I’ve just been reading The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly, “Senior Maverick” for Wired magazine. The Inevitable was published in 2016.
I found out about Kevin Kelly by listening to him in conversation with Tom Bilyeu on Tom’s Impact Theory channel on YouTube.
The Power of Being Lost…
Kevin Kelly was not someone I knew anything about. I wasn’t even sure if the theme of the talk, “The Power Of Being Lost,” would be of any interest to me… But I trust Tom Bilyeu’s judgement and listened anyway.
Boy am I glad I did! It turned out to be one of the most interesting talks I’d heard for a while.
Here’s the video of Kevin Kelly on Impact Theory:
So Who Is Kevin Kelly?
Kevin Kelly was born in Pennsylvania in 1952. In 1971 he dropped out of college and spent the next eight years backpacking his way through Asia.
In his backpack he carried two Nikon camera bodies, several lenses and a couple hundred rolls of film.
Check out AsiaGrace.com for the photographs he took of a now bygone Asia.
In 1992, Kelly became the executive editor of Wired and served in that role for seven years.
His other books include:
His previous books include:
- Out of Control – The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems and the Economic World (1994).
- New Rules for the New Economy – 10 Radical Strategies for a Connected World (1999).
- What Technology Wants – how humanity and technology join to create opportunities and give our lives greater meaning (2011).
- The Silver Cord – A graphic novel about a teenage girl and the clash between robots and angels (2015).
Book Review: The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly
The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly will help you understand and adapt to the twelve deep technological trends driving change in our world today.
The full title of Kevin Kelly’s book is The Inevitable: Understanding The 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future (available on Amazon and other booksellers).
As the title suggests, the book looks at what Kelly sees as twelve “forces” of technology which will combine to change pretty much everything.
Just think how smart phones have changed people’s behaviour in the last few years.
What’s coming is going to be much bigger than the Industrial revolution that shook up the world in the 19th century. Bigger than the printing revolution that shook up everything in the 15th century.
The 12 Forces That Will Shape Our Future
The 12 forces – which are as much cultural as technological forces – are presented as gerunds – the “-ing” form of verbs. Each verb, or process, has a chapter of its own in the book. They are:
- Screening (in the sense of “using screens” to access information)
From Fixed To Fluid
Kevin Kelly sees new technology as changing the seemingly “fixed” aspects of life into fluid processes. Or, as he puts it,
“We are moving away from the world of fixed nouns and toward a world of fluid verbs. In the next 30 years we will continue to take solid things – an automobile, a shoe – and turn them into intangible verbs. Products will become services and processes. … In the intangible digital realm, nothing is static or fixed. Everything is becoming.” pp. 6-7.
The rest of the book describes the various processes of “becoming” that are being driven by technological innovation.
From Bounded To Interconnected
The continual development of artificial intelligence, for example, develops beyond the earlier concept of AI as a series of “bounded entities” (individual robots or computers). AI is fast becoming a “superorganism of a billion computer chips known as the net.” As it continues to develop, “it will be hard to tell where its thoughts begin and our end.” p. 30.
The technological revolution will change the way we think and create culture just as the printing revolution did. The printed word replaced the oral tradition, and “screening,” will replace the traditions bound up in the world of printed books.
Chapter 4 of The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly: Screening
Here’s how Kelly describes the transition from the oral tradition to the printed word in the opening paragraph of chapter 4, “Screening:”
“In ancient times culture evolved around the spoken word. The oral skills of memorization, recitation, and rhetoric instilled in oral societies a reverence for the past, the ambiguous, the ornate, and the subjective. We were People of the Word. Then, about 500 years ago, orality was overthrown by technology. Gutenberg’s 1450 invention of metallic movable type elevated writing into a central position in the culture. By the means of cheap and perfect copies, printed text became the engine of change and the foundation of stability. From printing came journalism, science, libraries, and law. Printing instilled in society a reverence for precision…, an appreciation for linear logic, a passion for objectivity…, and an allegiance to authority… whose truth was as fixed and final as a book.” p.85.
The fixity of the old will be – is being – replaced by the fluidity and flow of the new. As screens replace books, the audience takes on the role of co-creators and the author’s “authority” is no longer sacrosanct.
For many of us, living as we do in an age of transition, there is a tension between the old ways of the book and the new ways of the interactive screen. Just as in Shakespeare’s time there was a tension between the older traditions of feudalism and the emerging capitalist state, between the oral tradition and the printed text.
However, Kevin Kelly is no pessimist. He believes that humans and machines will become evermore interdependent. Out of that process will emerge,
“… a new regime wherein our creations makes [sic] us better humans, but also one where we can’t live without what we’ve made. If we have been living in rigid ice, this is liquid – a new phase state.” p. 296.
What Does All This Mean For Internet Vagabonds? (3 Takeaways)
Takeaway #1: Access Trumps Possession
One big takeaway for online marketers and wannabe virtual vagabonds such as myself – and maybe you too – is that in the new world, “access trumps possession.”
I spent much of my adult life collecting stuff – especially books. Hundreds of books stacked on shelves from floor to ceiling.
Many of those books have never been read. Many I’ve only read once and won’t read again. But until recently, I kept them as totems of authority, as artifacts of my past, as comforting signifiers of intellectual achievement – or at least intellectual aspiration…
Then came the Internet… and then the cloud… In the new world, “accessing” is much more important than “possessing.”
And having access will empower us and enable us to free ourselves from the shackles of “possessing.”
That’s great news for Internet vagabonds. We will travel light and live rich while owning little and accessing much.
Moving Towards Minimalism
I am actually preparing for that right now by taking a long hard look at all the books that I have not opened for several years. Books that I could easily access through the Internet if I really wanted or needed the information.
Slowly, I am bundling up and getting rid of books that I no longer use. I’m freeing up the space; creating a thoroughly “bearable” lightness of being (apologies to Milan Kundera) in preparation for the vagabonding lifestyle that I aspire to.
Takeway #2: Product X + AI = Bingo! New “Cognified” Product!
Another takeaway is that there will be many opportunities over the next 30 years to create new products by adding AI to existing ones.
Or you might want to use AI to create interactive services for your website visitors.
It sounds complicated and expensive, but I expect the process of incorporating AI will get cheaper and easier as the years go by.
Actually, that is already happening.
Google already gives its Cloud customers access to its AI technology to develop new AI services. DialogFlow.com have taken that service and run with it to allow their clients to create “natural and rich conversational experiences” for visitors to their websites – and they offer a free option. So you could start embedding AI into your blog from today – cost free!
Takeaway #3: We’re All Newbies Now: Never Stop Updating And Learning
Smartphone users and WordPress bloggers (I’m both of those) know that their systems need to be constantly updated. If you leave your software as it was when you started using it, things will start to deteriorate.
But constant updating means that we never arrive and full knowledge. We are forever newbies and forever learning.
But that also gives us many opportunities because everybody else is a newbie too. It’s very likely that they are newer newbies than you! And that is your opportunity. You can teach them what you know – the new stuff you learnt this morning you can earn from by teaching this afternoon.
Being just one step ahead can be a lucrative business model in the new world that so enthusiastically described in The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly.
Bring it on!
P. S. The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly is available on Amazon.com as are several of his other books. Here’s the complete Kevin Kelly selection of books on Amazon.com.