(Book) The inevitable – Kevin Kelly

Kurt.nzBooks read, Business, career, finance


A book by someone who has spent most of his life thinking about the future.

My thoughts in italics.


The Inevitable – Kevin Kelly (highlights)

Our greatest invention in the last 200 years was not a gadget or a tool, but the invention of the scientific process itself.


1. Becoming

Everything requires energy to maintain itself. Existence is chiefly maintenance.

Because things need endless upgrading, we’ll constantly be newbies.

Protopia is a state of becoming. Things are a little better today than they were yesterday.

Kurt: Imagine a world where no one owns a home. Everyone lives in standard automated accommodation, the same the world over. You can move when you want. Global shared ownership of these facilities. Business idea: Shared ownership of hotel like apartments in major cities, standardised. Can move cities when you want.

People predicted the internet and a small amount of what it could do. No one predicted that almost all content would be user generated.

The coolest stuff of all on the internet has not yet been invented.


2. Cognifying

Even a tiny amount of intelligence embedded into an existing process boosts its effectiveness to a whole other level.

The arrival of AI accelerates all other disruptions.

The business plans of the next 10,000 start-ups are easy to forecast. Take X and add AI to it.

Human thinking is only one species of thinking. What if we had different types and could use/combine at will?

Our most important mechanical inventions are not ones that do what we can do but better, but ones that can do what we can’t do at all, and think what we can’t think.

As we invent more species of AI, we’ll surrender more of what makes us uniquely human and therefore will need to discover what humans are useful for.

Once robots do almost everything, our human jobs will be to keep finding jobs for the robots.

Let the robots take our jobs, let us dream up new work that matters.


3. Flowing

The super distribution system of the internet has become the foundation of our economy and wealth. Endless copies.

Internet: 1. Replicated desktop. 2. All about pages. 3. All about streams and flows. We’re now entering the third phase.

When copies are super-abundant, they become worthless. You can only charge a high-price for things that can’t be copied. E.g. trust, immediacy, personalisation, interpretation, authenticity, accessibility, embodiment, patronage, discoverability.

User generated custom music will soon be the norm (without having to be musical).

Fixity vs. fluidity. They can and will also be combined.

Imagine movies, music, documentaries, stories being shared, modified, added to, updated by users in real-time. Flowing.


4. Screening

From people of the book to people of the screen.

‘Screening’ includes reading words, but also watching words and reading images.

Imagine books more like Wikipedia. You can see other people’s notes, highlights, links and comments.

Kurt: Amazon already does this to a certain extent.

A universal library.

Just like we remix music, we’ll be able to remix all knowledge into snippets, pages, sections etc.


5. Accessing

Every year we own less of what we use. Possession is not as important as it once was. Accessing is more important than ever.

Dematerialisation. Everything’s getting smaller, lighter and using less material.

X as service not product. Software, houses, cars etc.

Real-time, on demand. Traditional services unbundled and combined in various ways, immediately.


E.g. Bitcoin. Trust in math instead of governments.

Public commons. Everybody owns it so nobody owns it. E.g. the internet.

Platform synergy.

Firm, marketplace, platform. Everybody’s success depends on everybody else’s.


Hyperlinked data. The cloud does all the work, our device is just a window.

Mesh service – devices talking and sharing directly with each other, no central point or communications.

Kurt: Like a cell phone network that doesn’t use any towers. It just passes information from one device to another until it gets to the intended device.


6. Sharing

Digital socialism. Wikis, creative commons, commenting sites etc.


Every time we are at the limit of sharing things online, we share more.

Bottom up democracies/networks also need a bit of tip down control. But bottom-up, out of control is the best way to start.

The domination of mass media / mass audiences is gone, now it’s a world of niche fulfilment.

The largest, most profitable companies of 2050 will be ones that have figured out how to harness aspects of sharing that are invisible and unappreciated today.


7. Filtering

You can now read, watch, listen to more content than anyone ever before.

More and more sites recommending things to you based on your history and people similar. You do risk ‘filter-bubble’.

Extreme, mass-produced, rapid personalisation.

A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.

Attention is the last scarcity (or time is). Wherever that flows, money will flow.

Imagine peer-to-peer ads. Users create content, others host it, the best ones are kept, the others are dropped.

Kurt: And ones that are used get a commission for each sale.

Over time, technology tends towards the free.

Human experiences are getting more expensive, everything else is commoditized.

With everything at our fingertips, the real question is ‘what do we want?’


8. Remixing

Sustainable growth comes from remixing current resources, not from new resources.

Most authors use words that are already there. What we do with words, we’ll soon do with images.

How can we browse a film the way we browse a book? Or search it like we do with Google?

Rewindability allows us to be more creative, undoing any changes we want.


9. Interacting

VR is getting more realistic faster than movies are.

Soon technology will perceive how we feel – face and adjust accordingly. E.g. reading difficult text, explanations will appear.

If something isn’t interactive, it’s broken.

Ordinary life, will all the senses etc, can be gamified.


10. Tracking

Quantified self. We need all the help we can get to measure ourselves as we are biased.

Anything that can be tracked, is. This will only become more common.

Lifestream – a chronological order for anything in your life. So much more intuitive than file structures.

Imagine an indexed and searchable archive of everything you said, heard, read or did.

Kurt: Like the movie ‘Final Cut’.

You are tracked everyday by dozens of systems. The fear of big brother is when these systems are combined.

There’s an information explosion happening.

The human impulse to share overwhelms the human impulse for privacy. Personal/transparent vs. private/generic. Vanity trumps privacy.

Coveillance (equal surveillance, each watching each) is our natural state.

Anonymity is a rare commodity.

If there is enough of something it’s possible to exhibit properties not seen at all in smaller examples. Big data analytics. This will require statistical and math analyses we’ve not yet discovered.


11. Questioning

What else could Wikipedia work for? Law, music, movies, books, intelligence.

What is this all happening now? This is the first time in history where billions of people can collaborate and be linked in real time.

We are now exposed to super-human feats in videos every day. We no longer want to see ‘normal’. This can inspire us to do great things, it can also lead to dissatisfaction with anything ordinary.

For every fact, there’s an anti-fact, for every expert there’s an anti-expert. This leads us to question everything. Truth is harder to find.

To make sense of this all, we need to be flowing as fast as the information is flowing.

You may be surfing the web, jumping to and fro and it may seem like a waste of time and splitting of attention. But actually you’re focussed on one big system, paying attention to that. Collecting all the data points into one big show. We are participating in an open ended question: what is it?

Each answer breeds more questions. We have probably not asked our biggest questions yet.

Answers are fast becoming cheap, the inversion will be that questions become valuable. Questioning is simply more powerful than answering.


12. Beginning

It is now the beginning. The convergence of people, things, knowledge. The first time the inhabitants of this planet linked themselves into one very large thing.

Collective intelligence combined with machines combined with nature. Holos.

Sharing is just beginning, ownership to access has barely begun, flows and streams are still trickles, we’ll be tracking more. Everything will be assisted by cognification/AI. It is a beginning.

Hard AI, machine takes over constantly improving, our last invention. Soft AI, humans plus machines. Who knows. Singularity beyond our comprehension.