Kevin Kelly

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Kevin Kelly (b. 1952) is the founding executive editor of ‘Wired’ magazine, and a former editor/publisher of the ‘Whole Earth Catalog.’ He has also been a writer, photographer, conservationist, and student of Asian and digital culture. Kelly was born in Pennsylvania and graduated from Westfield High School in New Jersey in 1970. He dropped out of University of Rhode Island after only one year. He currently lives in Pacifica, California, a small coastal town just south of San Francisco. He is a devout Christian. He is married and has three children; Tywen, Ting, and Kaileen.

Among Kelly’s personal involvements is a campaign to make a full inventory of all living species on earth, an effort also known as the Linnaean enterprise. The goal is to make an attempt at an ‘all species’ web-based catalog in one generation (25 years). He is also sequencing his genome and co-organizes the Bay Area Quantified Self Meetup Group (a lifelogging organization).

At 27, Kelly was a freelance photojournalist working in the Middle Easte. One night in Jerusalem he missed his hostel’s curfew and was locked out. He slept on the supposed spot where Jesus was crucified, and in the morning had a religious experience. He decided to live as if he only had six months left to live. He went and lived peacefully with his parents, anonymously gave away his money, visited his friends, and came back home to ‘die’ on the night of Halloween.

In 1981, Kelly founded ‘Walking Journal.’ He is a former editor of ‘Whole Earth Review’ (see also ‘CoEvolution Quarterly’), ‘Signal,’ and some of the later editions of the ‘Whole Earth Catalog.’ With Whole Earth’s founder, Stewart Brand, Kelly helped found the ‘WELL,’ a highly regarded online community. He has been a director of the ‘Point Foundation,’ which sponsored the first ‘Hackers Conference’ in 1984 (before the word ‘hacker’ had its current common, negative connotation).

Kelly’s most notable book-length publication, ‘Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World’ (1994), presents a view on the mechanisms of complex organization. The central theme of the book is that several fields of contemporary science and philosophy point in the same direction: intelligence is not organized in a centralized structure, but much more like a beehive of small simple components. Kelly applies this view to bureaucratic organisations, intelligent computers, and to the human brain. The Wachowski siblings, writers/directors of the film ‘The Matrix,’ required the principal actors of the film to read three books prior to the start of filming, including ‘Out of Control’ (the other two were ‘Simulacra and Simulation’ by Jean Baudrillard and ‘Introducing Evolutionary Psychology’ by Dylan Evans).

Influenced by Pattie Maes at MIT and Joel Garreau author of Radical Evolution, Kelly created the Maes–Garreau law which states: ‘Most favorable predictions about future technology will fall within the Maes–Garreau point.’ As Kelly writes, ‘The latest possible date a prediction can come true and still remain in the lifetime of the person making it is defined as The Maes–Garreau Point. The period equals to n − 1 of the person’s life expectancy.’

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