Out of Control is a summary of what we know about self-sustaining systems, both living ones such as a tropical wetland, or an artificial one, such as a computer simulation of our planet. The last chapter of the book, "The Nine Laws of God," is a distillation of the nine common principles that all life-like systems share. The major themes of the book are:
As we make our machines and institutions more complex, we have to make them more biological in order to manage them.
The most potent force in technology will be artificial evolution. We are already evolving software and drugs instead of engineering them.
Organic life is the ultimate technology, and all technology will improve towards biology.
The main thing computers are good for is creating little worlds so that we can try out the Great Questions. Online communities let us ask the question "what is a democracy; what do you need for it?" by trying to wire a democracy up, and re-wire it if it doesn't work. Virtual reality lets us ask "what is reality?" by trying to synthesize it. And computers give us room to ask "what is life?" by providing a universe in which to create computer viruses and artificial creatures of increasing complexity. Philosophers sitting in academies used to ask the Great Questions; now they are asked by experimentalists creating worlds.
As we shape technology, it shapes us. We are connecting everything to everything, and so our entire culture is migrating to a "network culture" and a new network economics.
In order to harvest the power of organic machines, we have to instill in them guidelines and self-governance, and relinquish some of our total control.
Kevin Kelly is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine. He co-founded Wired in 1993, and served as its Executive Editor from its inception until 1999. He has just completed a book for Viking/Penguin publishers called "What Technology Wants," due out in the Fall 2010. He is also editor and publisher of the Cool Tools website, which gets half a million unique visitors per month. From 1984-1990 Kelly was publisher and editor of the Whole Earth Review, a journal of unorthodox technical news. He co-founded the ongoing Hackers' Conference, and was involved with the launch of the WELL, a pioneering online service started in 1985. He authored the best-selling New Rules for the New Economy and the classic book on decentralized emergent systems, Out of Control.