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Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines Paperback – 1 May 1995


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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New edition edition (1 May 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857023080
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857023084
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 3.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,208,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Author

Why you should read this book
This is a book about how our manufactured world has become so complex that the only way to create yet more complex things is by using the principles of biology. This means decentralized, bottom up control, evolutionary advances and error-honoring institutions. I also get into the new laws of wealth in a network-based economy, what the Biosphere 2 project in Arizona has or has not to teach us, and whether large systems can predict or be predicted. And more: restoration biology, encryption, a-life, and the lessons of hypertext. Yes, it's a romp, in 520 pages. But the best part, my friends tell me, is the 28-page annotated bibliography. If you have suspected that technology could be better, more life-like, then this book is for you. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Kevin Kelly, executive editor of ‘Wired’, was formerly publisher and editor of ‘Whole Earth Review’. He is the author of the highly acclaimed ‘Out of Control.’


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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Frank Knuckleworth on 21 Aug. 2002
Format: Hardcover
Although first published in 1994, this book is a must read for anyone interested in sensible futurist stuff. I have been astounded at how many of Kelly's predictions have come true over the last 8 years (I read this in '96 and have kept an eye out).
The book's style is a combination of personal observations and interviews with leaders in their field. He synthesises a number of different theories and subjects - Hive Mind, Coevolution, Emergence, Network Economics, Distributed Networks, E-Money, Genetic Algorithms, Privacy, Tipping Points and Cryptography and much more to give us a feeling of what the next 20-30 years might bring.
Kelly (executive editor of Wired magazine) has always had a knack of predicting the future with accuracy and there are plenty of predictions in this book yet to manifest.
I can't recommend Out of Control enough. Enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 Aug. 1998
Format: Paperback
Kelly goes on a wide-ranging journey through evolutionary theory, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and market economics; he admits that, if "cybernetics" was still in vogue, his book would be an update on thinking in that field. He believes, with considerable evidence backing him up, that our technological future will not be a Metropolis-like scenario of industrial gray steel; Technos and Bios are converging to create a neo-biological civilization made up of both humans and "living" machines. This digital culture will be characterized by the swarm, with many minds directing one superorganism. These trends, Kelly believes, mean the end of centralized control; our social and economic future will be decentralized and distributed, essentially "out of control."
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Frank Knuckleworth on 31 July 2002
Format: Paperback
Although first published in 1994, this book is a must read for anyone interested in sensible futurist stuff. I have been astounded at how many of Kelly's predictions have come true over the last 8 years (I read this in '96 and have kept an eye out).
The book's style is a combination of personal observations and interviews with leaders in their field. He synthesises a number of different theories and subjects - Hive Mind, Coevolution, Emergence, Network Economics, Distributed Networks, E-Money, Genetic Algorithms, Privacy, Tipping Points and Cryptography and much more to give us a feeling of what the next 20-30 years might bring.
Kelly (executive editor of Wired magazine) has always had a knack of predicting the future with accuracy and there are plenty of predictions in this book yet to manifest.
I can't recommend Out of Control enough. Enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By rob crawford TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 18 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
When a swarm of bees searches for a new home, it behaves like a single superorganism. Expendable scouts explore potential hive sites concurrently, dancing to communicate their suitability, until, abruptly, the entire swarm flocks into its new home. The locus of decision is a "hive mind," a dispersed, shifting collection of instincts and tiny decisions that somehow transcends the actions of any individual, even the hive queen. Ant colonies be have similarly - and so do foreign currency fluctuations, the folding proteins that regulate the internal processes of life, and the predator prey struggles that shape global ecosystems.

The hive mind is a powerful new metaphor. It's not that scientists failed to notice bee hives and ant colonies before. The difference is that novel scientific tools - chaos" theory, for example, and massively parallel computers - have allowed researchers to study and perhaps harness the unpredictable worlds of highly complex, sell-organizing systems such as the hive mind.

In "Out of Control," Kevin Kelly examines the impact of the hive- mind model as it spreads into the scientific and technological communities. Scientists, he says, are beginning to explore more "holistic" problems, in which entire environments are their laboratory, with huge numbers of interacting factors. Steve Packard, fur example, hoped to re-create a prairie ecology in suburban Chicago, an experiment that succeeded over nearly a decade of false starts. He discovered that the order in which he introduced complementary species - grasses and the insects that disperse their seeds - or the timing of a clearing fire in the aftermath of a drought could radically alter the final shape of his reconstituted prairies.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 Feb. 1998
Format: Paperback
This is the best badly written book I have read lately. Kelly's book provides an enthusiastic reflection on the evolution of complex systems, full of vivid images and provocative metaphors, yet one can't avoid the impression he wrote it down as he thought of it. Kelly is a magazine editor (Wired) and his book comes across like a 475-page magazine article -- whenever he decides to change directions mid-chapter, he simply inserts a rosette and moves on. This book and its readers would have been well served by passing the text through the hands of a demanding book editor -- the result would have been a text about 150 pages shorter and much clearer. It also would have been helpful to have had the text proofread -- I nearly tore up the book reading over and over his confused expression "hone in on", an illiterate cross between "hone" and "home in on." I don't know Kelly's educational background. Reading his book I get the impression that his formal credentials are minimal but that he's very good at finding smart people and following them around. The result is a book that chronicles the development of this field while communicating his fascination with complex concepts he just barely understands, and his dilletante's infatuation with the jargon that describes it. The ideas in this book, and particularly the juxtapositions of ideas that Kelly assembles, are well worth reading about. But a better approach might be to skim the book, noting authors and titles, and then go straight to the source material listed at length in the back.
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