Monday, February 3, 2014

A Conversation with Kevin Kelly

Introduction - by John Brockman 
A few weeks ago David Carr profiled Kevin Kelly on page 1 of the New York Times Business section. He said Kelly's pronouncements were “often both grandiose and correct.” That’s a pretty good summary of his style and his prescience. 
For the thirty years I've known him, Kelly has been making bold declarations about the world we are crafting with new technologies. He first  began to attract notice when he helped found Wired as the first executive editor. "The culture of technology, he has noted, "was the prime beat of Wired. When we started the magazine 20 years ago, we had no intentions to write about hardware—bits and bauds. We wrote about the consequences of new inventions and the meaning of new stuff in our lives. At first, few believed us, and dismissed my claim that technology would become the central driver of our culture. Now everyone sees this centrality, but some are worried this means the end of civilization. I think we are still at the beginning of the beginning," he says. "We have just started to make a technological society. The technological changes in the next 20 years will dwarf those of the last 20 years. It will almost be like nothing at all has happened yet." 
Deliberate practice and study 
Here's something else that's interesting. Everybody who's watching me right now, you and I, we all spend four, maybe more, five years with deliberate study and training to learn how to read and write, and that process of learning how to read and write actually has rewired our brains. We know that from plenty of studies of literate and illiterate people from the same culture—that reading and writing changes how your brain works. That only came about because of four or five years of deliberate practice and study, and we shouldn't expect necessarily that the real mastery of this new media is something we can deduce by hanging around. 
You can't learn calculus just hanging around people who know calculus, you actually have to study it. It may be that for us to really master the issues of attention management, critical thinking, learning how technological devices work and how they bite back, all this techno-literacy may be something that we have to spend several years being trained to do. Maybe you can't just learn it by hanging around people who do it or else just hanging around trying to learn it by osmosis. It may require training and teaching, a techno-literacy, and learning how to manage your attention and distractions is something that is probably going to require training.