Saturday, August 13, 2005
Out of Control DESIGN
Modern day rennaissance man.
Natural. But who cares. Theory/practice. Examples. Biology is the study of life.
Kevin Kelly first popped up on my radar on the Well. Sealed off in the bubble of Biosphere 2, Kevin was posting messages about life inside this egg in the desert. Kevin was editor of Wired magazine back in the days when it was the must-read manifesto of push-the-envelope thinking, internet magic, hacker culture, and Silicon Valley optimism. Previously, he'd run Whole Earth with Stuart Brand.
later, at wired. later still, at model railroad show, on screen at masie
Reading Kevin Kelly's Out of Control is a humbling experience. It's entirely online -- go see for yourself. The book explores neo-biological civilization, hive mind, assembling complexity, co-evolution, ecosystems, emergence, the biosphere, network economics, post-Darwinism, self organization, and how to make something from nothing. This is the book you wish you'd had in college biology, a fascinating exploration of the edge of the life sciences chock full of real issues, not the usual collection of "proven" aphorisms and formulas. Like it's subject, the book itself is alive. It's great science, it's deep, and it is exciting. Consider this passage:
In the coming neo-biological era, all that we both rely on and fear will be more born than made. We now have computer viruses, neural networks, Biosphere 2, gene therapy, and smart cards-all humanly constructed artifacts that bind mechanical and biological processes. Future bionic hybrids will be more confusing, more pervasive, and more powerful. I imagine there might be a world of mutating buildings, living silicon polymers, software programs evolving offline, adaptable cars, rooms stuffed with coevolutionary furniture, gnatbots for cleaning, manufactured biological viruses that cure your illnesses, neural jacks, cyborgian body parts, designer food crops, simulated personalities, and a vast ecology of computing devices in constant flux.
The river of life--at least its liquid logic--flows through it all.
"How do you make something from nothing? Although nature knows this trick, we haven't learned much just by watching her. We have learned more by our failures in creating complexity and by combining these lessons with small successes in imitating and understanding natural systems. So from the frontiers of computer science, and the edges of biological research, and the odd corners of interdisciplinary experimentation, I have compiled The Nine Laws of God governing the incubation of somethings from nothing:
Control from the bottom up
Cultivate increasing returns
Grow by chunking
Maximize the fringes
Honor your errors
Pursue no optima; have multiple goals
Seek persistent disequilibrium
Change changes itself."
We should not be surprised that life, having subjugated the bulk of inert matter on Earth, would go on to subjugate technology, and bring it also under its reign of constant evolution, perpetual novelty, and an agenda out of our control. Even without the control we must surrender, a neo-biological technology is far more rewarding than a world of clocks, gears, and predictable simplicity.The Technium. See the process of mutual authorship at work.
As complex as things are today, everything will be more complex tomorrow. The scientists and projects reported here have been concerned with harnessing the laws of design so that order can emerge from chaos, so that organized complexity can be kept from unraveling into unorganized complications, and so that something can be made from nothing.
His site is a model for the thinker of the future. An e-portfolio. A two-way channel. Recognition that a book is a process.