   It is certainly a way harder problem than it first appeared.

In another blog I have written that one possibility for explaining this difficulty is that the brain is actually a number of quantum computers.   Quantum computers are potentially incredibly powerful.   Such computer power if necessary for intelligence on the order of human intelligence would mean that we are limited by the hardware and are easily decades and decades away from building machines capable of human level intelligence.

We have built a couple quantum computers and they are pathetically small compared to even the smallest possible brain quantum computer if that is the way the brain works.   The quantum computers we have built besides being capable of only a thousand qubits compared to the brains potentially trillion qubits cost 10million dollars and need to run at supercooled temperatures close to -270 degrees C.   This makes them impractical for all but the most esoteric applications.    We need to make several really big jumps:

1) High temperature quantum computers

2) Millions or billions of qubits.

3) Cost reduced by a factor of a 100 billion or so per qubit

This is not going to happen overnight.    It may be impossible.

It is also possible that human level intelligence can be achieved without this kind of advancement.   Some are worried in fact that the current neural technology will achieve human intelligence eventually using conventional computer methodologies.

The European Union has approved a research effort similar in size and scope to the human genome project launched by the US in the 70s.  This project is called the Brain project and the goal is to understand the neuronal structure of the brain down to the ion channels in individual neurons.  It is funded for more than a billion Euros.   This is a fantastic commitment to try to understand the brain.  I am not sure it will achieve what its promoters want but it will undoubtedly make some jumps in our understanding.

There is a project funded by several very wealthy people to create computer programs that mimic brain structure to a high fidelity.   Clearly these efforts are being funded because computer scientists have failed utterly to create very smart programs.   It’s also true that the research we’ve done on the brain so far has failed massively in terms of understanding the basic functions of the brain.

Some people like Sir Roger Penrose, Prof of Mathematics and Physics at Oxford and probably the smartest man to ever have lived believe that not only do we need quantum computers to build a brain but that the brain reveals capabilities that actually require NEW physics that nobody has contemplated yet.

Computer brains may never show the ability to comprehend reality (consciousness) like humans do and to solve problems like humans do and potentially even some animals do.   If so, then it will be necessary to figure out how to recreate a human biologic brain to get to “AI.”   This may all go along the path described in my health section around transplanting brains.   It may mean the goal of transplanting human consciousness to a computer or to a static storage device is impossible.   It may mean we never have to worry about competing intelligence from robots or computers.

However, as an engineer I believe eventually we will figure out how to do it even if it means we have to do a lot pretty much the same way nature did it with a biologic brain of neurons.

Computer scientists have categorized the levels of intelligence into 3 categories and I agree with this categorization.  Category 1 is what we have today which is intelligence in a single discipline.  This is called ANI or narrow intelligence.  These are computer programs that are good at chess or good at recognizing images in a photograph.   Category 2 intelligence is what we have and is called AGI (General) intelligence.  Penrose believes that this level of intelligence may be unachievable with conventional technology or even conventional quantum technology.   Category 3 intelligence may not exist but is called ASI and it is the feared intelligence that we can create something much more intelligent than us that makes us feel like a house pet.

The ability of our science to create intelligence will have far reaching implications on advancements and society over the next 50-100 years because a lot of improvements in our capabilities and leisure are connected with making robots that are smarter (category AGI).   If this turns out to be really hard problem that eludes us for decades then we may be stuck dramatically different environment than if we create Robots with brains that can think at a rudimentary level (ANI) and a vastly different environment that if we create AI that is superior to human brains (ASI)

The answer of whether we will be able to do each of these other possibilities (AGI or ASI) is unknowable.  It depends on more than our engineering acumen.  It is more like long distance space travel in that it may depend on what the nature of reality turns out to be and the limitations of physics.

I don’t believe there is any one thing that suddenly lurches us into AGI or ASI.  We are NOT on the cusp of these events.

If AGI or ASI turn out to depend on using quantum capabilities this may mean that things like the singularity event for “recording a human” or transplanting a human are impossible.   It is not known how to copy the quantum state of our brains if they are quantum computers and in fact it would violate quantum mechanics to readout the quantum state of our brains.   We could readout a particular state of our brains but without knowing a lot more it is probably not possible to have that information be useful for creating a clone of that brain or running that information in a general purpose computer without having the exact brain at hand that held that quantum state.

