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What Technology Wants

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3.71  ·  Rating details ·  6,912 ratings  ·  321 reviews
From the author of the New York Times bestseller The Inevitable-- a sweeping vision of technology as a living force that can expand our individual potential


In this provocative book, one of today's most respected thinkers turns the conversation about technology on its head by viewing technology as a natural system, an extension of biological evolution. By mapping the behav
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Paperback, 406 pages
Published September 27th 2011 by Penguin Group (first published October 1st 2010)
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Kimball Nice. So self aware, like Skynet. Time for the Rise of the Machines. I can't wait.

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Dan
Jan 17, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In ‘What Technology Wants’ Kelly makes the case that the grand sweep of and direction of technology (which he terms the technium) shares parallels with evolutionary principles. He uses this analogy to suggest that there are universal laws that dictate the trajectory of technology and push it towards a predetermined goal: what technology ‘wants’ to achieve. Along the way, he paints a very happy picture of the thrust of technology – postulating that it will become ever more complex, beautiful, fre ...more
Marc Weidenbaum
This is a characteristic exercise in factoid-packed mega-optimism by the founding editor of Wired Magazine. The man whose final year of tenure as head of the magazine brought us the famous "Dow 36,000" article here tackles the role of technology in our lives, and how technology has what is, in essence, a life of its own. The future is just as bright, according to What Technology Wants, as it was in "Dow 36,000" -- but, of course, we know what came of that prediction.

I found the opening chapter
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Jane Friedman
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a history and culture book as much as it's a "technology" or futurism book. It's one of the few books I've read in the last decade that really deserved to be a BOOK—something that commands your attention and requires immersive reading. The way you see the world is likely to change by the end, and if you're not already immersed in the tech industry (and likely feel yourself "above" this book), then I guarantee you'll be talking about and recommending it to others.
Dave Emmett
Mar 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow.

Kelly builds on arguments from Kurzweil's The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, showing how technology is a continuation of biological evolution. Our minds are accelerating evolution using ideas instead of genes.

To me, the most beautiful section of this book was the beginning of Chapter 4, which describes the history of the universe through the lens of a single atom. For billions of years, atoms traversed the universe in solitude, never encountering anything else but the em
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Nick
Apr 25, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Although I disagree with many of Kelly's points, my main reasons for giving this book only two stars are its length--was it really necessary to recap the history of the universe from the Big Bang?--and Kelly's almost tautological optimism about technology. He consistently dismisses or downplays criticisms and negative aspects of the evolution of technology, developing from his basic premise--that technology is a self-sustaining and somewhat autonomous system--the tautological proposition that al ...more
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What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly




Kevin Kelly views technology as a natural organic living process. He calls it the technium. He views it as being part of human evolution. I found the ideas to be fascinating but overly anthropomorphic. He gave living qualities to stone, steel, spoons, bricks, and computers. There is both a humanizing and a dehumanizing aspect to this writing.



The humanizing aspect is a view of increased possibilities, more opportunities to create greater freedoms and greater c
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G33z3r
A disappointing pastiche of New Age ideas layered on regurgitated Jacob Bronowski, Richard Dawkins and James Burke, occasionally invoking flawed logic as well. The author enjoys making up new words, such as "technium" for the aggregate of all technology currently in use, as a substitute for actual insight. I think the most interesting chapter by far was on Amish hackers, a seemingly contradictory phrase the author invokes to describe some original research he's done interviewing various Amish on ...more
Jon
Jun 02, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
How can a book about technology have such interesting parts about fire and agriculture, and such boring parts about computers and cell phones? He's really into the Amish.
Nick
Mar 23, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised by how much of this book I actually _dis_liked. I've been following the technium blog for a while, and always remember liking it. The book certainly has parts I appreciated, and on the whole they probably mostly compensate for the negatives. But still. I think my dislike was primarily based on evidence-lacking claims, or things passed off too quickly as some sort of fact. Trying to sound technical doesn't make something correct. Graphs without axes scales don't help.

p3: "When the
...more
Tija Bija
Apr 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just started to read it yesterday. So many good insights into history of technology, how it makes us human and how human, in fact, is being used by technology (actually vice versa). Each new innovation comes only when there is an appropriate environment - proper tools and base of ideas - that guides birth of new technology. For Kelly (each) technology is like a species that "instead of expressing the work of genes (..) expresses ideas." These species follow evolution growth, some species die (be ...more
Paul DiBara
Jun 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kevin Kelly is fascinated by the cosmos, nature, humanity and technology. But the primary focus of the narrative is contained in the book’s title, ‘What Technology Wants.’ But is it a declarative and interrogative statement? For me it turned out to be both.

