How can we have a world in which we are all watching each other, and everybody feels happy?
For the thirty years I’ve known him, Kelly has been making bold declarations about the world we are crafting with new technologies. He first began to attract notice when he helped found Wired as the first executive editor. “The culture of technology,” he notes, “was the prime beat of Wired. When we started the magazine 20 years ago, we had no intentions to write about hardware—bits and bauds. We wrote about the consequences of new inventions and the meaning of new stuff in our lives. At first, few believed us, and dismissed my claim that technology would become the central driver of our culture. Now everyone sees this centrality, but some are worried this means the end of civilization.”
The biggest change in our lives is the rate of change and while for many, Facebook and Twitter are a fact of life today. it’s interesting to note that today (February 4th) marks only the 10th anniversary of the founding of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg. When, during that same month, Forbes Magazine published their 2004 Billionaires List, it occured during the Edge Dinner in Monterey, California. Larry Page, present at dinner, made the list for the first time. When he showed me the Forbes headline, it was on his Blackberry pager. And it wasn’t until 2006, just 8 years ago, that Twitter was founded by Ev Williams and his colleagues. If you read your news electronically at that time, most likely it was on a pager. “Sharing” was something you did at a Chinese restaurant.
Kelly recently successfully published an over-sized book based on his blog Cool Tools. He is one of the few actually making a living from a blog, while he is also reinstating print as a great publishing medium (Carr’s point). He doesn’t just pontificate; he innovates himself. He was one of the founders, for example, of the “quantified self” movement.
Kelly is well aware that his complete embrace of what he calls “The Technium”, is a lightning rod for criticism. But, he points out that “we are still at the beginning of the beginning. We have just started to make a technological society. The technological changes in the next 20 years will dwarf those of the last 20 years. It will almost be like nothing at all has happened yet.”
In the meantime Kelly is doing what he’s been up to for decades, acting as a sensing and ruddering mechanism for the rest of us, finding his way through this new landscape.
A protopian, not a utopian
I call myself a protopian, not a utopian. I believe in progress in an incremental way where every year it’s better than the year before but not by very much—just a micro amount. ..
Technology is a means of producing new problems.
Over time we are generating new technologies, we’re producing all new problems. Most of the problems we have today are technogenic, meaning that they were created by technology in the past. ..
Evolutionary change vs. developmental change
There are two strands in technology: There’s evolutionary change and there’s developmental change, just like in our own bodies most of what we experience as individuals is developmental. ..
Sometimes we have a greater span of attention
The issue of managing attention on the Web, and the overwhelming ocean of information that we’re generating, and this relentless fire hose of new stuff is that it’s making it very difficult for anybody, young or old, to pay attention to a long form. It’s a great challenge. It’s also uncertain which way it will go. ..
Deliberate practice and study
Here’s something else that’s interesting. Everybody who’s watching me right now, you and I, we all spend four, maybe more, five years with deliberate study and training to learn how to read and write, and that process of learning how to read and write actually has rewired our brains. We know that from plenty of studies of literate and illiterate people from the same culture—that reading and writing changes how your brain works. …
The great surprise: a prosumer world
We’re in the era of what Alvin Toffler called the “prosumer”. Techno-literacy is concerned not just with consuming media but also creating it. Toffler’s prosumers are people who consume media, who also produce it, and who are both producing and consuming at the same time. The Maker Movement is great evidence that we’re in this kind of prosumer era where some of the artificial divisions that we had in the industrial society are breaking down—where there were producers and consumers, and they were separate camps. We’re getting back a little bit more to a previous era—the hunter/gatherers—where people made the stuff that they consumed. In a curious way the new technologies can offer us more access to that earlier era.
You can’t learn techno-literacy by hanging out
Using the Internet and AI and connection, the physical world will be as malleable for us when we have help of these tools as the intangible world has been, and so that era of the prosumer can return. But again, this is not going to happen by osmosis; it will take training; it will take teaching; it will take education. ..
We manage our technology by use
There is a huge lag between the arrival and our use of something and our complete understanding of it, what its role is and what it means and its effects plus and minus. That gap, even when we speed up, is going to remain. ..
The real excitement is in looking for ways to collaborate together
What we’re doing right now is we’re trying to invent other forms of collaborative work, other forms of doing social enterprise. Some of them are other forms of businesses, and some of them are other hybrids, and we have nonprofits, which are often very monetized, and we have these other collectives like Wikipedias and Linuxes and Open Source, which are not, and we have Burning Man, we have zones. The real excitement is in looking for ways to collaborate together, some of which will have money involved and some of which will have a deliberate refusal of certain aspects of money, but to lump them all together as consumerism and corporatism is not really going to be useful. …
Winner-take-all phenomenon: technology is increasing new ways to win
Another point about this winner-take-all phenomenon is that at first we have a natural reaction saying, “Well, winner take all; there can only be one winner,” but here’s what technology is doing: technology is increasing the number of races in which you can win. There are more and more niches and more and more places in which the technology creates new ways in which one can win. …
Copies are worthless; sell what can’t be copied
The Internet is the world’s largest copy machine. What the Net does is it copies things. When you send a message to anybody else, it’s being copied in between. Take a picture, posting it. It’s being copied all along the way, and so anything that can be copied will be copied on the Internet, and anything that touches the Internet will be copied. That’s what it wants. That’s what it does, and so you have to have an economy based around things other than copies, because copies are so prolific that they’re valueless. They’re worth nothing, so you don’t want to protect them. You want to earn money through generatives and things other than copies—things that are hard to copy. Like immediacy, or authenticity. That’s how you make money.