Robots / IOT

I do think that at a minimum we will have smarter ANI type intelligence in computers and that will mean a lot of utility to humans.  Such capability may enable us to build useful robots but it is unlikely that we will ever think of such robots as like humans or a threat to humans.

Whether robots become sentient or not we will have robots capable of doing many things people do today soon.  This may become an ethical societal problem to figure out what to do with most people if they don’t have a job?

How does our society restructure around the idea we don’t need conventional labor or workers? Will the society devolve?  How do we compensate everyone in such a society?  Will “white collar” jobs proliferate fast enough to take up the slack?

I have little doubt that technology will allow the creation of more and more functional robots in every area we operate so that our need for working people diminishes.  I think this could be 20 years from becoming really impactful but it will.

Here are the areas I have written prognostication and thoughts about:  

Food and Transportation

Computers and AI

Space Travel

Physics

Healthcare

 Society

Continuing Predictions and thoughts of the future Part II Food and Transportation

Food

Humans love food.  I am amazed how the quality and quantity of food has proliferated.  I was on a trip recently to the Isla Mujeres in Mexico near Cancun. This small island was filled with incredible restaurants offering the most creative and fresh quality food and cuisine.  It wasn’t just Mexican food but Italian, French, Seafood, Vegetarian and other varieties.  This tiny island had the finest creative and quality standards one expects coming from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Food is a very divisive issue when it comes to issues of production and the technology.   We have a combination of possibilities.   I will talk about plants but of course this also all applies to animals made for consumption as well.

1) The organic revolution wins and everyone is eating retro agriculture grown in hyper protected but natural environments that make the most of food sources as they are today.

2) Conventional farming with pesticides improves and we use conventional techniques of grafting, selection and improvements learned from organic revolution to improve conventional farming.

3) GMO takes off.  We are genetically modifying plants today.  These plants are significantly better in some respects than the original.  Today this is usually limited to a feature or two like better resistance to disease, able to live off less water or producing better fruit.   There is enormous resistance to this by many even though it is only a refinement of conventional techniques of grafting and selective mating we’ve done before.

4) Replacing food with artificial products.  We have so many artificial ingredients in most foods that it is not hard to imagine in some cases eventually the food is replaced entirely with artificial ingredients making food into an industrial process done in factories.   While this is repulsive to many people I grew up watching Star Trek and I remember how the crew simply said they wanted X and the replicators would produce food X.   This seemed so much more humane than actually killing real animals or plants.  The Klingons were portrayed evil for eating their meat fresh.  I have to admit that I found this ethic refreshing.  I think that ultimately we shouldn’t harm life on this planet but allow it to progress in its own way.  The less disturbance we give plant or animals the better.

Some companies have already experimented with 3d printers for food.   The “inks” are protein, carbos and fats that can be mixed in different laters and combinations.  From there to a “replicator” as in Star Trek is not such a huge leap.   The main problem as reported so far with this technology is creating the texture of some food products.   I know this sounds repulsive to many but I could easily see this technology being realistic for a number of environments in 20 or 30 years.

5) Other possibilities include the creation of entirely new foods, plants and animals or the modification of humans intake if we become more machine than biologic we may require different nutrients.

There is a great concern that these technologies cannot be intermixed.  It is likely that plants once in fields will end up becoming modified by each other.   So, there is the potential for conflict growing over this area.

10years:  GMO techniques may be outlawed or become the norm.  

20years:  Food replication via 3d printing becomes a household item.  Architected food becomes fashionable in elite restaurants.

30years:  Human starvation eliminated entirely

Transportation

Transportation is always an important topic people feel interested in projecting to the future.

The current technology for transportation has a large number of deficiencies.  It is inefficient taking vast amounts of our time to do and is costly.   Many many options are possible in how this progresses.

