Out of Control | Kevin Kelly

Summary of: Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World
By: Kevin Kelly


Embark on a fascinating exploration of technology and its relationship with nature, as presented in Kevin Kelly’s book ‘Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World’. Delve into the possibilities of merging vivid logic in machines and enhancing natural systems through technology. The summary touches on vital topics such as artificial intelligence, bioengineering, bionic vivisystems, swarm systems, and network economy. Discover the challenges humanity may face in relinquishing control over these systems and the need to adopt natural principles like autonomy, creativity, and adaptability.

Nature and Technology

In the quest for greater technological advancement, scientists and technologists are looking towards nature for inspiration. By emulating the vivid logic of the human brain, machines of the future may be able to learn and evolve like organisms do. But it’s not just a one-way street – technology can also be used to improve natural systems through bioengineering and the creation of bionic vivisystems. As the line between nature and technology blurs, new possibilities emerge for advancements in both.

Relinquishing Control in a Nature-Technology Merge

In the merging of nature and technology, humans must recognize nature as the dominant partner and relinquish control to allow for the development of autonomous, creative, and adaptable machines. Natural processes are more efficient than artificial ones and must be utilized by guiding the flock as a whole, rather than controlling every individual element. This shift in mindset will allow for the development of artificial systems that follow natural principles and pave the way for advancements in the 21st century.

Lessons from Swarm Systems

Swarm systems exhibit characteristics that humans hope to attain by merging nature and technology. These systems lack centralized command, are highly adaptable, and resilient even when individual subunits are lost. The artificial version of a bee swarm is a network of nodes that can communicate information. Growing this network only requires adding more nodes, without fundamental change. Each added node exponentially increases the number of connections along which information can travel. These lessons from swarm systems can help improve technology.

A Network Economy

The book describes how the application of network thinking to the economy can result in a network economy where individuals handle specific stages of production instead of one single company. This process creates a unique combination of nodes that might never be used again. A network economy is more ecological because goods are only produced when demanded, and recycling is encouraged. Furthermore, consumers have more power because producers must respond to specific demands, and consumers can be part of the production network as in crowd-sourced software.

Network Privacy

Networks offer immense benefits, but they also raise concerns, especially regarding individual privacy. Network thinking requires individuals to share a lot of information, making it essential for networks to have a foolproof privacy protection method. While selective deletion of data might seem like a solution, it is not without flaws. Encryption is a better option as it renders information into a form that only authorized people can decode. Electronic cash is an example of an advanced application of encryption. With it, merchants no longer have to see a customer’s purchasing history and personal information every time they use a credit card. Authentication is needed to decipher who was the payer in a given transaction. Overall, when it comes to network privacy, the right tools are necessary to strike a balance between data sharing and individual privacy.

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