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The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future Paperback – June 6, 2017
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“A quintessential work of technological futurism . . . what’s valuable about The Inevitable, from a business perspective, is less what it says about how to innovate, and more what it says about where to innovate.” – James Surowiecki, strategy + business, “Best Business Books 2017 – Innovation”
"Anyone can claim to be a prophet, a fortune teller, or a futurist, and plenty of people do. What makes Kevin Kelly different is that he's right. In this book, you're swept along by his clear prose and unassailable arguments until it finally hits you: The technological, cultural, and societal changes he’s foreseeing really are inevitable. It’s like having a crystal ball, only without the risk of shattering."
—David Pogue, Yahoo Tech
"This book offers profound insight into what happens (soon!) when intelligence flows as easily into objects as electricity."
—Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail
“How will the future be made? Kevin Kelly argues that the sequence of events ensuing from technical innovation has its own momentum . . . and that our best strategy is to understand and embrace it. Whether you find this prospect wonderful or terrifying, you will want to read this extremely thought-provoking book.”
—Brian Eno, musician and composer
"Kevin Kelly has been predicting our technological future with uncanny prescience for years. Now he's given us a glimpse of how the next three decades will unfold with The Inevitable, a book jam-packed with insight, ideas, and optimism."
—Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One
"As exhilarating as the most outlandish science fiction novel, but based on very real trends. Kevin Kelly is the perfect tour guide for this life-changing future."
—Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing
"Creating a fictional future is easy; Kevin Kelly makes a habit of doing the difficult by showing us where we're actually going. The Inevitable is an eye-opening roadmap for what lies ahead. Science fiction is on its way to becoming science fact."
—Hugh Howey, author of Wool
—Marc Andreessen, co-founder Andreessen Horowitz
About the Author
Kevin Kelly helped launch Wired magazine and was its executive editor for its first seven years. He has written for The New York Times, The Economist, Science, Time, and The Wall Street Journal among many other publications. His previous books include Out of Control, New Rules for the New Economy, Cool Tools, and What Technology Wants. Currently Senior Maverick at Wired, Kelly lives in Pacifica, California.
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Where the topic is life thirty years hence, it was amazing to me
how much change has already occurred. I'm almost 90, and won't
see that future, but it sure was fun to visualize it.
The author looks back over the 30 years that he's had his ringside seat, considers what he's seen and predicted over that 30 years and then he projects forward over the next 30 years to see where he thinks technology will take us. He clearly states that he considers the positive aspects of future change, not the negative aspects. The author predicts that certain technological trends or impulses are inevitable, not specific outcomes. So, don't expect to see predictions of a world free of war or cures for all cancers, that's not what he views as the what he terms "bias" of technological change. He identifies 12 of these biases and discusses how they have played out over the 30 years that he's been observing them and how he thinks they'll evolve over the next 30 years. For instance, he views telephony as inevitable, but the iPhone was not. The internet was inevitable, but the specific form of internet that we presently have was not.
I'll touch on a few of the 12 and encourage you to read the book for the full observations. Flowing - the book describes the internet as the world's largest copying machine. Information in many forms is copied and distributed. usually for free. The industrial revolution brought analog copies of information such as music. These copies were exact and cheap. The internet brings digital music - exact and free. This affects value propositions and law, which causes change. He considers how this change and looks for responses to this change. Trust may become even more valuable.
Screening - where once we may have been people who read books and did things "by the book," the author argues that we are now people of the screen (the computer screen). People of the Screen live "in a world of constant flux." Paperback at pg. 88. As he says, "truth is not delivered by authors and authorities, but is assembled in real time piece by piece by the audience themselves." Pg. 88. I'll let you decide how this may be playing out in society today.
Questioning - Wikipedia was a great shock to the author. When Wikipedia began, Mr. Kelly could not believe that it would be anything other than an abject failure. As he says, "I knew from my own 20-year experience that you could not rely upon what you read from a random stranger.... I believed that an aggregation of random contributions would be a total mess" Pg. 269. The ability to many people to self-organize through the internet a reasonably coherent body of information was eye opening. "I am looking forward to having my mind changed a lot in the coming years." Pg. 274.
The author describes "becoming, cognifying, flowing, screening, accessing, sharing, filtering, remixing,interacting, tracking, questioning, and beginning" as areas in which change is inevitable. In all of these I find the "tracking" most troubling. But, like the author, with the passage of time, I may find my mind changed a lot.
I encourage you to read the book and see if it challenges your mind.
This is a book that whose ideas are meant to be slowly pondered on, not to be gobbled up quickly. As in his previous works there is an underlying sense that technology has a will of its own, it wants to go in a certain direction which we would do well to align with. What I found most illustrative were the scenarios at the end of each chapter where he shows what life in the future looks like after the technological force described in it has had enough time to play out, a positive take on what popular TV shows like Black Mirror paint in a very dark way.
The optimism that pervades the book requires the reader to take the long view, to look beyond the present state. At a time when we are bombarded with news stories about the disappearance of privacy, the surveillance state, cyberwarfare, and the automation of millions of jobs out of existence Kelly can come across as a hopeless Pollyanna, and when he claims that "propaganda is less effective in a world of screens, because while misinformation travels as fast as electrons corrections do too" calling this naive is too soft a word after a US election where fake news played a big role and traditional fact checking could not penetrate the social media bubbles we now live in. But like Kelly says when describing the Becoming force, technology is still evolving and just because we don't have a solution today to these problems doesn't mean that they will not eventually arise after these forces have run their course. With that confidence we can best appreciate what Kelly has to say.