But Kelly zooms out to look at it in terms a much larger, long-term framework, as something that has evolved symbiotically with humanity, intertwining with it and developing in ways that mimic biological development. Some of the analogies to biology work better than others, IMO, but the book is never anything less than fascinating and thought-provoking. At least in that sense but not the only one a great book.
I have also missed a narrative that gives continuity tho the whole but I have found that after your review thanks! Thanks for your comments Andres. I would be curious to know of KK has been inspired by TdC? Thanks for the genuine review. Money is a Decision Technology. In a scaled civilization its ESSENTIAL to make transaction in very small amounts viable… especially in speech, opinion and decision related activity involving large numbers of people. I suppose its a bit over the top to suggest that its a pre-requisite for planetary survival… but maybe not.
Because our planetary decision systems suck the big one right now. It is not an entity capable of desire. Like an enchanted philosopher stoned on his almost wannabee worldview, he churns about amidst myriad delightful anecdotes and memes which inhabit his mind, unable to enforce any structure upon them to create a convincing meaning.
Readers wanting an example of less ego-submerged thinking about social and technical developments are better off consulting Jaron Lanier, whom the reviewer also has discussed recently. Lanier offers much more cogent insights, and one has the sense that further refined observations are coming about the themes which interest him. Besides arguments derived from real human experience instead of abstract theorizing, Lanier offers a grounded approach which is no afraid to proclaim the self-evident reality of things like mind and spirit and consciousness.
Thus he is not handcuffed like many modern intellects by a slavish allegiance to an ideology which cannot withstand serious scrutiny, but rather tried to survive and extend itself by escaping critical examination and functioning as a modern axiom. Thanks for your comments, Rob. I hope to bring all these points of view and more, way behind in my reviews when I finish writing.
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Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Jan 17, Dan rated it did not like it. I immediately took issue with this book. Not because the beginning is slow and dry, as others have rightly pointed out — to setup his argument, Kelly bafflingly appears to have concluded that he must start with the The Big Bang. More than once, his factoid-barrage approach left me feeling as though I were reading the back of a cereal box instead of a structured argument.
His constant use fact tidbits was distracting and, worse, abstracting, since it was frequently impossible to figure out why a piece of information was included. Unfortunately, it was only to get far worse when Kelly actually got to the meat of his argument nearly pages in. While the comparison is cute and can lead to some fun and even thought-provoking analogies, Kelly takes this argument seriously.
This is a shame, because not only is the analogy a rather weak one e. Which is too bad, because the remaining pages of the book are entirely based on reusing this analogy. Complement sandwich time! The reader does at least get a well-deserved break when they stumble upon Chapter Lessons of Amish Hackers.
This chapter is genuinely interesting, insightful, and novel — so much so that I read it aloud to my friends. This chapter gave me a new understanding and respect for the Amish culture, and was not at all what I expected to find buried halfway through the tome. All good things must come to an end though… Pushing onward, the reader is tossed back into the cesspool of shallow thinking and Pollyanna-on-Christmas-sugar-high wishfulness that defines the work.
View all 4 comments. Jan 18, Marc Weidenbaum added it. 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," 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," -- but, of course, we know what came of that prediction. I found the opening chapter This is a characteristic exercise in factoid-packed mega-optimism by the founding editor of Wired Magazine. I found the opening chapter to be one of the most infuriating things I've read in a long time, so dense is it with anthropomorphic mental hijinks.
I highly recommend that if you elect to read this book, you do so by starting with the chapter on how Amish tinkerers are themselves a kind of hacker culture. That chapter provides a sense of grounding to the book, a lens of informed skepticism that is largely lacking elsewhere. It's absolutely fascinating stuff, and of all the books in this book's extensive bibliography, the ones on Amish life are the ones I'm most likely to read next.
Not out of some incipient back-to-the-landness on my part, but because if the ideas on Amish-ness seem the most engaging here, then perhaps the source material for them is also engaging. The book has a lot of interesting ideas, but they're ideas digital sentience, for example that I prefer to have filtered through consciously employed science fiction and I don't mean that as a put-down; if this were all rewritten by Greg Egan, I'd probably love it.