Kelly begins with the cosmic singularity that became the Big Bang, from which all that existed, is, or will be, originates. While denying Intelligent Design he believes that there is an imperative operating which instigates and lays the founda
...more
Sagar Vibhute
Mar 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Kevin Kelly is an optimist. You can't escape that conclusion once you put down the book.

As a reasonably incompetent technologist I agree with much of what he says when he speaks of the capability of technology to do good - increase our choices, liberate individuals who recognize it as a way to something new, empower struggles and revolutions (Newspapers have changed dynasties, even Twitter was an outlet for the Arab Spring to exchange voices) and can characterize an entire generation and society
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A Mig
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-tech
This book had been on my to-read pile for a while. I don’t know why I waited so long to read it, maybe because having read quick descriptions of the Technium on blogs had so far been enough. Well, I learned much more reading the whole thing.
I understand critics: it may go in different directions, be biased towards an optimistic view of the future of tech, be redundant at time. But, it was a joy to read.
It was not a monograph I was reading, but an opinion piece where one can feel the author’s kno
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Jenny
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book!! Dog-eared every other page. Fascinating exploration of evolutionary science and in tandem, the evolution of technology. Kelly asserts that "the technium" (AI, technology tools, web, etc.) has an imperative and momentum all its own to evolve, regardless of our thoughts on the matter.

On the Pivot front, loved this line: "Yes, life has gained more ways to adapt, but what is really changing is its evolvability—its propensity and agility to create change. Think of this as changea
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Christopher Willey
This. This book was important. I will need to go line by line on this one.

The Technium is mind blowing.

Between Mukhergee and Harari Kelly swoops in with some really wonderful thoughts.

I will re-read in the future. And not kidding, will go line by line and draw connections, models, correlations and inferences.

Nils
An quasi mystic paean to the inexorable momentum that the technological complex — which Kelly calls the technium — creates for itself. Perhaps the deepest thinker of the Silicon Valley’s organic intellectuals, Kelly is clear eyed about the trade offs that technological civilization entails even if in the end he is clearly a partisan in favor of more technology. The Unabomber was right empirically, he argues, but wrong normatively, because people in the end love their addictions and enjoy their s ...more
Danny Gibson
Reads like some sort of franken-feature in an annual issue of Wired, if that's your thing. Kelly makes up words, worships at the altar of Kurzweil, and writes a chapter called "The Unabomber was Right".

The bits on the Amish were pretty cool, though.
Charles
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kelly is a distinguished tech journalist (former executive editor of Wired magazine) and knows everyone who’s ever been anyone in Silicon Valley. Like all the best techies of a certain age, his roots are in hippydom, as a leading light of the Whole Earth Catalogue in the 1970s. He still sees technology in terms of its wider contribution to life.

Amish communities appear frequently in his writing as he admires their conscious, selective attitude to technology, echoing his own restrictive rules fo
...more
Rossdavidh
Apr 30, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: red
There are One Big Idea books, and there are Lots Of Ideas books. "What Technology Wants" is clearly based on One Big Idea.

Kevin Kelly's "What Technology Wants" begins with where any good narrative about technology should: the Amish. Kelly apparently spent some time living with the Amish, and then went off to be the executive editor of Wired magazine for its first seven years. The contrast between the two makes him well placed to evaluate technology as a whole, and its impact on humans.

He has dec
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Neelesh Marik
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The idea of the Technium as a whole-system of creativity with its own self-generating, inexorable evolutionary movement is a path-breaking one. The overall broad direction of the born and the made are similar: both systems move from the simple to the complex, from the general to the specific, from uniformity to diversity, from individualism to mutualism, from energy waste to efficiency, and from slow change to greater evolvability.