Elon Musk has proposed the hyperloop as the next generation technology for transportation.  Several have suggested low earth space flight as possible means for high speed travel around the world.  The hyperloop goes at 750 MPH or over 1000KPH allowing travel for instance between SF and LA in half an hour.  It would take more time to get to the hyperloop station and park then to get to LA or SF.

On the other hand there is a version of hyperloop that would transport cars as well so you might just drive onto the hyperloop and be in LA in half an hour.  If hyperloop could be extended to other destinations travel to NYC for instance, could be made in 3 hours and presumably wouldn’t have the same problems as Airplanes having to arrive an hour or two early.  If you were left deep inside NYC people would save enormous time compared to airplanes.

Transportation technology suffers from the problem that it is physically expensive and huge.  Many many trillions of dollar are invested in our current modes of transport so that in 20 years much change seems unlikely.  The same is true for airplane technology.   The hyperloop may be commonplace in 50 to 100 years but not likely that it will replace a big part of our infrastructure before then.   The sheer cost of building all the infrastructure means it will take a century to replace the road system.

The train system has the same problems.   We can continue to improve trains, put more and more high speed trains but the improvements are relatively minor compared to the type of advances we are talking about in other areas.   We have invested many trillions of dollars in train infrastructure.  I just don’t see how we unravel that quickly.    It may be that our communications technology ends up running around the transportation problems and we find virtual ways to travel more practical as the technology for this becomes much better much faster than the physical infrastructure could possibly allow.

So, the most likely improvements in transportation I think revolve around improvements in the existing technology along better understood paths.   Obviously the self-driving car has been projected for a long time and finally seems like we might start seeing the first ones in a couple years.   We could imagine that in 20 years the vast majority of people do not drive their own car but they will still go along roads because replacing the 100 trillion dollars in roads with anything else is not economically possible but almost all cars will be replaced over a 20 year period.

The newest estimates for electric cars (powered today by batteries but in the future by some other energy source) is already as economic or more than ICE cars.  I have calculated for the Tesla that even considering the battery cost and other factors the Tesla is cheaper to drive than an equivalent luxury ICE.  The ICE has pretty much been maximally optimized but the electric car and batteries are expected to improve significantly.  Therefore it is a foregone conclusion in my mind that we will find ICE’s simply impractical over time.

Self-driving cars may eventually be able to drive faster to reduce travel time.  When the self-driving car is dominant then freeways can be made to assume perfect drivers and speed can be improved tremendously.  However, any vehicle loses efficiency rapidly with speed.   One idea I’ve heard is that self-driving trucks could draft behind each other creating much lower wind resistance and drastically increasing efficiency at high speed.  Trucks could form virtual trains on the highway and go at extreme velocities possibly 150mph or more.

There is still the big issue of local transportation.  If we imagine a future of electric extremely efficient local transportation albeit slow and cumbersome as today but with self-driving cars at least you wouldn’t have to deal with the pains.  For longer distances up to 50 miles or so you would hop on a highway which your vehicle would be able to sustain 100mph or more and for longer distances you would drive onto a hyperloop transport.    This combination could give dramatically increased efficiency and speed to our transport but it is going to take many trillions of dollars to do this.

The biggest problem / uncertainty in this whole transportation area is airplanes. They can get more and more efficient no doubt but the re-emergence of faster than sound travel is limited by an aesthetic concern of the sonic boom.  If everyone was traveling on hypersonic aircraft we would be talking about an awfully noisy world.  So, we are limited to the 600-700 mile form of transit.  This applies even to the hyperloop unless we go with a completely evacuated hyperloop technology.

Another way to get very fast transportation over long distances is an evacuated hyperloop.   By evacuating the air from a hyperloop system you allow it to travel at 5,000MPH.   If a hyperloop like this could be built we could travel from San Francisco to London in about an hour.

The cost of lifting a human body to near earth orbit even if one assumes reusable aircraft is prohibitive except for elite.  Nonetheless it very well could be a possibility in the later part of the century for superfast travel around the globe.   We can economically lift a person to 40,000 ft in a commercial airplane.  Possibly with improved technologies, ramjets and variations could produce aircraft that could routinely travel to 100,000 or 150,000 feet and could exceed the sound barrier with little noise.   If I were a science fiction writer I would make that assumption we will figure it out and we will have very fast travel between continents.   Such aircraft could go the other side of the globe in an hour.