My second biggest issue with the book after its anthropomorphic exuberance is how Kelly shifts his depth-of-field in ways that support his moment-by-moment sense of what he is describing. Toward the end, for example, he criticizes Wendell Berry for being "stuck on the cold, hard, yucky stuff," by which he seems to mean focusing too much on specific technological objects, rather than the broad sweep of technology.
But Kelly himself has focuses on specifics himself throughout the book when it serves his rhetorical purpose. View all 5 comments. Oct 07, Jane Friedman rated it it was amazing. 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.
View 2 comments. Mar 12, Dave Emmett rated it it was amazing Shelves: technology , must-read , 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 Wow.
For billions of years, atoms traversed the universe in solitude, never encountering anything else but the emptiness of space. The history of the universe is one where atoms encounter greater and greater change, from nothingness to being used in the running of a computer chip. Atoms just want to have fun, and technology allows them to hang out with a lot more atoms and have a lot more fun I'm paraphrasing. But the whole thing was amazing, if you are even remotely interested in what the future entails and if you aren't, you should be then you have to read this book.
Apr 25, Nick rated it it was ok 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? 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 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?
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 all technology is good because it creates more choices for humans.
Kelly asserts that all choices are good choices, equating the choice among 85 different kinds of crackers in the average American supermarket with a young person's choice of vocation, or the choice to use a weapons technology with the choice to use civil disobedience. In the real world, not all choices are morally equivalent or equally meaningful. Not recommended. Jan 23, Book Calendar rated it really liked it Shelves: philosophy , computers , technology , internet , innovation. 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 What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly Kevin Kelly views technology as a natural organic living process. The humanizing aspect is a view of increased possibilities, more opportunities to create greater freedoms and greater choice. The author shows how machines improve our lives and expand our possibilities. He also includes systems of thought like science, art, and law as part of technology.
He describes how technology evolved as we evolved from the stone age to modern cities. Where it fails and seems a bit dehumanizing is his taking a picture of nature that seems very utilitarian. He describes that eventually there will be no waste with biophilic technology. I think this lessens nature and makes it machine like.
He even claims the Amish are part of the technium because of how they use technology. This was a bit far fetched to me. I don't like to think of myself as evolving in a similar way to a machine. The unabomber, Ted Kaczynski's anti-technology views are gone into. This was quite daring to do.
A shelter is animal technology, the animal extended. And like the angel, the technium will simply ask you why you ask. But in a real way we do a risk-benefit analysis. There is more good than evil in the world - but not by much. Discomfort is an investment. The progression of inventions is in many ways the march toward forms dictated by physics and chemistry in a sequence determined by the rules of complexity.
Kevin Kelly does not shy from tackling some opposing view points. He even talks about primitivism.
This makes the book different. There is a deeply philosophical bent to the writing. I can recognize some of the philosophy. Some of it is very much at the edge of high technology. He seems to be trodding a slightly different path than transhumanism where the idea is that we will become more than human when we integrate with machines. Kevin Kelly also does not argue for the singularity where machines become smarter than humans. Machines are a different kind of intelligence than human intelligence.
His ultimate goal is to open infinite games for people, more choice, more freedom, more opportunities through technology. Read this book it will open your mind to new ideas. It makes you think. Kevin Kelly helped launched Wired Magazine. It includes notes, an annotated reading list, black and white photographs, charts, and an index. It is very much a popular science title. Sep 12, G33z3r rated it it was ok Shelves: history , science-technology , audiobook , non-fiction.
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 A disappointing pastiche of New Age ideas layered on regurgitated Jacob Bronowski, Richard Dawkins and James Burke, occasionally invoking flawed logic as well.
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 how they decide whether to use or reject a particular portion of technology. Ultimately, there really isn't much of a conclusion beyond "think about what technology you decide to embrace" but not much thought on how society as a whole can make such judgments, especially since as the author points out predicting where a given technology will lead is nearly impossible.
