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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 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.

531 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1992

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About the author

Kevin Kelly

112 books1,403 followers
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 Hackers' Conference, and was involved with the launch of the WELL, a pioneering online service started in 1985. He authored the best-selling New Rules for the New Economy and the classic book on decentralized emergent systems, Out of Control."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 112 reviews
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,853 followers
April 5, 2020
The ideas and concepts compressed in this work could be used for several academic careers and it´s focused on one of the most underrepresented, and tragically at the same time most important, topic of interdisciplinarity and cooperation.

It´s economical logic that no company is interested in fruitless research about what would be possible in collaborations with other fields of science one has no made investments in and so it simply isn´t done. The state could stand in by subsidizing much more research that isn´t focused on marketable products, but on what synergies could emerge when the advantages are mixed together.

Kelly is big in nostredameian style of predicting many developments that are already there and will come, and looking back at 1995, 25 years ago, it seems even more amazing that he managed to extrapolate developments that were deemed fringe science, impossible, not profitable, or were simply disliked by the leading scientists of some fields because they preferred their own yada thesis. He predicted nanotech, internet, computers, he talks about so many interconnected topics, making the work a mixture of technology, biology, many social sciences, and philosophy, giving so many inspirations one could bath in for months.

A bit too much techno optimism lead to some forecasts that were just unrealistic, but especially the comparison of natural and human made systems is ingenious, as it doesn´t only embrace the importance of nature conservation, but leads to more focus on interdisciplinarity and learning from models that are functioning for eons. The idea of this book should be reinterpreted with all the modern science and extrapolated to different distances of the future in a mixture of Michio Kaku and John Brockmans´ Edge question books, just a bit more coherent than in this case, where the chapters stand isolated from each other without much metacontext. Quite an irony for a book about that everything is connected.

Many mainstream thinkers will, even today, definitively find the ideas impossible to implement for laughable reasons, looking at you, economics and political sciences, but keep on playing around with stupid ideas, it´s so cute.

A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this completely overrated real life outside books:
Profile Image for Feliks.
496 reviews
July 12, 2021
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 development'.

Its a neat way to analyze progress, I guess. For about five minutes. The analogies between science and nature are cleverly drawn; and since nature is usually reassuring--seeing how science matches her so concretely nowadays--is by extension, reassuring. Can science really be so frightening if its simply following natural patterns we already know about?

But is it? Kelly seems to be missing something. Our world is now not one where computers are just an ornament, or a toy. They're running the world. How well does that match with nature? Not much; it seems to me. His examples and anecdotes just don't go far enough.

This book has past its prime; its relevancy--in just ten years. Written shortly before the cell-phone boom--it has a somewhat more optimistic outlook on burgeoning technology than I think we would now generally embrace. In light of recent events--a personal electronics technology BOOM exploding at a pace no one foresaw--can we really just click our heels 3x as Kelly suggests, and trust that the whirlwind will see us safely home? I think not. I think he's far too comfortably wrapped in his positivist viewpoint.

Kelly focuses more on 'means' rather than 'ends' and doesn't pay enough attention to 'fallout', 'byproducts', or 'risks'. He allocates no effort to the notion of simply preserving existing values; traditions; customs; upholding existing quality-of-life. His message seems to simply be: 'get with the program'.

Its probably wise to pair this title with other more recent works which describe brain function; language; learning; vs the effects of social media. You can see that things simply haven't gone the way he predicted.
Profile Image for Michael Nielsen.
Author 12 books1,073 followers
September 10, 2020
I first read this book more than a decade ago.

I enjoyed it as I read it, but frankly didn't think it was all that notable. But in the years since it has come up in my thinking again and again and again, changing the way I see and experience the world. That's about the best recommendation I can give a book!
Profile Image for Andreas.
Author 3 books4 followers
July 10, 2016
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 which I find unconvincing.
- It almost completely void of meta-text to help the reader understand what Kelly is trying to do with his book (having read the book, I'm still wondering).