Against investment in all these technologies is the fact that people will have enormously improved virtual connectivity through digital communications.  There are science fiction authors who have postulated that people will become scared of being in the presence of other humans and prefer to be in virtual reality versions of travel.

10 years:   Electric cars are 30% of new cars sold, Self-driving cars are 50% of new cars sold, some highway lanes are designated for self-driving cars only.

15 years:  Hyperloop built in California, Electric cars are 60% of new cars sold.  100% of new cars mandated to have self-driving.   Accident rates in the US and world start to plummet.    Practical suborbital earth transport for the elite.

20 years:  33% of all cars on the road are electric and a similar percentage self-driving.  Hyperloops in construction in 10 other places in the world

30 years:  80% of cars are electric and self-driving.  Hyperloops between many major cities of the world.   Suborbital earth transport is common for travel > 5000 miles.

40 years:  Transportation declines substantially as most people are using virtual reality to visit and travel around the world or to other places.

Here are the areas I have written prognostication and thoughts about:  

Food and Transportation

Computers and AI

Space Travel

Physics

Healthcare

 Society

Why is prediction hard? Some Prediction Connundrums. Part I predictions on Healthcare

In my previous blog I pointed out some of my frustration at predicting the future.   Given my interest in science fiction and computers in general I have a great interest in predicting but I admit this is very very hard.

Automated Prediction NOT!

Computer models as predictive tools in particular are suspect.   I learned this in the 80s.   A group of MIT professors and others from academia and business banded together to do a project called the “Club of Rome.”  They built computer models of our future.  They predicted that in 20 years in almost all scenarios humanity and the earth was going to fall into a desperate situation.   Either we would die of massive pollution overdose or massive starvation or overpopulation, etc… Only one scenario seemed to work out.  A solution where we all shared everything and lived very ascetic lives.

This reminded me of one of my favorite science fiction novels of all time called “Foundation” by Isaac Asimov.   In the foundation Hari Seldon has discovered mathematical laws (a computer model) of human behavior and history.   He uses it to predict that humankind will suffer a 10,000 year fall into dark ages.   He then calculates that if he guides humankind during this period carefully optimizing the outcomes he can reduce the 10,000 year fall to 500 years.  The fall happens and using a secret organization called the Second Foundation Hari Seldon sets humanity on a course to save itself.

In the Foundation humanity did collapse and they do save humanity.  I think it is a great story and worth a movie but nobody seems to have the guts to make it.  The Club of Rome didn’t have such good results.   By 2000 the earth was the richest, least polluted, best fed we had ever been.   It was the complete OPPOSITE of what the Club of Rome computer models predicted.    The climate computer models are NO BETTER than Club of Rome computer models and their predictions of consequences of global warming are no better.   A computer lacks the fundamental understanding of how people and the environment react to each other nor does it have any clue where human creativity will take us.

The failure of predictions

Many predictions have been made in history and the vast majority that I am aware of have been completely wrong.   Science fiction authors have actually fared quite well in comparison.   Many predictions of authors from Asimov, Clarke and even such pablum as Star Trek have shown more accuracy than experts.

One of the most interesting things to look at is healthcare in the near future and predict what will happen.   How will healthcare and longevity change over the next 50 years?   There are numerous factors to consider all of which have radical impacts likely.   This is the essence of the problem.  Many different paths and consequences of one technology on another so that predicting which will succeed and win is incredibly hard.

So, let’s go down a brainstorming path and see if we can predict where healthcare will go in the next 50 years.

Healthcare

1) our DNA / Genetics future

Our ability to engineer our DNA enables us to discover the cures to everything and build genetic weapons against all our biologic enemies, to extend and improve the functioning of every human including their brain function.   In this theory of our future we are able to engineer DNA as well as filter it.

We modify ourselves and our very nature by modifying, filtering and improving the underlying instructions for running and building the hardware.   This is a pure biological solution to health problems based on fine-tuning, rebuilding, leveraging the basic building blocks of life.

