The Fourth Wave of Wealth and Prosperity

Recently named one of New York’s 100 smartest people, Dr. Michio Kaku took to the stage at NAIOP’s CRE.Converge 2017 in Chicago to share his astonishing big-picture predictions for our future and their implications for commercial real estate.

Dr. Kaku started with a lighthearted disclaimer, paraphrasing the great Yogi Berra: “Predicting is awfully hard to do, especially if it’s about the future.”

So how are the predictions of physicist related to real estate? Science is the engine of wealth and prosperity, said Dr. Kaku. Wealth comes from science and technology, and there have been four major waves of it that have shaped the world.

The first wave was steam power. Powering a locomotive with coal set into motion an industrial revolution. Eighty years later came wave number two, when physicists prompted the electric revolution. Wave three was high tech, with development and rapid adoption of computers, satellites, lasers and the internet.

So what is the fourth wave of wealth generation?

Dr. Kaku believes that three technologies will collectively create wave four: artificial intelligence, nanotech and biotech.

In the future, the internet will be everywhere and nowhere at all – just like electricity is today. Already, internet glasses are used in the operating room to show MRI scans, X-rays, patient histories, etc. Soon, contractors will use them to see blueprints, architects to see models, and so forth. We’ll be able to tap into the artificial intelligence of avatars, and they’ll talk back and offer expert advice.

In short, we will live in a combination of virtual reality and augmented reality. We will create imaginary worlds, and then extract vital information from them.

For real estate, augmented reality means that while walking down the street, you will see the buildings’ information in your computer-chipped contact lens, instantly accessing everything from sales history to tenant directories to property taxes and zoning issues. With artificial intelligence, you’ll be able to literally talk to the buildings and get the latest information in any language you want. You will see what a renovated building will look like right before your eyes, just by blinking.

Driverless cars will revolutionize transportation, using GPS and radar and proving safer than human-driven cars. You will blink, and the car will come, transport you, and then park itself. For cities, this means no parking shortages and traffic problems.

NASA has asked the aircraft industry to produce a supersonic jet without a sonic boom, with the goal of travelling from New York to Tokyo in three hours. Supercomputers can use mathematics to simulate this already. The impact? International commerce and travel will intensify.

We are headed toward perfect capitalism, says Dr. Kaku, when the consumer has endless knowledge via cell phones and contact lenses, resulting in more competition and cheaper, better products.

In closing, Dr. Kaku said that “brain net” is the next leap forward. That will be the next frontier – scientists working to decode the living, thinking brain.

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