Indeed, reading the book I got the feeling that Kelly was trying to combine several different books into one: There is a fascinating study of self-sustaining systems. But there is also a sort of business-book take on network economy. And an extended meditation on evolution and postdarwinism.

I'm sure that to Kelly, all of these things are tightly interconnected. But he doesn't explain that very well to the reader. His central argument is that as technology becomes ever more complex, it becomes more akin to biological systems (eco-systems, vivisystems, interdependent and co-evolving organisms). But because the individual chapters are set up as essays on their own, there is often little to tie these wildly different ideas together.

I would have preferred a much shorter book, more narrowly focused on the idea of self-organising systems. A good editor would have helped produce that.

UPDATE: I took upon my self to attempt to edit the book into the version that I would have preferred to read: http://andreaslloyd.dk/outofcontrol/
Profile Image for David.
71 reviews12 followers
January 18, 2011
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 to make his point. Kelly is a great writer, no doubt, but he tends to wander aimlessly, which makes these difficult topics challenging to understand. A good editor would have helped immensely.

Out of control also suffers from a lack of cohesion, and would be better served as a collection of separate essays about each topic, rather than a book that strives to espouse one overarching theme. As I was reading, I kept wondering where Kelly was going with all of his ideas, as a lack of drive seemed evident.

Lest you think I have nothing but ill contempt for this book, there is a payoff: Kelly is a brilliant soothsayer, of sorts. This book was written 16 years ago, so hindsight can readily be applied, and Kelly's predictions about where science would be with relation to computers, nanotechnology, pharmaceuticals, this crazy thing called the "Internet" he kept mentioning, have nearly all come to fruition. Does this mean machines and computers develop their own biology, and begin truly thinking for themselves, as Kelly suggests? Time will only tell.
Profile Image for Nathanael Coyne.
157 reviews49 followers
April 20, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Ангел.
148 reviews5 followers
May 17, 2020
Трудно е да се опише информацията в книгата е едно ревю. Толкова много залегнали теми, че напълно е възможно да се раздели на няколко по-малки. Възможно, защото е писана през 90-те години на миналият век, това да е причината. Без да се тъси комерсиалност или печалба - книга съдържаща есенцията и семето на толкова много бъдеще, което вече е реалност.
Profile Image for Kars.
363 reviews42 followers
January 4, 2015
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.
62 reviews
July 11, 2021
Picked this one up last year for two reasons: one, Steve Jurvetson recommended it (in his top 3) and he is one of the best VCs i know of. Two, Kelly is one of the most widely renowned futurists and all around technical writers out there. He wrote this back in 95 so some of it was dated (internet just beginning.. Windows NT was new... still mostly a cash based society) but I would say that this book could easily be placed as the base principle manual of both biological and artificial systems. I don't think I could accumulate enough knowledge to write a book like this in a lifetime, yet Kelly did it around age 40. Staggering amount of content here.


I'll apologize in advance for the massive amount of takeaways. There could have been 4x this..

