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Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World
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Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World

4.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,068 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
Out of Control chronicles the dawn of a new era in which the machines and systems that drive our economy are so complex and autonomous as to be indistinguishable from living things.
Paperback, 528 pages
Published April 14th 1995 by Basic Books (first published 1992)
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Jan 18, 2011 David rated it really liked it
Don't let the fact that it took me 10 months to finish this book impact your decision to read it; Out of Control was a well-worthy, remarkable effort, which should be given a careful and thorough read.

So, why 10 months? Kevin Kelly is very wordy. Yes, Kelly provides fascinating insights and revelations about machine biology, "hive mind" theory, co-evolution, the evolution of computers, and the future of planet Earth. But he does all of this with about 200 pages more than are actually necessary t
Nov 05, 2012 Feliks rated it really liked it
Disturbing and reassuring at the same time. One of those books which approach the current state of world chaos from a unique angle and helps one try to make sense of what's going on.

Reassuring in that Kelly gives us something of a method to dissect current technological trends. He offers a quirky kind of philosophical outlook towards the alarming aspects of modernism which says, "relax, just trust in science" (because, and I paraphrase) 'science is ultimately displaying an organic style of devel
Jul 10, 2016 Andreas rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology, technology
This is a fascinating book full of fascinating ideas reaching across the board from artificial intelligence, evolution, biology, ecology, robotics and more to explore complexity, cybernetics and self-organising systems in an accessible and engaging way.

But despite the fascinating topic matter, "Out of Control" has a number of frustrating flaws:
- It is way too long-winded.
- It is full of weird conjecture and meta-philosophising, which may have inspired the creators of the Matrix trilogy, but wh
Wil Michael
Apr 16, 2015 Wil Michael rated it it was amazing
Out of Control is one of the most different and interesting books I have read to date. Kelly beautifully describes the complex and simple structures we find throughout the networks in life. He describes things like hive behavior that make you rethink a beehive as rather then a bunch of dumb drones instead as a single super intelligent being. He delves into human psychology and the interworking of a human mob and its ability to function even without direct communication between those in the netwo ...more
Jun 28, 2016 Akj153 rated it liked it
"Kauffman’s Law states that above a certain point, increasing the richness of connections between agents freezes adaptation. nothing gets done because too many actions hinge on too many other contradictory actions. Too many agents have a say in each other’s work, and bureaucratic rigor mortis sets in."

"The primary goal that any system seeks is survival. The secondary search is for the ideal parameters to keep the system tuned for maximal flexibility. But it is the third order search that is
Li Zhao
Jun 24, 2015 Li Zhao rated it it was amazing
Finally finished the book. It was such an enjoyment and a thrill to read this book. Many of the ideas and concepts he brought up in his book back in 1994 were realized and set to running today. What an exciting experience to follow and visualize the vast, grand future ahead of us through this book! Just love it!
Jan 04, 2015 Kars rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The parts where Kelly discusses technology are dated, and worth skipping. But his overview of evolutionary biology is comprehensive, and the way he connects it to the realm of the made is inspirational and compelling. It's given me new starting points for thinking about complexity.
Nathanael (Boehm) Coyne
Apr 20, 2012 Nathanael (Boehm) Coyne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nathanael by: Stilgherrian
Shelves: favourite
This book blew me away - so much I didn't know about systems theory, hive mind and distributed redundant networks in nature and their application in technology. Amazing, highly recommended, even if the book is 15 years old now.
Stone C.
Feb 14, 2016 Stone C. rated it really liked it
It took me almost an entire year to finally finish this voluminous big cover. During this time period, I've already read Mr.Kelly's What Technology Wants What Technology Wants, which seems to correspond a lot to the prophecies in this 1994 book. As a result, my assessment on this book is more or less influenced by my judgement on the other one.
Undisputed, Kevin Kelly was a great prognosticator of literally everything that took place in the information age, probably the best of his kind in Silico
Alex Lee
Feb 27, 2016 Alex Lee rated it really liked it
In this well researched book, Kevin Kelly explores how agency emerges out of organization -- that the casual chain of "where decisions are made" isn't always locatable as a property of supervenience. Though a series of explorations (biospheres, cybernetics, group actions through crowd-feedback, evolutionary emergent behaviors, and so on), Kelly suggests that various causal chains can be complexified and managed but are often reliant on technocractic algorithms rather than human understanding. We ...more
Scott Neal Reilly
Jun 19, 2008 Scott Neal Reilly rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in interesting books
This is a great book. It covers a huge amount of material on complex systems, from robotics to economics to human psychology to ecology and more. Kevin Kelley is able to present relatively complex ideas like a well-versed scientist, but do it with the simple, engaging clarity of an excellent writer.

