The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly is all about – Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that will shape our Future.
After a long time, I read a book about technology that was so engrossing and well thought out. Kevin Kelly works with Wired magazine and has seen the technology take over our era since the 1970s. He has been privy to many experiments before they became mainstream. He, of course, knows the who’s who of technology world – both the humans and technologies. In this book, The Inevitable Kevin Kelly talks about how technology will shape the next 30 years. He does not talk about technologies, thankfully. He talks about the changes the new technologies have brought in the way we think, use, consume and interact. These changes would define the next wave in technology. If you think you have seen the best of technology, Kellly does not agree with you.
He begins by saying ‘Keeping a website afloat is like keeping a yacht afloat – it is a black hole for attention’. As someone managing 3-4 websites, I could not have agreed more with him. He talks about 12 things rather 12 verbs that define the base for the next set of technological evolution. Of course, he thinks Artificial Intelligence would take over eventually. It makes perfect sense when he says today AI exists in isolation in different devices, next level would be when they start coordinating with each other. In the ‘Cognifying’ sections he talks about how machines are no longer learning to play a game, but they are learning how to learn to play a game. He brings in the concept of ‘Artificial Aliens’.
In the chapter ‘Becoming’ – he talks about us living in perpetual Beta state – we are always a newbie as the products are continuously evolving and updating themselves. He calls the Internet the biggest copy machine.
Printing instilled in society a reverence for precision (of Black Ink on White Paper), an appreciation for linear logic (in a string of sentences), a passion for objectivity (a printed fact) and an allegiance to authority (via authors) whose truth was as fixed and final as a book.
It made me think – Did writing froze our narratives? A book has a beginning, middle and an end while the web, on the other hand, is a collection of loosely joined content. We may not have broken away from books but the web is changing the way we consume – through screens.
Most important change happening with technology is that we are moving away from possessing to accessing. We are moving away from owning cars to accessing cars using apps like Uber. We are moving away from owning books to accessing books when you need with Amazon Prime. You can call it sharing economy – to me, it means overall less consumption or consuming exactly what we need. Kevin Kelly says products encourage ownership and services discourage. So, we are moving away from products to services.
In ‘Sharing’ he says we are moving from hierarchy to networks. We will work on the motto – No one is as smart as everyone.
In ‘Filtering’ and ‘Remixing’ he talks about the role of filtering when we have access to almost everything we need. If you access to all possible books in the world, you need help in picking up the ones you read. Similarly, a lot of new content would be created by remixing the already available content – we already see a barrage of old music being remixed.
In ‘Interacting’ he predicts that technologies will get more and more interactive. Our voice will play a more prominent role and our finger and eyes may get a bit of relaxation. In ‘Tracking’ he makes us aware of all the tracking that is happening at the moment. You think you are looking at the mobile screen, but at the same time the screen is recording every action of yours and using that data to serve you next time. As a reader and writer, I wondered how our stories will change when everything is so transparent. All the mysteries and secrets would be accessible to everyone if they want to access. Or, we as humans will evolve to find new ways to conceal things we want to conceal including our thoughts and emotions.
Best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click Ads – Jeff Hammerbacher, former Facebook employee
In ‘Questioning’ while he talks about all the mundane questions that the Search Engines can answer for us. He makes us think about the questions that would bring in the next big change. He qualifies good questions by saying:
- A good question is not concerned with a correct answer.
- A good question cannot be answered immediately.
- A good question challenges existing answers.
- A good question is one that you badly want to be answered once you hear it but had no inkling you cared before it was asked.
- A good question creates new territory of thinking.
- A good question reframes its own answers.
- A good question is a seed for innovation in science, technology, art, politics, and business.
- A good question is a probe, a what-if scenario.
- A good question skirts on the edge of what is known and not known, neither silly nor obvious.
- A good question cannot be predicted.
- A good question is the one that generates many other good questions.
- A good question may be the last job a machine will learn to do.
- A good question is what humans are for.
The ‘Beginning’ which is the last chapter of Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable tells you it is just the beginning – magic has just started unfolding.
Although the book The Inevitable is about technology, the language that Kevin Kelly uses is that of a storyteller. You can almost visualize him sitting with equipment all around him when he first tests a technology. You imagine robots talking to each other without your intervention. You are excited about what the next generation of technology might reveal. He lets you imagine the world with him. I think he is a remarkable writer, I am going to follow his writings more closely.
Go, Read this Book – even if you are not particularly interested in technology because like it or not, technology is a part of your life inevitably.