Tag Archives: Richard Dawkins

Kevin Kelly: Technology is good for the world

Kevin Kelly is a force of nature. He spoke at the West Coast Wiki Conference yesterday.

From my Seminal Documents page:

Out of Control, The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World . Kevin Kelly. “The world of our own making has become so complicated that we must turn to the world of the born to understand how to manage it.””The central act of the coming era is to connect everything to everything.””Complexity must be grown from simple systems that already work.” Also New Rules for the New Economy. “The tricks of the intangible trade will become the tricks of your trade.””The aim of swarm power is superior performance in a turbulent environment.””To prosper, feed the web first.” Also, read We are the Web.

Kevin’s thesis is that we need a theory of technology. He thinks he’s found it. Lo and behold, evolution is it. And evolution is nothing more that information processing.

West Coast Wiki Conference 10

Technology is a cosmic force. What does tech want?

West Coast Wiki Conference 10

Technology has its own agenda. This is parallel to Richard Dawkins’ looking at the world from the vantage point of genes. Everything’s a struggle for procreation and replication.

West Coast Wiki Conference 10

Technology is inevitable. You could think of it as a seventh natural kingdom:

West Coast Wiki Conference 10

Kevin thinks big. There’s wisdom in his viewpoint. It’s in humanity’s best interest to pay attention to the biggest picture.

Nonetheless, I still can’t wrap my head around what Kevin’s saying. It sounds like an alternative religion.

West Coast Wiki Conference 10

Kevin traces the march of technology all the way back to the Big Bang. How could this be? It’s like the fall of the tree not making a sound when there’s no one there to hear it. Absent people, technology does not exist.

Kevin’s logic would make more sense if he just labeled his Technium tools. Or perhaps nature. Or stuck to the positive impact of evolution.


More photos of Kevin’s presentation.

Arts & Letters Daily, Denis Dutton RIP


A moment of silence, please.

Denis Dutton, a philosophy who founded the pioneering website Arts & Letters Daily, has died in Christchurch, New Zealand, at the age of 66.

Arts & Letters Daily broke new ground went it came online in 1998. The site’s archive shows what grabbed people’s interest back then. Here are entries from the first edition:

Television is indifferent to approval or love. It pursues its only goal with unblinking zeal: to be watched … [more]


Even if the people who made cigarettes or cheap handguns were moral monsters, Wendy Kaminer argues, that wouldn’t mean they were criminals … [more]


Chance and necessity don’t account for everything. Without discarded teleologies, entelechies, and vitalisms, we can still opt for intelligent design, argues William Dembski … [more]


Computer-based learning is a high-priced sham, bound to stunt the emotional and intellectual growth of our children, argues William Rukeyser … [more]


Playing fast and loose with Thomas Jefferson: a Library of Congress exhibit falsifies Jefferson’s view of Christian theology and clergy … [more]


Academic freedom has been twisted into a narrow, self-serving claim to privilege, power, and easy access to the public treasury, argues Thomas Sowell … [more]


Everyday justice: a junior barrister of the Greenwich Magistrates Court helps his client apply for bail … [more]


Riley Weston is 19 years old, though, here as elsewhere, it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is. Mark Steyn reports … [more]


Media and public have fallen in love with the hucksters of acupuncture, homeopathy, chelation therapy, herbal concoctions, magnetic placebos … [more]


Filling in the black holes of a college education means forgetting the postmodern ironists and returning to the library, says Camille Paglia … [more]


Nude photos of Dr. Laura mark the fall of a grasping Tartuffe. Never mind: this yenta’s credibility was built on shrewish hectoring, not morality … [more]


Escape from Pleasantville! Sven Birkerts wonders if we can ever get back to reality … [more]


Planning that Dream Wedding? If you think the ultimate joy is a day spent being the center of a big party, you’re too young to get married … [more]


Do electronic books spell the end of paper as the preferred book medium? Any optimism on behalf of trees is premature, says the Economist … [more]


History belongs to everyone and to no one: hence its universal authority. This claim will be contested. But without it, we are in trouble … [more]


Isaiah Berlin was a fox who’d rather have been a hedgehog. The themes of freedom and its betrayal were the obsessions of his life … [more]


Corporate nomads: are the virtues of public and private life being corroded by the demands of a more ruthless economy? … [more]


Richard Dawkins might have been a superb drill instructor, perhaps like the vicious Marine sergeant in Full Metal Jacket, murdered by a conscript he drove insane … [more]


In their own eyes, the Stuarts were quite as modern as the Spice Girls. So what exactly is modernism? … [more]

The notion of an aggregator with intelligent selections was a breakthrough. I corresponded with Dutton, thanking him for making and maintaining such a great resource. This was pre-Google. RSS didn’t get real until 2000. Arts & Letters Daily’s teasers and links gave access to smart stuff on the web.

Until I read Dutton’s obit in the Times this morning, I hadn’t realized that ALD was still around. I may well become a dedicated reader again although I note it’s now a service of the Chronicle of Higher Education.