- no matter how complex things are today, their complexity will increase exponentially in the future
- systems will evolve in all directions at all times, and a truly top down approach is futile. bottom up is the most sustainable way. Listen to the system. learn from it.
- life took billions of years to plant stage, another 1.5 billion until fish, 100 million to mammals, 20 million to apes, now only decades until we pass the turing test. J curve.
- the moral ground between biological and artifical intelligence will be ever murky.
- over 3 decades a hermit planted 90 square miles of forest at 100 acorns a day. restoring an entire climate. greatness is the same mundane things done extensively, correctly, over time.
- planet atmospheres can be determined (compositionally) simply by looking through telescopes. Mars was proposed to be lifeless via this method in the 60s. James Lovelock.
- rocks are alive. all of gaia, is, alive. there is no clear distinction between living and nonliving matter - just a hierarchy of intensity
- game theory: chicken, stag hunt, deadlock, prisoner's dilemna.
- honor errors. appreciate them. learn from them. best feedback loop.
- you can't grow an ecosystem purposefully. you have to let it take root itself and be patient.
- it takes all the diseases on earth about 621000 hours to kill a human organism.
- Freeman Dyson: the infiltration of mindinto the universe will not be permanently halted. But what will the mind choose to do when it controls the universe?
- there are people who can sleep in meetings and wake up having retained all that was said while they slept. i need this ..
- with all variables interlinked, controlling one, will generally exert control on all. but how can you possibly track that.
- industrial revolution was the control of energy. the central event of 20th centuty is the overthrow and control of matter. 21st will be the control of information itself.
- get a tiny living planet for your office. cool biospheres.
- there was an actual biodome built in the 80s. Biosphere 1 and 2. Worth some more time. 25 pages on this.
- the japanese excelled at designing and improving processes: the americans, products.
- don't spend money on defect prone code. expel it. recode.
- satisficing: aim for good enough.
- privacy is anti information: information with polarity reversed.
- to be a God is to relinquish control and embrace uncertainty. Absolute control is absolute boredom.
- the Library of Borges: a library existing of every book ever written, or every book that could be written. quite the chapter / thought experiment.
- Pixar was just being formed.. as was VR
- animals are robots that work. arranging a circuit of sub-behaviors = any personality can be programmed. an acorn is a few lines of code outputting a 180 year old tree.
- human consciousness is unable to think in parallel so the mind retreats to serial.. linear story. one major reason there are so many problems in the world now as we have outgrown this.
- books relieve the mind of long term storage rent, freeing it up for other things. not biological atrophy, more so, necessary evolution.
- you were once the size of a period. . . . . . .
- required to adapt too far from their origins, most institutions will die.
- the lap game: circular causality.
- life begins whole and integrated.
- when increasing members in a system, don't increase link rates. too many links freeze adaptation. paralysis.
- 56 year economic and 28 year generational cycles are interlinked.
- if a market has been going up for a while, it will continue to go up. vice versa.
- we are not aware of all the places our knowledge fails. recognizing one's own ignorance is quite the trick.
- how do we know one thing is more complex than another? cucumber vs cadillac? meadow vs brain?
- lastly, page 468, the nine laws of an evolutionary god - to create something from nothing
Profile Image for Barack Liu.
480 reviews17 followers
May 21, 2020

057-Out of Control-Kevin Kelly-Technology-1994

--"Balance is death. Flow is normal."

The first edition of "Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, & the Economic World" was published in 1994, a book on nature. It explores topics such as the relationship between life and machines, and the principles behind nature.

Kevin Kelly was born in Pennsylvania in 1952. He studied at the University of Rhode Island. In 1970, he traveled to Asia and the Middle East as a photographer. In 1979, he rode a bicycle through parts of the United States. In 1993, he published Wired magazine. Representative works: "Out of Control", "Necessity", "What Science and Technology Want", etc.

Many seemingly bland phenomena, when you think about it, you will find that there are some amazing laws hidden in it. We can even understand them as natural secrets. Perhaps this is the fascinating thinking process itself. Given a phenomenon, you can lead to countless possibilities.

The book written by Kevin Kelly in the 1990s is still exciting even if it is read today, and some of these ideas may still be at the forefront of our times.

At first, he deeply considered the relationship between machines and living things. Copernicus ruled out the gap between the earth and the rest of the physical universe. Then, Darwin ruled out the gap between humans and the rest of the organic world. Finally, Freud ruled out the gap between the rational world of the self and the unconscious irrational world.

But we still face the fourth discontinuity, the discontinuity between humans and machines. Natural evolution emphasizes that we are apes; while artificial evolution may suggest that we are mental machines.

