Kevin Kelly joined a couple of dozen innovators, activists, and gear heads in Berkeley this afternoon to talk about issues from his new book.
I’ll preface this by saying that I regard Kevin very highly. His Out of Control changed the way I look at nature and evolution; I was consumed by it. His New Rules for the New Economy is the defining work about the net economy and it is all coming true. Kevin’s presence on the web is one of my favorite sites. The earlier books, a continuation of the Whole Earth catalog he edited before becoming founding editor of Wired are there.
My friend Sylvia Paull hosts Infusion lunches in an upstairs lobby of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre every month or so. She began today’s midday session with a series of questions about the future of books, the future of music, and the future of technology. The editors of Berkeley’s Daily Planet, the author of a new book which sings bird calls when you turn to their page, several futurists, Swedish entrepreneurs, inventors, and a generally amazing group of people swung at Sylvia’s pitches.
Kevin launches into his theories around technology. What is it? Alan Kay suggested technology is anything that was invented after you were born. Denny Hillis says technology is anything that doesn’t work yet. Kevin told us technology has been around as long as humans.
Kevin described the “technium” as an extension of the self-organizing life force. It’s a system that’s been evolving for 3.7 million years. In fact, the technium is evolution and with it comes increasing complexity, diversity, mutualism, and choices. Evolution itself is evolving, and the technium is increasing evolvability in the world.
Kevin continues. The orthodoxy is that technology is neutral. Wrong. Tech is good, because over time, it increases our options. Likewise, life is good. You could say it’s bad because Free Will lets you screw up, and you don’t get life without death, but net-net, the technium, life, and evolution are all good.
I’ll admit to being more than a little confused about what we were talking about, but I was happy to have a hit of Kevin and wish him well.