Jun 02, Jon rated it liked it. 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. Mar 23, Nick rated it it was ok. 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. He talks about the Amish a few times, how they interact with technology, and how they balance it with community. Without the cerebral structure of language we couldn't access our own mental activity. Just because we have a language doesn't mean creatures couldn't access their mental activity without one.
And I don't know that language reveals what the mind thinks Apparently the phrase is, then, a "skeuonym". You decide whether to speak the truth at any trial, even if you have a genetic or familial propensity to lie. You decide whether or not to risk befriending a stranger, no matter your genetic or cultural bias toward shyness. You decide beyond your inherent tendencies or conditioning. But isn't some cognitive research about decision making a little less certain on the subject?
Lower processes determine things before you're aware of the decision? I highly recommend elective poverty and minimalism as a fantastic education, not least because it will help you sort out your technology priorities. But I have observed that simplicity's fullest potential requires that one consider minimalism one phase of many even if a recurring phase The Paradox of Choice.
In that way I am not that different from the Amish, who benefit from the outsiders around them fully engaged with electricity, phones, and cars. But unlike individuals who opt out of individual technologies, Amish society indirectly constrains others as well as themselves. If we apply the ubiquity test - what happens if everyone does it - to the Amish way, the optimization of choice collapses. By constraining the suite of acceptable occupations and narrowing education, the Amish are holding back possibilities not just for their children by indirectly for all. Yet to maximize the contentment of others, we must maximize the amount of technology in the world.
Indeed, we can only find our own minimal tools if others have created a sufficient maximum pool of options we can choose from.
The dilemma remains in how we can personally minimize stuff close to us while trying to expand it globally. In other words, the risks of a particular technology have to be determined by trial and error in real life. It is to come up with a better idea. Indeed, we should prefer a bad idea to no ideas at all, because a bad idea can at least be reformed, while not thinking offers no hope.
We adopt new technologies largely because of what they do for us, but also in part because of what they mean to us. Often we refuse to adopt technology for the same reason: because of how the avoidance reinforces or shapes our identity. But as photography became easier to use, common cameras led to intense photojournalism a, and eventually they hatched movies and Hollywood alternatives realities. The diffusion of cameras cheap enough that every family had one in turn fed tourism, globalism, and international travel.
The further diffusion of cameras into cell phones and digital devices birthed a universal sharing of images, the conviction that something is not real until it is captured on camera, and a sense that there is no significance outside of the camera view. Quantum choice probably does not play a role in these choices. Rather, a billion interacting deterministic factors influence it. Because unraveling these factors is an intractable problem, these choices are in practice free-will decisions of the network, and the internet is making billions of them every day.
I'm not physicist, but quantum effects have to bubble up to everything else, right?
While we don't understand them, it doesn't mean they don't play a role in more macro-scale happenings. And that last sentence really gets me. F that. Co-dependence, working together Only in this way: by providing each person with chances. A chance to excel at the unique mixture of talents he or she was born with, a chance to encounter new ideas and new minds, a chance to be different from his or her parents, a chance to create something his or her own.
Kevin Kelly is fascinated by the cosmos, nature, humanity and technology. 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 Kevin Kelly is fascinated by the cosmos, nature, humanity and technology.
While denying Intelligent Design he believes that there is an imperative operating which instigates and lays the foundations and conditions for biologic life and even sentience. Taking it one step further, arising out of life and sentience must come technology. At the pinnacle of these phases is the one we currently inhabit, the Technium. If we are but a stepping stone toward some undiscovered purpose of the Technium, what might that be? To demonstrate the inevitability of this cosmic drive he references the Goldilocks Principle - that our planet has just the right combination of conditions to support biological and intelligent life.
Beyond that he spotlights the many times that critical developmental milestones in human history have occurred almost simultaneously in different parts of the world or from the minds of different people. For instance, the transition from hunter-gatherer cultures to agrarian to villages, cities and empires, extending from China to the Fertile Crescent, the Nile Valley, Central and South America. Pointing out that Newton was not the only person to reveal the intricacies of calculus, Darwin not the only one to see evolution at work, Bell was actually rather lucky to be credited with inventing the telephone.