Brainstorming is also a very interesting phenomenon. When the number of animals living together in a camp reaches a certain threshold, this group will have some new characteristics that cannot be reflected in the individual anyway. Some people may be fortunate to have seen the action of the bee colony. Of course, in most cases, this feeling comes from the "animal world" of childhood memories. But have you ever thought about the wisdom shown by tens of thousands of bees? Where did it come from?

We may be deeply influenced by our feelings about the rigorous contingent of the human army and think that this is logical, but don’t forget the fact that these negligible brain bugs are not self-conscious. None of them can draw the whole picture of this great system that a human can have now in his mind. Moreover, each of them doesn't know what role each move will play on the whole.

Humans have a commander who can control the entire army from the top, but even for the supercomputer with the most computing power in the world, a single circuit cannot imagine the amazing ability of the whole it belongs to. So naturally, people are suspicious. Where does the thinking of this giant beast hidden in the whole of groups of bees come from? Does it have a clear understanding of its overall picture?

Distributed, my first impression of this concept came from learning about computer networks, but naturally, it is the energetic engineers who use this important concept of distribution to become fascinating. Incremental construction, the tight coupling of sensors and actuators, hierarchies independent of modules, decentralized control, and sparse communication, if you think carefully, they will not only exist in the textbooks that put you at risk.

To a certain extent, human beings make laws and rules for all behaviors to put the entire material world in a balanced or orderly state. But is our nature so steady? Or is there another solution? Compared with other things in the universe, intelligence, consciousness, and even life are in a stable and unstable state.

Life will never fall, and she will never get rid of the falling trend. She is always in a state of shaky. The uncertainty of life has created the driving force for evolution. New species form rapidly in a jumping manner. Once a new species is formed, it is in a conservative or evolutionary stagnation state, and there will be no significant changes in phenotype until the next species formation event. Evolution is between jumping and stagnation.

Shulman melon will eventually lead me to the hall of the ultimate problem. Where does the self-conscience come from? Cybernetics gives such a puzzling answer: it emerged from itself. Just like Ouroboros. This is reminiscent of "human existence theory".

If the development of human historical civilization is a game, then for players who stand in the perspective of God, where has the current progress bar reached?

If human beings are also made. So, does it mean that humanity has developed into a situation where the creator can no longer control it? Or maybe the creator who created humans disappeared into the torrent of history for some reason, and his creation, human, survived because of a certain characteristic.

If one day some kind of disaster occurs on the earth, all humans will perish, and the robot can survive. Do they look at their history as humans look at their history today?

From the example of a bee colony, we can see that the wisdom emerging from the colony is higher than that of the individual. "The Crowd" expresses the view that the wisdom of the group is not as good as the wisdom of the individual. I don't think these two theories are either one or the other, but they each have their scope of application. So, what is this qualification?

It's like we can't infer the tissue's behavior pattern from a single cell, nor can we infer an organ from a single tissue, infer a system from an organ, and infer a complete organism from the system.

Is the so-called retrospective review of the whole life before death, because the part of the brain that stores memory is stimulated one by one?

The network connects individuals. A network composed of individuals will inevitably produce certain qualities that individuals do not possess.

When a system gives up all redundancy in pursuit of efficiency, he also gives up the opportunity for evolution. An overly ordered and linear system may also be a rigid and stifling innovation system. This is like our schedule. If our schedule is too harsh, then it is easy to become rigid. But if we are too arbitrary about the schedule, it is easy to cause inefficiency.

Mark Pollen made some robot monsters and let them fight each other. This reminds me of the animated short film series "Love, Death, and Robots" directed by Tim Miller.

Joshi said that a large number of low-level wisdom forms high-level wisdom. The "The Crowd" said that when many high-level pearls of wisdom are gathered together, they show lower wisdom.

For example, when we see a pixel, we may not have any ideas, but when we see thousands or even tens of thousands of pixels, we can recognize the picture composed of it. What exactly makes us understand the things above these pixels and understand it?