Programmed to die

I believe that our bodies are programmed to die.  We already know that Telemeres essentially perform this role in all animals.  Telemeres fall off DNA with each division and as the Telemeres get shorter they invoke new DNA programs that are revealed by the shortened Telemeres.   For a number of reasons nature and evolution really want humans to live only a few years past when our children become independent.  After that adults are useless from an evolutionary point of view so it’s not surprising that nature has engineered a pretty reliable way to kill off the older generation.  If we could figure out how to prevent this program from happening we might keep humans at a regenerative 25 year old physical age forever.

10 years – DNA of billions of people available and BigData cross correlation of data available.  Epigenetic information decoded significantly.   The way DNA builds a creature from one cell to the end.  Much better understanding of

2) our NANO future

Our ability to see and manipulate down to the atom level and farther and to understand chemistry and physics at this level enables us to build nano-machines, to engineer nano-materials to fix anything, kill anything and repair anything.   Numerous science fiction books talk about this nano-future and many times it is with less positive results.   In many books our world is flooded with nano-machines going around doing things most of the time not for good purposes.  Because they are so small we are powerless to stop them without employing other nano-machines.  We end up with a nano-viral war.

Nonetheless, our ability to engineer materials and bots at the nano level enables us to construct new bodies consisting of superior materials, superior mental capacity by connecting computation with biological function.

With this technology we are able to take the fight down to the micro world of our enemies on our terms using our inventions not limited by genetics and the resources DNA enables but utilize any weapon we can invent to attack or build.   We can go beyond materials and technology the genes can manufacture or things it can do.

3) Body Replacement parts

Robotics and improved body parts.  We will be able to improve the substitutes we have for body parts.   We see things like this all the time now.  Improved legs that enable athletes to compete at the olympic level.  Artificial Eyes that allow blind people to see again.  Artificial titanium bones custom constructed to fit and replace bone with even stronger materials than bone.   It is not hard to imagine we make devices able to replace kidneys and other organs.

What about devices that could be integrated to make it possible to breathe oxygen from water or devices to make us physically stronger.  Some of these are already existent.  Of course the one that is the most controversial is brain implants.  Giving us the ability to interact via the internet to each other and data so that we wouldn’t even have to look at a phone to know and look up anything.  We are getting better at engineering the human nerve/machine interface so that we can sustain long term connection.  It is hard to believe we don’t solve this problem and find ways to augment human brains with electronic capabilities.

It has been shown the cortex of the brain is a highly plastic learning machine.  You can give it any input and it can make sense of it.  We can create new sensory organs to see different ranges of light, sound or even to do things birds can do to hear the rumblings of the long-wave sounds of the earth or feel the quantum infinitesimal force of variations in gravity or magnetic fields.   The brain could also be hooked to new appendages that can do things possibly at the micro level or macro level.

If human nerve cells are high temperature quantum computers as some believe (including myself) then we may find ourselves using nerve cells in robots or devices to make them smarter.   We find that even the smallest creatures have remarkable intelligence.  Sometimes creatures with only a few nerves are able to recognize other creatures and have complex behaviors.  This seems to indicate that computers on the order of single cells are possible.

 4) Conventional medicine.

It is undoubtedly the case that simple drug discovery, big data and better systems for monitoring and dealing with patients will lead to enormous gains in health.  There is a theory that the human body is capable of living for long periods of time if the “death program” would be removed.   With a program removed like this it is likely we also wouldn’t degrade the same way.  Our bodies would remain at a 25 year old prime forever or for longer periods, possibly much longer.  Conventional medicine may be able to handle normal injuries and diseases as we just continue to incrementally improve our existing medical techniques to solve almost all our medical problems.

 5) Physical Brain Transplant

This is more speculative but it is an ultimate goal to be able to capture the essence of you and be able to transplant so that you can have a new body.  Some people call it the “inflection point” or “singularity” event.

It can happen in several ways.  Physical brain transplant is actually considered reasonably possible by many brain specialists.   We can learn to transfer our physical brains to “robots” which we can replace and fix easily or other human bodies or the contents of our brain into a computer directly.  These each represent significantly different outcomes with significantly different ethical and other issues as well as different technical problems.