There were a couple of pages that related to a project that I worked on back in grad school and where I know that he didn't get the material quite right, so I suspect that he was not perfectly true t
Oct 12, 2010 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What a book! I will be thinking about the concepts and ideas presented in this book for a long, long time. Kelly is a little more at home writing magazine articles, and sometimes the book lacks a coherent thesis, but that is more than made up for with wonderful prose, and an unbridled excitement for his subject.

This book attempts to dissect the study of the unpredictable. From biological evolution to artificial intelligence to economies, it examines how and why complex, unpredictable systems for
Feb 14, 2016 Brett added it
Evolution in software, pharmaceuticals, network theory, and a whole mess of thought leadership. Great read!
David Bober
Jun 27, 2016 David Bober rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I still enjoy this book twenty years after I first read it.
Jun 25, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: gaveup
I didn't read the whole thing, but just the first few chapters. I think it was sufficient for my purposes, but also very relevant. I love it when descriptions of natural systems match what you note about your own life or about God's purposes. It was somehow comforting to read the way biological systems organize (bottom-up, diversified, disorganized, and uncontrolled) and find that this way has advantages over our own way of organization (top-down, goal-oriented, organized, controlled). I'll have ...more
Wessel van Rensburg
Feb 10, 2012 Wessel van Rensburg rated it really liked it
This is techno determinism on steroids, free market orientated and utopian. Digital darwinism would be an apt description in fact. It reads like poetry at times, which is surprising considering how much of it is about business.

Very dated, but thats too be expected. He got it right that new media would be a powerful, liberating force for some, what he got wrong is that the new Networks won't have Hierarchy. And neither did the dawning of the digital post industrial society bring prosperity to the
Jose Espín
Jan 20, 2014 Jose Espín rated it it was amazing
One of the first serious attempts to understand how evolving complexity is affecting out lives, my really first approach to chaos theory as a way to understand complex phenomena
Dave Peticolas
Oct 08, 2014 Dave Peticolas rated it liked it

This is an extended meditation on the idea that the worlds of biology and technology are converging, with consequences for both. Along the way we meet lots of interesting thinkers and doers and see what sort of crazy things some of them have been up to (Biosphere 2 anyone?).

Kelley's a pretty good writer and, while all of his theses don't ultimately mesh together, I can't recall reading another book with as many densely packed ideas as this one.

Lamech Mariita
Jan 06, 2013 Lamech Mariita rated it it was amazing
I found the book very enjoyable,entertaining and nice to read. The book's style is a combination of personal observations and interviews with leaders in their field. It's a must for anyone new to the field of Artificial Life. it won't bog you down with formulas and proofs, but is excellent in demonstrating that much of our current knowledge points to some revolutionary conclusions. This book is recommended if you are interested in stretching your mind and possibilities to new limits
Sep 16, 2007 Kevin rated it really liked it
While working with the author who goes by the same name as myself, I had the opportunity to read his book. It was a complex and fascinating look into the merging of biology and technology and the resulting impact it's having on culture. His concept of the hive mind resonated with me, coming from an IT background. As my friends well know, I referred to the hive mind whenever I had the chance. This book has a major influence on the making of the film, "The Matrix".
Feb 25, 2013 lei added it
what an amazing book!lt's hard to read before you have finished the <>by Charles Robert Darwin.then it is easier to see what K.K want to tell you after you have read Peter F.Drucker's books!according of my written english ,the only i may promise : it is worthy to read as a businessman!by the way ,the details is easy to see if you focus!
Jul 31, 2009 Maxim rated it really liked it
Broad overview of studies of complex systems of different kinds. It comes with detailed bibliography and can certainly be a starting point if you have casual interest in the field.

