The Inevitable – Kevin Kelly

The Inevitable: Understanding 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future – by Kevin Kelly
Date read: 12/27/17. Recommendation 7/10.

Kelly is a great teacher when it comes to helping others think beyond the realm of current possibilities. I often find myself fighting the inertia of the way things currently are, instead of looking at the inevitable trends and determining what's next. The specific forces he outlines become a bit repetitive, as there is significant overlap to each. But as a whole it's a great exercise in reminding yourself to take your thinking to the next level. Kelly is also refreshingly optimistic about the future of technology. He suggests that while we have little control over the inevitable technological forces on the horizon, we do have influence over their character and how symmetrical those relationships end up being. 

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.


My Notes:

Everything, without exception, requires additional energy and order to maintain itself. I knew this in the abstract as the famous second law of thermodynamics, which states that everything is falling apart slowly...Existence, it seems, is chiefly maintenance.

Most of the important technologies that will dominate life 30 years from now have not yet been invented.

Technology is taking us to protopia...a state of becoming rather than destination. It is a process. In the protopian mode, things are better today than they were yesterday, although only a little better...This subtle progress is not dramatic, not exciting.

The revolution launched by the web was only marginally about hypertext and human knowledge. At its heart was a new kind of participation that has since developed into an emerging culture based on sharing.

The accretion of tiny marvels can numb us to the arrival of the stupendous.

Coming out of the industrial age, when mass-produced goods out-performed anything you could make yourself, this sudden tilt toward consumer involvement is a surprise. We thought, "That amateur do-it-yourself thing died long ago, back in the horse-and-buggy era."

But the web in 2050 won't be a better web...It will have become something new, as different from the web today as the first web was from TV.

The AI on the horizon looks more like Amazon Web Services–cheap, reliable, industrial-grade digital smartness running behind everything, and almost invisible except when it blinks off.

The business plans of the next 10,000 startups are easy to forecast: Take X and add AI. Find something that can be made better by adding online smartness to it.

"AI is akin to building a rocket ship. You need a huge engine and a lot of fuel. The rocket engine is the learning algorithms but the fuel is the huge amounts of data we can feed to these algorithms." -Andrew Ng

If AI can help humans become better chess players, it stands to reason that it can help us become better pilots, better doctors, better judges, better teachers.

Nonhuman intelligence is not a bug; it's a feature. The most important thing to know about thinking machines is that they will think different.

Because of a quirk in our evolutionary history, we are cruising as the only self-conscious species on our planet, leaving us with the incorrect idea that human intelligence is singular. It is not.

One of the advantages of having AIs drive our cars is that they won't drive like humans, with our easily distracted minds.

Industrial revolution eliminated all but 1 percent of farming jobs, but automation created hundreds of millions of jobs in entirely new fields.

Third age of computing: prime units are flows and streams. We've moved from batches or daily, to real time.

The union of a zillion streams of information intermingling, flowing into each other, is what we call the cloud...The cloud is the new organizing metaphor for computers. The foundational units of this third digital regime, then, are flows, tags, and clouds.

A universal law of economics says the moment something becomes free and ubiquitous, its position in the economic equation suddenly inverts. When nighttime electrical lighting was new and scarce, it was the poor who burned common candles. Later, when electricity became easily accessible and practically free, our preference flipped and candles at dinner became a sign of luxury.

Deep down, avid audiences and fans want to pay creators...But they will only pay under four conditions that are not often met: 1) It must be extremely easy to do; 2) The amount must be reasonable; 3) There's a clear benefit to them for paying; and 4) It's clear the money will directly benefit the creators.

Book reading strengthened our analytical skills, encouraging us to pursue an observation all the way down to the footnote. Screening encourages rapid pattern making, associating one idea with another, equipping us to deal with the thousands of new thoughts expressed every day.

Ownership is casual, fickle. If something better comes along, grab it. A subscription, on the other hand gushes a never-ending stream of updates, issues, and versions that force a constant interaction between the producer and the consumer.