The 3 differences between biological and technological evolution
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Sean
Oct 25, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ux-books
This book provides a useful lens for viewing tech and humanity's relationship to tech: View tech as nature. Just as humans aren't all that different from the rest of the animals, the tech created and used by humans are not all that different from humans and the rest; it's all a part of the same evolving system of nature. In thinking about new tech, it's extremely useful to step away from the predominant tendency to zoom in and obsess over individual products. It helps to look at these products a ...more
Charlene
I was a bit skeptical about spending the time investment for this book when I read Wikipedia's description of Kelly, which included "born again Christian." I thought maybe he was attempting to promote ID disguised as technological evolution. It was quite the opposite. Kelly has a rare talent for seeing how things connect on the largest possible levels. It is an even greater talent to be able to convey such concepts to the reader. At this Kelly excels. There were a few chapters in the middle that ...more
Abbey
Technology has goals in the sense that a star has goals: a star "wants" to consume fuel, and technology "wants" to develop toward complexity. Technium (the author's personification of technology) is a selfish, grasping blob that seeks energy, input, development; it's the same as any evolutionary force. It's predatory, too: it eats other blobs of technologies along the way to become mashups of whole new inevitabilities. Technology is an inescapable force. Kelly makes technology seem like it is pr ...more
ian kennedy
Nov 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
NYTimes piece comparing cities to living organisms is a nice primer to Kelly's introduction.

I thoroughly enjoyed Kelly's unique perspective on technology as an extension of our bodies. It's not a barbeque, it's an externalization of our stomach. In this same way, humans have invented the internet as a way to externalize our brain and evolve ideas even faster than before. It's nothing new, it's a natural extension of the arc that was put in place when people first started transmitting ideas from
...more
Kyle
Oct 12, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kyle by: Scot
Although I found a number of interesting and compelling things in this book, I can't say it was a good book overall.

Kelly looks at the inexorable march of technology and seeks patterns. He does a compelling job pointing out how the "technium" (his word for the technological sphere around us) evolves, builds, multiplies choice, and is generally a force for good. Along the way he makes excellent points about the semi-directional nature of advancement and how some technologies may be inevitable as
...more
Tom
Jun 27, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf-read
Pretty awful. Full of faulty logic, Strawmen, overgeneralizations, and rhetorical questions that just make you want to scream "No, not always!" I liked the chapter on the Amish, that was full of interesting details about that subculture. The chapter on the Unibomber was just plan creepy - despite the author including disclaimer after disclaimer about how he didn't condone anything - it pushed past sympathetic and into paean. He mentions several video games I've enjoyed, specifically Halo, in way ...more
Eva
Mar 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Kevin Kelly shows us the similarities in the evolution of biological life and the evolution of technology. This is demonstrated with logarithmic graphs that are hard to dispute, and the always fascinating examples of similar lifeforms/technologies emerging simultaneously yet independently at different locations.

So, technology is this emergent phenomenon that accompanies biological life and seems to take over with rapid speed. And we are all scared. But: While the forces driving biological evolut
...more
Greg
Jun 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mp3
This is one of the most incredible books I've ever read. I would heartily recommend this to anyone. I wonder at the ability of many of my friends to comprehend anything that he puts into this book, but then, at the same time, I don't know how much I actually understood, either. In any case, the case he lays out for the evolution of technology, the process of invention, the timing of invention and ubiquity of multiple-invention, is simply astounding. I begin to wonder at wisdom of our current pat ...more
Vanessa Blaylock
If Annie Dillard had written the screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey, it might have been What Technology Wants.

This book is a masterpiece. I couldn't put it down, so I read it twice in a row. Note that it's very "up my alley," so your taste and mileage may vary. Without exactly addressing too much about posthuman ideas, Kelly in some ways goes even wider than the Singularity / Humanity+ authors. In the end he is a cheerleader. But many other authors are cheerleaders from Page 1, and Kelly is f
...more
Steven Comfort
Jan 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What Technology Wants is like his last book Out of Control in that it attempts to capture the "whole" of technology -- with strong emphasis on tech's symbiosis with biology and some non-obvious similarities to natural systems. It takes a big mind like Kevin's to look for technological innovation via the Amish; and to understand the similarities between natural systems like bees building a hive and man-made technologies like the Amish hive-mind at work at a communal barn-building... Kevin even pu ...more
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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

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