For example, in a market, we do not need other players to tell me their willingness to buy or sell. We only need to observe the price to know the impact of other people's behavior on the price.

The author of "Out of Control" clearly disagrees with this view. He believes that consciousness cannot exist independently of the body. When our body does not exist, so does consciousness.

If a mixture of human consciousness and matter is created by some pure spiritual creator. Then humans may have some advantages over our creator. Because a pure spiritual body may be easier to self-destruct.

Just like the geometric problems we did in high school. To get an answer, we must do many auxiliary lines. But these guidelines are just to help us find the answer better. When the final answer is revealed, these auxiliary lines are no longer needed.

Personal growth is like this. If we want to get a spaceship at the age of 40. We are not making 1/4 of a spaceship when we are 10 years old, making another 1/4 when we are 20 years old, and making 1/4 when we are 30 years old. Instead, he got a bicycle at the age of 10, an airplane at the age of 20, and an aircraft carrier at the age of 30. The results of each stage are self-running, not part of a larger thing.

A typical example of co-evolution is between husband and wife. After a long life, both people are more and more like each other or are affected by each other.

Absolute order probably only exists in non-living organisms. One way for a living body to maintain vitality is to tolerate the existence of certain chaos.

So, how did the first life emerge from the dead and stable physical and chemical state? Who in the end spreads the seeds of chaos on the earth? Where does this push from 0 to 1 come from?


Profile Image for John Doe.
66 reviews13 followers
December 24, 2020
yes It contains so many information about biology, information technology, control theory and economics etc, but this book is a waste of time for me at this time, it probably would be useful for the layman who knows nothing about technology and economics and may feel like this book is somehow bible like, but...well... too many sound terms too little original insights. I didn't get much useful stuff from it so I personally don't like it.
Profile Image for TΞΞL❍CK Mith!lesh .
300 reviews154 followers
December 25, 2020
The book was not widely reviewed when first released in 1992, but got visibly reviewed and extensively cited during the next several years. Reviews often discussed Kelly's hive-mind analogy as a metaphor for the New Economy.

Reviewers have called this book a "mind-expanding exploration" (Publishers Weekly) and "the best of an important new genre" (Forbes ASAP).

Critics of the book have contended that its position leaves us without a critical approach to politics and social power.

Profile Image for Bowei Zhang.
9 reviews12 followers
April 15, 2013
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!
Profile Image for Li Zhao.
16 reviews4 followers
June 24, 2015
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!
Profile Image for Rui Ma.
260 reviews1 follower
January 29, 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.
Profile Image for Caleb.
27 reviews
August 27, 2017
What a brilliant magnum opus this is! Worth every second of the 11 months it took to get through this one!
Profile Image for Denis Vasilev.
648 reviews93 followers
October 2, 2020
Книга прошлой эпохи, в хорошем смысле. Много идей на страницу, выводы предлагают делать самостоятельно. Будущее принадлежит биологии, а не машинам
Profile Image for Lee Kuiper.
76 reviews
March 15, 2020
What a book! Kevin Kelly writes with his typical clarity of expression and deep insight on topics that aren’t always so easy to understand and, somehow seemingly effortlessly, makes them easy to understand. If you are looking for a simple book, however, it might be best to look elsewhere. The range on this book is wide and the material is complex. Yet within the 472 pages exists a world of exciting and relevant ideas to explore and piece together.

Although this book is over 25 years old (at the time I read it), very little of it seems outdated. In fact, I found it to be a good introduction to a lot of ideas in the burgeoning field of Complexity Science. It avoids the pitfalls of predictions-that-never-happened by examining and discussing the big picture and underlying ideas/principles behind topics such as technology and progress.

As Kelly states early in the book we can learn a lot by studying the systems of the living world —the logic of the bios (or bio-logic). The systems we are creating —what he calls “the made” (algorithms, neural networks, deep learning, AI, even market economics)— when successful, are mirroring patterns already exhibited in systems in the natural, living world —what he calls “the born.” Kelly argues that what exists between both the made and the born are guided by the exact same underlying rules and principles —they, in a sense, have a common soul.

