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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

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  1,427 ratings  ·  79 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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4.22  · 
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 ·  1,427 ratings  ·  79 reviews

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Aug 09, 2009 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
Jul 05, 2012 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
Jan 22, 2010 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
Apr 12, 2012 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 Coyne
Apr 03, 2010 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.
Li Zhao
Mar 15, 2015 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!
Rui Ma
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
This books was written in the 1990s. It's surprisingly accurately predict what's going on in this world now.

Technology is evolving, so are our society and economy. Control is just illusion. We need to accept that out of control is the new normal.
May 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Libertarians
Shelves: liberty, science, 1990s
A great display of Hayekian emergent orders occurring outside of economics.
Akhil Jain
Jun 20, 2016 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
Martin Brochhaus
Man! I loved this book. It's a tough and long read, but the author is so full of energy, curiosity and obsession with the topic, it is super entertaining to read.

The ideas could have been distilled into a much shorter volume, of course, and some of the chapters felt a bit redundant to me, but overall I would say author really tried to shed light on a complicated topic from all possible angles.

The amount of research that must have gone into this boggles my mind.

This book asks big questions:

1. Wha
Hong Gao
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Integrate organ and nature to pursue underlying persistent logic

The underlying rules to govern nature and artifacts are openness, free. The evolution is more open, co-adaptive, incremental from atomic core to complex ecosystem. There is common and pervasive rule and laws to underpin living systems
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-reread
Fantastic read. Some parts of the book are prescient, some are radically futuristic, and very little is dated.
This book is about far too many things and maybe intends to leave the reader with more questions than answers.
Dec 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Kevin Kelly is one of the best and most original thinkers I've read, and this could very well be his crowning achievement. An absolute treasure of a book--worthy of many hours of careful reading. Odds are he will change how you think about world.
Amy Springer
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was a life saver. I had so many thoughts running around my head about like and technology. Kevin Kelly has pieced it all together in a thoughtful and easy to understand way. My favourite quote is "Life is the ultimate technology".
Kevin Yang
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For anyone who is interested in VUCA theory or decentralization, you must read this.
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Joseph Walker
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing insight into our frightening technological condition.
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very impressive and interesting book! Although it is thick, but I Can’t help finishing it!
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Hands down the most intellectual and profound book I've read in recent years. Will read it again and probably again every couple years. Each chapter is rich in its content to be an independent book. Need constant break for digestion which makes it like reading a dictionary (in a respectful way!). So far, KK's many "apocalypse" of technology or society development has come true. He mentioned at the Q&A in the end that in the future (of a shared-hardware world), it's not the ownership of infor ...more
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a brilliant magnum opus this is! Worth every second of the 11 months it took to get through this one!
Nov 28, 2014 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
Wil Michael
Apr 16, 2015 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
Alex Lee
Nov 23, 2015 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
Apr 11, 2008 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
William Crosby
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Extensive discussion of the development of neo-biological systems and the melding of biology and technology. Sometimes too wordy and anecdotal. Still, the often metaphorical and lyrical style of writing was a nice change from a dry textbook.

One of the main points: that which we create can become autonomous, adaptable and out of our complete control.

A few of the many concepts discussed: autonomous distributed systems, AI, hive mind, supermind, moreness, swarm model, coevolution, prairies, stable
Feb 21, 2010 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
Dave Peticolas
May 10, 2014 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.

Dec 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: thinkers, tinkerers and questers
Fascinating exploration, dated in places but incredible, inspiring; a mind expanding understanding of how everything works. Densely crammed with information and questions
“ every additional week a child was reared by culture (grandparent’s wisdom) instead of by animal instinct gave human biology another chance to irrevocably transfer that duty to further cultural rearing. “
“ To put it bluntly, humans are no more evolved than most bacteria.” pg 342
His Nine Laws of God are basically equivalent to P
Aug 27, 2007 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 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
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Read it Online at Author's Website 2 16 Jun 01, 2010 03:29PM  

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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
“‎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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