-The most important innovation in Bitcoin is its "blockchain," the mathematical technology that powers it.

-When I send you one bitcoin, no central intermediary is involved. Our transaction is posted in a public ledger–called a blockchain–that is distributed to all other bitcoin owners in the world. This shared database contains a long "chain" of the transaction history of all existing bitcoins and who owns them.

-A new transaction like ours must be mathematically confirmed by multiple other owners before it is accepted as legitimate. In this way a blockchain creates trust by relying on mutual peer-to-peer accounting.

-A number of startups and venture capitalists are dreaming up ways to use blockchain technology as a general purpose trust mechanism beyond money. For transactions that require a high degree of trust between strangers, such as real estate escrows and mortgage contracts...

As we increase dematerialization, decentralization, simultaneity, platforms, and the cloud–as we increase all those at once, access will continue to displace ownership. For most things in life, accessing will trump owning.

The need for some top-down selection would only increase in value as the amount of user-generated content expanded...Facebook and Twitter's algorithm to sort your feed, Wikipedia's veteran editors. You don't need much of them, just a trace.

I have learned that in collaborative work when you share earlier in the process, the learning and successes come earlier as well.

The more powerful the invention or creation, the more likely and more important it is that it will be transformed by others. In 30 years the most important cultural works and the most powerful mediums will be those that have been remixed the most.

How we handle rewards for innovation, intellectual property rights and responsibilities, ownership of and access to copies makes a huge difference to society's prosperity and happiness. Ubiquitous copying (and tracking) is inevitable, but we have significant choices about its character.

The fastest-increasing quantity on this planet is the amount of information we are generating. New information is growing at 66 percent per year, doubling every 18 months, which is the rate of Moore's Law.

In our everyday lives we generate far more information that we don't yet capture and record...Taming this wild information will ensure that the total amount of information we collect will keep doubling for many decades ahead.

Metadata is the new wealth because the value of bits increases when they are linked to other bits.

Ubiquitous surveillance is inevitable. Since we cannot stop the system from tracking, we can only make the relationships more symmetrical.

Bitcoin transparently logs every transaction in its economy in a public ledger, thereby making all financial transactions public. The validity of a transaction is verified by a coveillance of other users rather than the surveillance of a central bank.

There is a one-to-one correspondence between personalization and transparency. Greater personalization requires greater transparency. Absolute personalization (vanity) requires absolute transparency (no privacy).

If today's social media has taught us anything about ourselves as a species, it is that the human impulse to share overwhelms the human impulse for privacy...Vanity trumps privacy.

If anonymity is present in any significant quality, it will poison the system. While anonymity can be used to protect heroes, it is far more commonly used as aw ay to escape responsibility. That's why most of the brutal harassment on Twitter, Yik Yak, Reddit, and other sites is delivered anonymously. A lack of responsibility unleashes the worst in us.

Like all trace elements, anonymity should never be eliminated completely, but it should be kept as close to zero as possible.

Wikipedia works because it turns out that, with the right tools, it is easier to restore damaged text (the revert function on Wikipedia) than to create damaged text (vandalism).

No one would have believed 30 years ago that there was an $82 billion business in answering people's questions for cheap or for free (Google).

Part of the increasing ease in providing answers lies in the fact that past questions answered correct increase the likelihood of another question. At the same time, past correct answers increase the ease of creating the next answer, and increase the value of the corpus of answers as a whole. Each question we ask a search engine and each answer we accept as correct refines the intelligence of the process, increasing the engine's value for future questions.

A good question is not concerned with a correct answer.
A good question challenges existing answers.
A good question is the seed of innovation in science, technology, art, politics, and business.
A good question skirts on the edge of what is known and not known, neither is silly nor obvious.

Question makers will be seen, properly, as the engines that generate new fields, new industries, new brands, new possibilities, new continents that our restless species can explore. Questioning is simply more powerful than answering.