BerandaComputers and TechnologyKevin Kelly on the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

Kevin Kelly on the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

Overall Thoughts

This was a great read. The 12 inevitable technological forces serve as a good framework to organize his speculation into the future. But much of the appeal of this book lies in fleshing out the themes with more details. Filling in with Kelly’s deep insights and intriguing thoughts. And weaving the themes together into an awe-inspiring exploration of what lies ahead of us.


1. Becoming

The natural inclination toward change is inescapable, even for the most abstract entities we know of: bits.

When everything around you is upgrading, this puts pressure on you to upgrade too.

No matter how long you have been using a tool, endless upgrades make you into a newbie. In this era of “becoming,” everyone becomes an endless newbie, trying to keep up. Because technologies that will dominate life 30 years from now have not yet been invented. That should keep us humble.

We will keep inventing new things that make new longings, new holes that must be filled.

Technology is taking (or has already taken) us to protopia
. Protopia is a state of becoming, rather than a destination.

We are all becoming. It is the best time ever in human history to begin.

You are not late.

2. Cognifying

Making a dumb thing smarter is one of the most consequential things we can do.
Cognification is inevitable, because it is already here.

Three recent breakthroughs have unleashed the long-awaited arrival of artificial intelligence:
cheap parallel computation, big data, and better algorithms.

We don’t yet know the full taxonomy of intelligence.
The variety of potential minds in the universe is vast.

One mind cannot do all mindful things perfectly well.
All cognition is specialized.
Because in the real world, trade-offs rule.

Our most important thinking machines will be those that think what we can’t think.

Breaking down our relationships with robots into four categories:

1. Jobs Humans Can Do but Robots Can Do Even Better

2. Jobs Humans Can’t Do but Robots Can

3. Jobs We Didn’t Know We Wanted Done

4. Jobs Only Humans Can Do—at First

The one thing humans can do that robots can’t (at least for a long while) is to decide what it is that humans want to do.

3. Flowing

The digital economy runs on this river of freely flowing copies.

The first digital age of computing borrowed from the industrial age, with “desktop” and “folders” being the main metaphor. The second digital age brought us the web, with “pages” as the main units.
We are currently entering the third age of computing, the Flows.

Today the prime units are flows, tags, and clouds.
We have moved from daily mode to real-time.

Just-in-time purchasing is a natural consequence of real-time streaming.
For instance, you don’t purchase a book until you am ready to read it in the next 30 seconds.

When copies are free, you need to sell things that cannot be copied. Trust, for instance. Trust cannot be reproduced in bulk.

Eight uncopyable qualities (“generatives”) that are “better than free”: Immediacy, Personalization, Interpretation, Authenticity, Accessibility, Embodiment, Patronage, Discoverability.

4. Screening

Screens are always on; we never stop staring at them, unlike with books.

One gets fragments, threads, glimpses.
That is the web’s great attraction: miscellaneous pieces loosely joined.

Each word in each book will be cross-linked, clustered, cited, extracted, indexed, analyzed, annotated, and woven deeper into the culture than ever before.
This is similar to what Wikipedia has already been doing.

We will have a universal library of all of human knowledge, interlinked.

Reading becomes social. So when a person cites a particular passage, a two-way link connects the comment to the passage and the passage to the comment.

The ability to purchase, read, and manipulate individual pages is what will drive reference books in the future. You might concoct your own “cookbook shelf” or scrapbook of Cajun recipes compiled from many different sources.

Our screens will also watch us.
Screens will be the first place we’ll look for answers, for friends, for news, for meaning, for our sense of who we are and who we can be.

5. Accessing

Possession is not as important as it once was. Accessing (for instance, in the form of subscription) is more important than ever.

Five deep technological trends accelerate this long-term move toward accessing and away from ownership.

1. Dematerialization
: The trend in the past 30 years has been to make better stuff using fewer materials.

2. Real-Time On Demand :
Our appetite for the instant is insatiable.
Our lives are accelerating, and the only speed fast enough is instant.

3. Decentralization :
Nearly every aspect of modern civilization has been flattening down except one: money.
And even money is on its way to becoming decentralized.

4. Platform Synergy :
A platform is a foundation created by a firm that lets other firms build products and services upon it.
A platform, like a department store, offers stuff it did not create.