Rather than fall into mysticism or new age spirituality Kelly dives headlong into the diversity of scientific research to analyze this “common soul,” the underlying rules and principles guiding intelligence systems.

He coins a term to unite both made and born systems of intelligence: “vivisystems.” The book’s title, Out of Control, is based on the fact that vivisystems are highly intelligent and highly adaptable (survivable) but only truly succeed when they exist outside of human control.

Perhaps many are threatened by the fear of having to let go of control (while others are excited by the unbounded potential that can come from it) yet Kelly calmly and matter-of-factly explains how lack of central control has always been the case as seen in all large, intelligent (vivi)systems.

The first part of the book goes in depth looking at the born: bee swarms and hives, ant colonies, school of fish, flocks of birds, whole ecosystems, symbiotic relationships in plants and animals and how, over time, coevolution can lead to bizarre, if not successful, strategies of survival as they become more codependent. Later Kelly synthesizes examples of how we are learning the reasons behind the functional success operating within and behind these phenomena in the natural world and how our research and development is (and has been) accelerating technological and societal progress by modeling these principles and methods in digital, computational, industrial, etc. realms.

Without letting this review get lost in the immense depth and detail of this book, suffice it to say what I mentioned so far only scratches the surface of the first pages. Every chapter is overflowing with interesting thoughts, ideas, questions, imaginings, examples and stories from ecology, biology, symbiosis, natural selection, swarms, hive mind, (emergent) order, chaos, history and technological development, physics, chemistry, systems intelligence, the invisible hand, networks, economics and e-currency, collaboration, adaptation, robotics, video games, VR, linear computation and quantum computing, artificial evolution and genetic algorithms, evolution theory, Darwinian and Lamarckian evolution, memetics, the evolution of evolution, life, intelligence, and becoming.

But listing all these things and expecting you to be convinced to read this book is akin to telling you 2+2=4. Fascinatingly, as Kelly explores, “Here 2 + 2 does not equal 4; it does not even surprise with 5. In the logic of emergence, 2 + 2 = apples… [a qualitative change in direction].” All of the topics in this book, when read together create something altogether different. It is more than surprising, it is paradigm changing.

Kelly doesn’t explicitly pound his central thesis into your head so repeatedly as to be annoying and redundant but rather lays out examples from the widest range of topics, allowing the reader to fit all the pieces together. If you take the time to engage with this book an altogether new and unexpected way of understanding life will emerge. It is not a fast read but it is a very rewarding one.
Profile Image for Akhil Jain.
609 reviews32 followers
June 28, 2016
"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
most exciting: the search for strategies and feedback mechanisms that will increasingly self-tune the system each step on the way"

Although the f=ma law still holds sway over the balloon, other forces such as propulsion and airlift push and pull, generate an unpredictable trajectory. in its chaotic dance, the careening balloon mirrors the unpredictable waltz of sunspot cycles, ice age’s temperatures, epidemics, the flow of water down a tube, and, more to the point, the flux of the stock market. But is the balloon really unpredictable? if you tried to solve the equations for the balloon’s crazy flitter, its path would be nonlinear, therefore almost unsolvable, and therefore unforeseeable. yet, a teenager reared on nintendo could learn how to catch the balloon. not infallibly, but better than chance. after a couple dozen tries, the teenage brain begins to mould a theory—an intuition, an induction—based on the data. after a thousand balloon take offs, his brain has modeled some aspect of the rubber’s flight. It cannot predict precisely where the balloon will land, but it detects a direction the missile favors, say, to the rear of the launch or following a certain pattern of loops. Perhaps overtime, the balloon-catcher hits 10 percent more than chance would dictate. For balloon catching, what more do you need? in some games, one doesn’t require much information to make a prediction that is useful. while running from lions, or investing in stocks, the tiniest edge over raw luck is significant. Both the long-term, unpredictable nature of the high dimensional systems, and the short-term, predictable nature of low-dimensional systems, derive from the fact that “chaos” is not the same thing as “randomness.” “There is order in chaos,”