A human transplant has ethical problems unless we can find enough brain dead young people to replace into.  Clones usually pop up in this scenario which has its own ethical challenges.  Technically it would presumably be a lot easier to do a human to human transplant than a human to robot or computer.

Transplanting to robots is technically challenging as we would have to figure out how to interface the brain to the robot world and inputs and outputs.  Presumably the robots are aesthetically pleasing robots, ala AI (The movie) but they could have a number of capabilities far beyond the human body.   The brain is quite plastic and it is not at all unreasonable that we would find a way especially as we replace more and more body parts with mechanical equivalents that eventually the whole body would be replaceable and we might not have to transplant the brain but simply transplant everything else.

6) The Singularity Event – Copying the brain

The next idea is the singularity event that some refer to.   The ability to capture the human brain contents electronically somehow and then store that to later read out to another brain or even better to operate in the computer world directly.

On each of these 6 plausible fronts advancements are being made daily.   We are getting exponentially better at genetic understanding and manipulation.  Our ability to manipulate materials and to get down to the nano level for machines is improving dramatically.  I have recently heard about nano-battery technology for powering nano-machines.  I don’t have to belabor all the advances along each of these lines if you stay up to date you know there are numerous advances made in all these fields and technology we are developing in other areas will have a synergistic effect of making some of these more and more practical.

So, in 50 years which wins?  If I am going to write a science fiction book and project what people will be like and medical technology which of these will be the one that I assume wins?

Given that all of these are advancing it is very hard to say which will win.  Some are farther out there.  Some things I don’t know if we will be motivated to do.    I suspect we will have a combination of genetic, our own materials, nano-robots, conventional medicine and macro robotic pieces.

We see that today with various options available for heart care.  There are genetic studies with gene modification, new heart tissue grafting, replacement hearts from donors, robotic hearts.   It’s quite conceivable that we will have quite a panoply of different therapies and approaches that will be mind boggling in the future.

With these ideas we have the biggest ethical problem that I see.   If we can eliminate the problems, enhance people to be on average way better than todays children then what happens to the kids who grow up to find they are the inferior ones with lower intelligence, physical abilities?  Would only the rich be able to select qualities for their children?  Would society impose restrictions like you can only pick 3 genetic modifications to your children.     How many people will be able to afford brain implants or enhanced limbs?

10 years:  The average life expectancy is 77 in many developed countries.   Major improvements in heart disease and cancer really making an impact on death rates.   Most diseases that were thought to be incurable have some hope.  More than a billion people participate in human studies involving IOT medical devices that they use to monitor health data.   Many diseases and conditions are handled outpatient via similar devices.   We have figured out the epigenetic code enough to understand how a cell becomes a creature and many of the control logic of the DNA.

20 years:  Average life expectancy worldwide hits 83 and many people live easily to 100 years.   We have partially uncovered the “aging program” in the genetic code and found ways to stifle it partially through a combination of drugs/supplements.   Artificial limbs and body parts are available for many organs in the body.   Some of these function better than the original parts in some respects.   More than 10% of parents have genetic modification of some aspect of their children’s genetic structure before birth.   Mostly to prevent diseases, however sometimes to enhance their children.   First people to live to 130.   Most people have at least one artificial organ.   Brain implants for access to information and control of devices is just achieved.

30 years:  Average life expectancy hits 90 and the average age worldwide has climbed to over 40-50 years old.   Some people living to 140 or 150.  First brain transplants performed.   It is now common for all children to receive genetic enhancements prior to birth.   The average IQ of children has risen to 115.    Brain implants are also common for augmented reality and information processing.

50 years:  Average life expectancy is over 100.  In fact most people live to 120 or more.  Some to 150.   The average age is 55 years old but our understanding of the aging process means that 55 is the new 30.    Cloning of humans is legal and some brain transplants have occurred into cloned bodies.    Brain implants are required.

Here are the areas I have written prognostication and thoughts about:  

Food and Transportation

Computers and AI

Space Travel

Physics

Healthcare

 Society