5. Clouds :
The web is hyperlinked documents; the cloud is hyperlinked data.
Where does my “I” end and the cloud start?

6. Sharing

Communal aspects of digital culture run deep and wide.
Sharing and sampling content is the new default. Wikis and collaborative commenting sites are good examples today.

Clay Shirky suggested a useful hierarchy for sorting through these new social arrangements, ranked by the increasing degree of coordination employed: Sharing, Cooperation, Collaboration, Collectivism.

The internet is less a creation dictated by economics than one dictated by sharing gifts.
It turns out that with the right technology and the right benefits in the right conditions, we’ll share everything.

In the next three decades the greatest wealth—and most interesting cultural innovations—lie in this direction.

Anything that can be shared—thoughts, emotions, money, health, time—will be shared in the right conditions, with the right benefits.
Anything that can be shared can be shared better, faster, easier, longer, and in a million more ways than we currently realize.

There is no turning the sharing off for long. Even the silence will be shared.

7. Filtering

In our lifetime, the entire library of all media will be available on screen 24/7. And every day, the library grows.
The result is an infinite hall of options. In every direction, countless choices pile up.

Life is short, and there are too many books to read.
Our only choice is to get assistance in making choices.

There is no retreat from more filtering.
A filter focuses human attention.
This is the curse of the postscarcity world: We can connect to only a thin thread of all there is.

As they mature, filtering systems will be extended to other decentralized systems beyond media, to services like Uber and Airbnb.

8. Remixing

Growth comes from remixing.
From existing resources that are rearranged to make them more valuable. Modern technologies are combinations of earlier primitive technologies that have been rearranged and remixed.

The entire global economy is tipping away from the material and toward intangible bits.
We are in a period of productive remixing.
A golden age of new mediums.

The more new genres, the more possible newer ones can be remixed from them.
Not just books, but we will be able to rewind films and music and remix clips of these media.

The rate of possible combinations grows exponentially, expanding the culture and the economy.

9. Interacting

Brian Eno: “The trouble with computers is that there is not enough Africa in them.” Interacting with computers using only buttons was like dancing with only your fingertips, instead of your full body, as you would in Africa.

The dumbest objects we can imagine today can be vastly improved by outfitting them with sensors and making them interactive.

In the coming decades, we’ll keep expanding what we interact with. The expansion follows three thrusts: more senses, more intimacy, more immersion.

The only way to get closer than wearables over our skin is to go under our skin.
Technology will become a second skin.

But high interactivity comes at a cost. Interacting demands skills, coordination, experience, and education.

10. Tracking

One modern aid is self-measurement.
The fastest-increasing quantity on this planet is the amount of information we are generating.

Metadata (information we generate about that information) is the new wealth because the value of bits increases when they are linked to other bits.
The least productive life for a bit is to remain naked and alone.

Ubiquitous surveillance is inevitable.
This will take both technological fixes and new social norms.

The challenge is that the bulk of usable information today has been arranged in forms that only humans understand.
But we are at our limits. Humans can no longer touch, let alone process, zillions of bits.

When self-tracking data can be cognified by machines, it will yield new, novel, and improved ways of seeing ourselves.

11. Questioning

More important, Wikipedia has taught Kelly to believe in the impossible more often.
What once seemed impossible is now taken for granted.
The greatest surprise brought by Wikipedia is that we still don’t know how far this power can go.

Once you confront the fact that it works, you have to shift your expectation of what else there may be that is impossible in theory but might work in practice.

The paradox of science is that every answer breeds at least two new questions.
In other words, science is a method that chiefly expands our ignorance rather than our knowledge.
More tools, more answers, ever more questions.

Certainty itself is no longer as certain as it once was.
For every accepted piece of knowledge I come across, there is, within easy reach, a challenge to the fact.

Answers become cheap and questions become valuable. Questioning is simply more powerful than answering.

12. Beginning

This is the time when inhabitants of this planet first linked themselves together into one very large thing. A world brain. Kelly calls this planetary layer the holos.

By holos, he includes the collective intelligence of all humans combined with the collective behavior of all machines, plus the intelligence of nature, plus whatever behavior emerges from this whole. This whole equals holos.

The scale of what we are becoming is simply hard to absorb. It is the largest thing we have made.

The level of organization is a step above the largest things we have made till now: cities.
This jump in levels reminds some physicists of a phase transition.

But the overall direction of this large-scale vibrant process is clear and unmistakable.

We stand at this moment at the Beginning.

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