"Immediately after Saddam’s initial invasion, the war gamers shifted internal Look to running endless variations of the “real” scenario. They focused on a group of possibilities revolving around the variant: “what if Saddam keeps on coming right away?” it took ware’s computers about 5 minutes to run each iteration of the forecasted thirty day war. By running those simulations in many directions the team quickly learned that airpower would be the decisive key in this war. Further refined iterations clearly showed the war gamers that if airpower was successful, the U.S. war would be successful. The war gamers cheekily joked that no model reflects the white flag as a weapons system so few long-term predictions prove correct that statistically they are all wrong. yet, by the same statistical measure, so many short term predictions are right, that all short-term predictions are right."

"Modis addresses three types of found order in the greater web of human interactions. Each variety forms a pocket of predictability at certain times. The three pockets of Modis: Invariants, Growth Curves, Cyclic Waves
- Invariants: Instead of walking a half hour to work, you now drive a half hour to work.
- Growth Curves: The worldwide production of cars per year or the lifetime production of symphonies composed by Mozart both fit an S-curve with great precision. This law says that the shape of the ending is symmetrical to the shape of the beginning
- Cyclic Waves: The apparent complex behavior of a system is partly a reflection of the complex structure of the system’s environment. This was pointed out over 30 years ago by herbert simon, who used the journey of an ant over the ground as an illustration. The ant’s jig-jagging path across the soil reflected not the ant’s complex locomotion but the complex structure of its environment. according to Modis, cyclic phenomenon in nature can infuse a cyclic flavor to systems running within it

Together, these three modes of prediction suggest that at certain moments of heightened visibility, the invisible pattern of order becomes clear to those paying attention. Pockets of prediction won’t keep away big surprises. But an image of an approaching predator becomes information about the future now.

"Fundamentalists, as they are called, attempt to understand the driving forces, the underlying dynamics, and the fundamental conditions of a complex phenomenon. in short they seek a theory: f=ma."

Wrong assumptions. even the best model can be sidetracked by false premises. The
original key assumption of the model was that the world contains only a 250-year supply
of nonrenewable resources, and that the demands on that supply are exponential. Twenty years later we know both those assumptions are wrong

"The only way for a system to evolve into something new is to have a flexible structure. A
tiny tadpole can change into a frog, but a 747 Jumbo Jet can’t add six inches to its length
without crippling itself. This is why distributed being is so important to learning and
evolving systems. A decentralized, redundant organization can flex without distorting its
function, and thus it can adapt. it can manage change. we call that growth"

From: http://www.aurosoorya.com/r&d/Out...

1) Cultivate increasing returns. each time you use an idea, a language, or a skill you
strengthen it, reinforce it, and make it more likely to be used again. That’s known as
positive feedback or snowballing.

6) Honour your errors – Errors help in evolution. “Evolution can be thought of as systematic error management.”

7) Pursue no optima; have multiple goals – Complex machinery can’t be efficient; if it works, it is beautiful; forget elegance.

8) Seek persistent disequilibrium – “Neither constancy, nor relentless change will support a creation.” We have to seek the middle point between equilibrium and death – the state of almost-fell. equilibrium is death

This Order makes the collectivity in question behave in an organized, coherent, harmonised, efficient – biological – manner. Examples of such organized groups are ants and bees. Each bee does its work wonderfully in an organized manner, completely submitted to the ‘State’ – the beehive. The beehive doesn’t exist in any one bee, but emerges when the bees come together. Why can’t the same thing be true for humans, wonders the author.
Profile Image for Martin Brochhaus.
149 reviews144 followers
May 12, 2019
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. What is life?
2. What is intelligence/consciousness?
3. What is evolution?

