“What is this thing we call technology? In the cosmological sense, like, where does it fit in? How does it relate to life? And my current summary would be that it is an extension of life and therefore is not contrary to life. It's an extended version of life—and that gives me hope, because it means that we can always make a greener version of whatever we make.” – Kevin Kelly
In this episode of Outliers, I’m talking with Kevin Kelly (@kevin2kelly) of WIRED magazine about his perspective on technology and its evolution. We discuss AI, AR, and how humans can benefit from partnering with and embracing tech.
Kevin Kelly was the Founding Executive Editor of WIRED magazine and the Editor of Whole Earth Review. He’s also the author of several best-selling books, including Out of Control and What Technology Wants. His perspective on science and technology has been featured in writings for The New York Times, The Economist, and Time magazine, and he served as a futurist advisor for Steven Spielberg’s film, Minority Report. Kevin continues to produce content for his newsletter, Recomendo, his YouTube channel, and his weekly podcast, Cool Tools.
- 00:00:48 - The turning point for Kevin's relationship with technology
- 00:05:06 - Kevin's thoughts on what technology wants
- 00:07:31 - Technology's evolution in the directions of more complexity, more diversity, and/or more specificity
- 00:11:19 - General purpose vs. specialized technology
- 00:13:21 - Managing complexity through simplistic interfaces
- 00:15:20 - The best designers can master complexity to render it simple for users
- 00:16:23 - Kevin's start with Wired magazine
- 00:20:00 - The debate for optimism in technology
- 00:23:53 - Magic Leap and virtual worlds
- 00:30:01 - Kevin's next focus on generative art with AI
- 00:32:37 - Kevin's work on Minority Report
- 00:35:50 - A "centaur" team of human + AI tends to be better than just human or just AI
- 00:37:20 - How Kevin collaborates on his newsletter, Recomendo
- 00:40:21 - Recent recommended books and documentaries
- 00:41:48 - A parting message from Kevin on embracing technology
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Links from the Episode
- Connect with Kevin: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Website
- Kevin Kelly | Wikipedia
- The Future According To 'Wired' Editor Kevin Kelly | Forbes
- WIRED Magazine
- Walden by Henry David Thoreau, which inspired Kevin in his youth
- The Big Bang, which Kevin believes is the origin of technology
- Darwin's theory of biological evolution
- Swiss Army knife, a specialized tool that is often touted as a general tool
- AI (Artificial intelligence)
- Default as a means of hiding complexity
- iPhone - example of a simple interface with complexity underneath
- Louis Rossetto, main founder of Wired magazine
- William Gibson’s observation of that the future is already here; it’s just not very evenly distributed
- Technoskeptics / dystopians
- Magic Leap, a spatial computing company Kevin wrote about in Wired
- AR (Augmented reality)
- VR (Virtual reality)
- MR (Mixed reality)
- XR (X or Cross reality)
- Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab
- Generative Art
- Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
- Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise
- Principles by Ray Dalio, which discusses the concept of meritocracy
- Spock and Kirk’s complementary strengths
- Freestyle chess and centaur teams
- Star Trek bridge
- Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing
- Claudia Dawson
- Google docs, used to organize Kevin’s newsletter
- My Octopus Teacher on Netflix
Kevin’s Books and Projects:
- Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities (2018)
- The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future (2016)
- Bicycle Haiku (2011)
- What Technology Wants (2010)
- Out Of Control: The New Biology Of Machines, Social Systems, And The Economic World (2009)
- Bad Dreams (2003)
- New Rules for the New Economy: 10 Radical Strategies for a Connected World (1999)
- AR Will Spark the Next Big Tech Platform—Call It Mirrorworld | WIRED Magazine
- The Untold Story of Magic Leap, the World’s Most Secretive Startup | WIRED Magazine
- Cool Tools
- True Films
The only way for humans to be able to steer and direct the future of technology is to embrace it. Rather than rejecting this progress and the problems technology can bring, we can test, evaluate, adopt, and change the tools that arise, so we can play a part in how technology evolves.
“The theory is basically that technology is an extension of the evolutionary processes—evolution accelerated—that it's driven by the same dynamics that drive the self-organization of the planets and the galaxies and life itself. And that it, in many ways, has a direction similar to the direction that evolution has. And so we can kind of answer what technology was by answering the question, what does life and evolution want?”
“My main evidence for optimism is history. Look at the last couple hundred years very carefully, scientifically. Look at the evidence, and it's very, very clear that progress is real and that progress has been due to technology. We could say fairly that after two or three-hundred years of pretty steady, but minor increase over each year, that it could stop. Could stop tomorrow. Things could suddenly be different, and it would cease. That is possible. There's a greater than zero chance, but it's very, very unlikely. The statistical probability is that those forces, that inertia, that momentum, would continue, and the progress we've seen over the last couple hundred years due to technology will continue.”
“I would say my default stance is to embrace these technologies, and through use, try to steer them where we want them to go.”
On Outliers, Daniel Scrivner explores the tactics, routines, and habits of world-class performers working at the edge—in business, investing, entertainment, and more. In each episode, he decodes what they've mastered and what they've learned along the way. Start learning from the world’s best today.