O.A. Book Club – A Masterclass on the Past, Present, and Future of Asia with Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly is the Founding Executive Editor of WIRED magazine, a best-selling author, and the publisher of Recomendo. In this episode, Kevin and Daniel discuss Kevin’s newest project, a 1,000-page photographic exploration of Asia taken over the last 49 years.
Last updated
January 21, 2022
Min Read
Kevin Kelly’s Vanishing Asia started as a collection of 200,000 photographs taken over 49 years of travel in Asia.
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“Don't try to be the best; try to be the only. If at all possible, you want to be doing something that you have trouble describing because there's not a name for it. That's a sign that you are working in the territory of the only.” – Kevin Kelly

In this episode of Outliers, I’m talking with Kevin Kelly (@kevin2kelly) of WIRED magazine about his newest project on Kickstarter, Vanishing Asia. A 1,000-page collection of photographs, the set of three over-sized books document his 49 years of travel across the continent.

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.

Chapters in this interview:

  • 00:01:44 – The full-time job of managing a Kickstarter campaign
  • 00:08:29 – The “1,000 true fans” concept
  • 00:22:39 – Art by the pound and writing out loud
  • 00:26:14 – The process of creating, compiling and culling photographs for Vanishing Asia
  • 00:38:27 – The photos in Vanishing Asia that resonate the most with Kevin
  • 00:44:45 – Kevin’s travel in Asia, and how he viewed its changes over time
  • 00:51:59 – Kevin’s thoughts on how to embrace the future while retaining cultural values and beauty
  • 00:58:49 – How Kevin's travel in Asia has affected his life
  • 01:06:41 – Understanding the nuances of Asia and the power it will hold in the future

Links from the Episode

Key Takeaway

Our world is incredibly diverse. It’s filled with rich and storied cultures, traditions, aesthetics, and values. One can be both enamored with the future and find endless inspiration from the past. When asked about why he decided to document the vanishing traditions and places in Asia, Kevin shared: “I wanted to document all those design choices as a form of inspiration, of seeds to make future designs from. They were vanishing, and those traditions are being pushed further into little pockets in remote parts. The cities of Asia become convergent in an urban, modern and futuristic way, and are being built from the ground up. I think I was aware of it, and I became interested in documenting it, because I realized how fast it was going, although I was not trying to stop it from going.”

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