Other examples abound. In other words, there seems to be an inevitability in the march of technological progress. Beyond parallel cultural developments, another tendency seems to be manifesting itself over time, expanding choices, allowing individuals ever more avenues to explore and exploit to their individual benefit and that of humanity in general. In support of this Kelly cites individuals who, if born in other times, would have wasted their enormous talents and insights. If Einstein had been born in the 17th and not the 19th century the mathematical nor scientific groundwork would have been conducive to the fertile products of his imagination.
Had Steve Jobs or Bill Gates been born but a couple, or even a single, generation before where would their talents have placed them. The conjunction of time and individual are important. The Technium maximizes the value of individual genius by allowing greater choices and appropriate areas in which to apply their talents - and it does this on a lesser scale to everyone.
The developments of Artificial Intelligence and robotics are symptomatic of the Technium at work. He is a positivist in the sense that progress, despite any collateral damage, or unintended consequences, cannot be, and should not be, stifled or stopped. What bothers me most about this work is that he has no real problem of where his Technium may be taking us, that it is essentially, a force of nature which cannot be denied. Should it involve the ultimate extinction of humanity, he seems to be saying that we should not be too bothered, after all what will come will be better.
Better for whom? View all 3 comments. 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 Kevin Kelly is an optimist.
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 by becoming such a deep part of it that it becomes a necessity rather than an option, like mobile phones today.
My beef with the book is the attempt from the author to try linking the evolution of the technium as he calls it, with the biological one - in fact he stretches all the way back to the big bang a few times - and giving it the same characteristics, such as random mutation and natural selection, that propel biological evolution. He spends a large part of the book on this, but in the end I don't see why it was necessary to do it. His arguments are well presented, and makes for interesting reading, but in the end it at best comes across as an anthropomorphic thought experiment.
It is an optimist's book. The subtitle sort of puts it in perspective, Technology is a living force that can expand our living potential - if we listen to what it wants. I can't say I fully agree with all of it, and after all much of technology is used to game the system and control people too, but Kelly argues that it isn't technology that does it but the human who wants to guns don't kill people, people kill people and that as technology becomes more ubiquitous and invisible in our lives it will start dictating what the normal behavior is.
He believes this normal will be a peaceful one because it is the one with maximum potential and an evolutionary process will sort itself out to head in that direction eventually. I'm not entirely convinced of this. Anyway, not a half bad book. Could have been half the number of pages though. Jul 28, A. Mignan rated it it was amazing Shelves: science-tech. This book had been on my to-read pile for a while. 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. I particularly enjoyed the section on synchronicity of discoveries in engineering, science and literature, as well as the sections on the Unabomber and the Amish. Overall a great read, which I highly recommend. The bias towards an optimistic vision of the future is easily forgiven as the negative sides are at least, partially, mentioned as well. Includes many interesting tidbits too, as well as references to other books and articles to read. I feel it started to lose steam towards the last pages.
Because of the bias, should be complemented with some reading from the other side of the spectrum. Mar 28, Jenny rated it it was amazing. 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.
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 I loved this book!! Think of this as changeability. This exhilarating self-acceleration resembles the mythical snake Uroboros grabbing its own tail and turning itself inside out. It is rife with paradox—and promise. Sep 02, Christopher Willey added it Shelves: zpd , mandatory-reading.
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. Mar 23, Danny Gibson rated it it was ok. 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. Sep 04, Charles rated it it was amazing. 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 s.
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 for himself no laptop, smartphone or Twitter account. But for all the thoughtful reservations, What Technology Wants is hugely positive.
No: since the Big Bang, the universe has been diversifying into smaller and more specialised units — whether atoms, molecules, organisms, social structures, or now, the structures created by technology. Now we can see how chemicals were created, why life evolved from the simplest structures and why human life is getting so complicated. Indeed, he argues that technological development is just a continuation of that process.
Indeed, a quick flick through some Teilhard websites confirms my suspicion of the echoes with Kelly — the common ground being ideas of universal progress and a certain hippy sensibility. Everything seems to fit. But can we allow ourselves the comfort — and I think it is that — of a theory which puts humanity and all its works at the forefront of universal progress as the culmination of billions of years of physical and biological evolution?