Kevin Kelly: Out of Control

Posted on Oct 7, 2005

Though it was written more than ten years ago, this caught my attention and seemed particularly relevant again.  From Kevin Kelly’s Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World.

  • As we make our machines and institutions more complex, we have to make them more biological in order to manage them.
  • The most potent force in technology will be artificial evolution. We are already evolving software and drugs instead of engineering them.
  • Organic life is the ultimate technology, and all technology will improve towards biology.
  • The main thing computers are good for is creating little worlds so that we can try out the Great Questions. Online communities let us ask the question “what is a democracy; what do you need for it?” by trying to wire a democracy up, and re-wire it if it doesn’t work. Virtual reality lets us ask “what is reality?” by trying to synthesize it. And computers give us room to ask “what is life?” by providing a universe in which to create computer viruses and artificial creatures of increasing complexity. Philosophers sitting in academies used to ask the Great Questions; now they are asked by experimentalists creating worlds.
  • As we shape technology, it shapes us. We are connecting everything to everything, and so our entire culture is migrating to a “network culture” and a new network economics.
  • In order to harvest the power of organic machines, we have to instill in them guidelines and self-governance, and relinquish some of our total control.