Technology

How technology evolves: Kevin Kelly on TED.com

This week we continue to bring you timeless archived talks while the TED media team gets some R and R.

In his 2005 talk on how technology evolves, Kevin Kelly attempts to reconcile his lust for the newest technological gadget with his abstemious impulse to sell all of his technology, save a bicycle on which he traveled across the U.S. along country back roads. Despite the fact that he runs Cool Tools, a blog on the latest and greatest in technology, Kelly admits that he endeavors to keep technology at abeyance in his daily life. Kelly’s conflicting history has prompted him to investigate the significance of technology to humanity.

Kelly begins his investigation by viewing the trends of technology through the lens of biology, drawing upon Richard Dawkins’ evolutionary concept of the selfish gene, to ask what technology wants. Kelly finds that the long-term trends of biological evolution- increased ubiquity, diversity, specialization, complexity, and socialization- are the exact same long-term trends of technological evolution. Thus, Kelly suggests we may consider technology as the seventh kingdom of life, sprouting from the animal kingdom, although technology deviates from biology in that technology does not die out, but rather accelerates evolution, or how we search for ideas. Technology participates in an infinite game that is continuous; it is played to keep playing and rewards evolving evolution as a means to perpetuate the game.

Kevin Kelly is the co-founding executive editor of Wired magazine and the former editor of Whole Earth Review. Kelly is working on his next book about “what technology wants” and is inviting comments on his work-in-progress on The Technium. Kelly is a board member of The Long Now Foundation, an organization that promotes slower, better, more responsible thinking that will pay dividends on a 10,000 year time scale. Visit Kevin Kelly’s website for an aggregation of his diverse projects, and follow him on Twitter: kevin2kelly. For more of Kevin Kelly’s visionary ideas at TED, check out his 2007 talk on the next 5,000 days of the web.

Twitter URL: http://on.ted.com/2Q

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