Coveillance and convivially tracking each other
The same thing is true about tracking. The Internet wants to track just like it wants to copy things, and it’s going to be very, very difficult to prevent this thing that we’re on all the time 24 hours, seven days a week, from tracking, because all the technologies—from sensors to quantification, digitization, communication, wireless connection—want to track, and so the internet is going to track. We’re going to track ourselves. We’re going to track each other. Government and corporations are going to track us, we can’t really get out of that. What we can try and do is civilize and make a convivial kind of tracking.
A department of leak management
Intelligence leaks are inevitable. The U.S. used to have a policy of Smokey the Bear—zero tolerance for fire. And so fire was bad. There were no good fires, and you were scolded into preventing forest fires. Well, what that did was it suppressed the wildfires and built up this huge bank of flammable material, so when a fire did come in, it just destroyed everything, and that’s what the NSA and the other agencies are experiencing. …
Zero and infinity are new numbers in finance
Fifteen years ago I wrote a book about “the new economy”, in which I was talking about the way the economic world would shift. Unfortunately, it was released right at the peak of the dot com era, and everybody at that time believed, without reading the book, that it was talking about the dot coms. ..
The real revolution happening right now
Big data is the real revolution happening right now. Yes, I think it’s a buzzword, but it’s actually justified. Big data is something you should pay attention to. We’re in the period now where the huge dimensions of data and their variables in real time needed for capturing, moving, processing, enhancing, managing, and rearranging it, are becoming the fundamental elements for making wealth, We used to rearrange atoms, now it’s all about rearranging data. That is really what we’ll see in the next 10 years.
How many things do you want to carry?
I think it was Jeff Hammerbacher at Facebook who said that the best minds of his generation were trying to get people to click on ads. Neal Stephenson, the science fiction writer, and others, have tried to suggest that we should step up and think big and not just be concerned with these very commercial and pedestrian and next quarter concerns, but really think out at the generational or civilizational scale. I applaud that 100 percent. ..
New platforms for art and connected differences
There’s a lot of great art being made now and some of the best art ever. I would say that some of these serial TV programs, like Lost and The Wire, will go down in history next to Dickens and Shakespeare. They are comparable in their achievement, and there will be university courses and professors specializing in studying them just as they have Dickens experts. We are producing art, and there’s lots of room to do that, although maybe our society is not honoring the artists as much as it once did.
But the platforms and genres are shifting. ..
Somebody’s always going to be the boss
In this kind of network economy, which is basically being run by commercial enterprises rather than, say, the government, somebody’s always going to be the boss, and so if it’s not commercial, it’s the government, and you have the same problem about if you were a protestor you can only do things that the government’s going to allow you to do. …
The exceptionalism of America will be challenged
I’m going to China twice a year or more. I am in Asia a lot, India, Korea, etc. I married into the culture. The average American doesn’t really appreciate how fast things are changing in these countries, changing in the sense of moving from being a very resource-intense copy culture, into intangibles and a service economy and trying to be innovative. That transition will come as a surprise sooner than most people think. Military power will come with it, and the supremacy, hegemony, and exceptionalism of America will be challenged. It will require a recalibration of America’s role in the world, and this will be a benefit for Americans and for the rest of the countries and peoples of the world.
Analog or digtial?
Freeman Dyson put up a challenge about whether the universe as a whole was ultimately, fundamentally, at its essence, discrete or continuous. At its essence, was it binary in the sense of information, or was it analog in the sense of waves and wavicles and if it was continuous—if it was an unbroken, unquantumized field. I don’t have any intuition one way or the other, and he is a better judge of that, but it could make a huge difference in our understanding of the world. I would bet that the digital wins. I mean, if I had to make a bet on which way it is, I would suspect that it’s a binary digital world in a sense that it’s information-based. I don’t think we don’t know what information is. It’s a huge mystery, but over time we’ll begin to recast and translate physics in terms of information, and I could be wrong, but if I had to make a bet, I would bet that the universe is digital.
Technology begins with life
The ordinary pen you use every day seems very simple but it probably took 100 different technologies to make this pen technology, technologies of plastic, ink, ball bearing, metal, and each of those different technologies probably themselves required another 100 sub-technologies to support it and, of course, there’s kind of a circular way in which pens might be necessary to make a ball bearing in the same way that electricity is necessary to make a generator, and a generator may be necessary to make the wires of an electrical system. ..
China invented everything except the most important invention
There’s an interesting thing about ancient China, because if you read through the history, almost every single major invention of the world was invented in China first, and sometimes it took hundred of years for each to either it to make it’s way to Western Europe or to be reinvented in Western Europe. That includes paper, printing, steel, gunpowder, the compass, rudder, suspension bridges, etc. It’s almost everything, and for a long time China led the world in civilization because it was able to make these things long before anyone else. But there was one invention that China did not invent, and it would turn out to be the most important invention, and that was the invention of the scientific method…
Technology is anything a mind produces
My definition of technology is anything a mind produces, so I have a very broad scope of technology, and I would say that the first technologies actually came from animals. In a certain sense the collective mind of an anthill or termites can make a skyscraper. ..
Science is expanding our ignorance
“The Technium” http://lohas-scout.de/1fOKiNt