I find it unbelievable that this was written some 20 years ago. If these people have thought so sharply at that time, now that most of their predictions have come true and are slowly drifting into mainstream consciousness, I must wonder what these people are theorising about TODAY.

Overall, there is little actionable knowledge in this book, but it helped me to make A LOT MORE SENSE of this chaotic and hyper connected world we are living in today. Someone who is in their teens/twenties today and needs to decide how to align their life should devour this book.

If you are on a quest, I'd recommend to read The Sovereign Individual, Sapiens, Homo Deus and then this. It will all come together oh so nicely, I promise!

This was probably the most mind blowing book I have read in a decade or more.
128 reviews
July 30, 2021
This was a very dense book that was a struggle to get through. It's basically one, very long narrative with not much break. The topics he covers are interesting, and some of the different examples he dives into much detail on are very interesting as well. It's just that the style never changes and it takes effort to get through.

One interesting part is that because this is written in the 90s, it's quite interesting to see some of his predictions have already come true. For example, in the robotics section, he quite clearly describes a Roomba and this is way before they existed, and we have them now!

I would say unless you're very interested in biology, evolution, the evolution of machines and artificial intelligence, robotics, and such matters, it's not worth your time. If that combination interests you, dive in, just be prepared for it to take awhile...
120 reviews2 followers
August 27, 2019
This book is about the same age as I am but the content seems as pertinent as fitting for this century.
It is an amazing book full of ideas about life, technology, and evolution. The author explores topics that seem unrelated at first glance but then everything aligns and clicks into place in the latter half. The book was long but provided good context for people like me who are unfamiliar with the topics. There were some places I had to put the book down because the new ideas were whirling so excitingly in my head. This is a true gem if you love evolutionary biology, artificial intelligence and philosophy.
Profile Image for Denis Romanovsky.
197 reviews
October 9, 2020
A very long read and very controversial feelings. This book is about control, cybernetics, complexity, evolution and many other things not well-explained by modern science.

The author studies all such topics using a popular science style. The book itself is already not that fresh. Because of that some of the topics seem to be shallow or already outdated, while others are still good and interesting.

Well, I still can recommend this book as it studies a very wide field of topics in complexity, but be ready to patiently go through some unnecessary and sometimes outdated details that you even might want to skip.
Profile Image for Daniel.
18 reviews7 followers
October 28, 2021
The most striking part of reading this book almost 20 years later, is how much of Kevin Kelly's writing in this book comes across as prescient. To be clear, Kelly doesn't claim to predict anything in his book; he takes readers on a methodical exploration of cutting edge research and experts' opinions of the era.

Kelly's writing is easy to read and he is a master of effectively using relatable anecdotes to help readers understand technical material. The book looks long, but Kelly carves it into easily digestible chunks. This is an excellent read for anyone interested in how current events and advancements were shaped by the research of the past.
Profile Image for Terralynn Forsyth.
58 reviews1 follower
December 24, 2021
If you are looking for a novel, interdisciplinary future-focused take from one of the most interesting minds in the tech space that has stood the test of time, this is a treat! While written decades ago, I found the themes, issues, and connections made in this book to be highly relevant to today's age and will be returning to it in the future. On of my favourite chapters was the author's exploration of Borge's story, the Library of Babel, and while pondering Snow Crash over this summer, I found it a really fun compliment.
Profile Image for Bart Schuijt.
26 reviews8 followers
July 23, 2022
Surprisingly interesting read given the year this book was originally published. Kevin Kelly submits various thought-provoking ideas and hypotheses pertaining the future of society, humans, and robotica. Read it with a lot of pleasure, especially the chapters on evolution. Even the annotated bibliography is worth reading completely; it consists of a lot of other interesting reads to pick up next.
Profile Image for Josh.
153 reviews9 followers
December 16, 2017
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.
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