As is usually the case with books written by journalist, not a scientist, some of author's generalizations and insights are trivial, so I give the book 4 stars7
Bowei Zhang
Apr 14, 2013 Bowei Zhang rated it it was amazing
It is really unbelievable that this book was written back in 90s. I would say it mentioned so many 'crazy' ideas (Gaia hypothesis, collective unconsciousness etc.) and really changed me. Moreover, I was watching a classic anime called Serial Experiments Lain during my reading period. They worked together like Oreo and milk, which is worth a trial!
Sep 28, 2009 MattA rated it really liked it
Liked this book, but it was written over a decade ago about "cutting edge" issues, so it comes across as dated in some aspects. And the chapters are somewhat disconnected, so the overall narrative of the book didn't keep me engaged. I gave up about half way through.

I wish I had picked it up when it first came out.
Claire S
This was required reading for a masters-level class I took on Chaos and Complex Systems. I guess people who know more about such things have multiple criticisms of this work, but for an ingenue like me, it was fascinating! I'm very interesting in other science-for-layperson type things..
Dec 30, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it
Wordy? Yes. A slow read? Yes. A little out of date? Maybe. A book that is full of brilliant ideas, is thought provoking and is pleasantly meandering? Yes, please. I really liked this book and am looking forward to reading another of Kevin Kelly's in the rapidly evolving future!
Oct 13, 2013 Angelo rated it liked it
As interesting as some parts of the book are, as tedious are others. I have skipped over a few chapters that were really hard to get through, but then again, the parts that are worth it, are _really_ worth it. In short, I feel dual towards this book.
Wei Luo
Aug 18, 2014 Wei Luo rated it it was amazing
I just simply feel I am ignorant when I was reading this book. This book concludes with the nine laws of nature, society, and technology through reviewing biology, economics, sociology, management, business, human intelligence....
May 09, 2010 Arjen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, computing
absolutely one of my favourite books. Kelly reviews and discusses biological concepts (growth, learning, evolution, intelligence) in relation to machines.

cannot recommend it enough. Why did I not read this earlier?
Words Deeds
Aug 27, 2011 Words Deeds rated it it was amazing
Amazing, life changing book. It's sprawling, and full of life. He walks readers from crowd control crowd sourcing beginnings all the way to the end of life, and back to its origin. Mind bogglingly long, full and rich.
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Read it Online at Author's Website 2 13 Jun 01, 2010 03:29PM  
  • Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
  • Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order
  • Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution
  • Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos
  • Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity
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  • At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity
  • American Steel
  • Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams: Explorations in Massively Parallel Microworlds
  • Jump Start Your Business Brain: Scientific Ideas and Advice That Will Immediately Double Your Business Success Rate
  • Shaping Things
  • Introducing Evolutionary Psychology
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  • The Republic of Tea: : The Story of the Creation of a Business, as Told Through the Personal Letters of Its Founders
  • Being Digital
  • FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop–from Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication
  • Darwin Among The Machines: The Evolution Of Global Intelligence
  • Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits
Kevin Kelly is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine. He co-founded Wired in 1993, and served as its Executive Editor from its inception until 1999. He is also editor and publisher of the Cool Tools website, which gets half a million unique visitors per month. From 1984-1990 Kelly was publisher and editor of the Whole Earth Review, a journal of unorthodox technical news. He co-founded the ongoing Hack ...more
More about Kevin Kelly...

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“‎What color is a chameleon placed on a mirror?
The chameleon responding to its own shifting image is an apt analog of the human world of fashion. Taken as a whole, what are fads but the response of a hive mind to its own reflection?
In a 21st-century society wired into instantaneous networks, marketing is the mirror; the collective consumer is the chameleon.”
“What is clearly happening inside this glass capsule is happening less clearly at a great scale on Earth in the closing years of this millennium. The realm of the born—all that is nature—and the realm of the made—all that is humanly constructed—are becoming one. Machines are becoming biological and the biological is becoming engineered. That’s banking on some ancient” 0 likes
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