Kevin Kelly

Founding Executive Editor of Wired magazine and author of The Silver Cord

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON August 25, 2015 Thank Kevin Kelly on Twitter


Greetings! I am a life-long learning who figured out a way to get paid to learn. I was a photographer in Asia instead of a college student. When I returned I started a mail order company with $200. I sold budget travel guides. Then I started writing about the emerging internet as if it were a foreign country. These days I write about the future as if it were a foreign country. My upcoming book, due from Penguin in the spring of 2016, is called The Inevitable. It's about understanding and embracing our technological future. My last book was Cool Tools, a catalog of possibilities. I love to talk about great tools for empowering individuals to make things happen.
Kevin, in an interview once you said something like: "You really don't want to a billionaire. I know a lot of them. You don't want that life." What are the risks/costs/downsides of being super wealthy as you see it? And what's the ideal amount of money to have?
@bencasnocha Success makes it hard for a person to move away from a local peak onto whatever newer and higher has come along. If you have a billion dollars, those dollars demand attention and energy that takes away attention from something small, and marginal -- but the next big thing. You might think a billion dollars would make one more risk friendly, but it usually does the opposite. And if you are a good person, the weight and duty of being responsible with the billions you have becomes a burden. And then it almost becomes criminal to pass that burden onto your kids. So what do you do with it, but pay more attention to the billions. It is very hard not to have it run your life.
Kyle Lee — Seeking, in the world.
@kevin2kelly Sounds like risk aversion. I wonder if there are any studies looking at this on the mega million dollar scale.
Corley — COO @ Product Hunt
@kevin2kelly Based on this logic, do you believe Bill and Melinda Gates are doing the right thing or are simply dealing with their responsibility as billionaires?
Erik Torenberg — Former Product Hunt
Thanks for joining us today Kevin!

Q: You mentioned in a recent podcast with Tim Ferriss that you see a need for a new mythology to better reconcile the rapid advancements in technology with the actualities of human experience.

What does that look like? Where does one start?
@eriktorenberg Thank you Erik for hosting me here. I aim to be useful. On new mythologies: Individuals don't create them; they are collectively and unconsciously built. But we can salute them as individuals. We can highlight myths we like and find helpful, and in that way feed the ones that work. One of the myths I am playing with right now is the myth of a global superorganism -- that we are all part of something very large composed of all of us. If this myth were true it would have major ramifications -- although what precisely is not clear.
Erik Torenberg — Former Product Hunt
@kevin2kelly Can you speak a bit more about your distrust of nationalism and how you hope that is viewed in the future as negatively as racism (as you said in that same episode)
Hi @kevin2kelly, thanks for doing this AMA!

I love what you do and your perspectives on things, but you said something on your last Tim Ferriss podcast appearance that really threw me off and I would love if you can clarify or expand on it. (Here is the link starting at 15:42 for those who want to listen -

You said that one of the issues that might come up in the next 50 years is under population (due to to negative population growth) and that this will be a problem as there won’t be enough people to drive the global economy or accommodate it. Your advice for folks is that if they have the resources they should have as many kids as they want to, basically encouraging people to have more kids, if I understood you correctly.

Don’t you think that just like this negative population growth is something people didn’t predict and seemed to be the answer to the concern of overpopulation, the same thing might occur if it goes to far in the other direction? Things seem to balance themselves.

And is it not also making an assumption as to what type of economy we will have in 50 years and what it’s needs will be? There is plenty of concern of not having enough jobs, or automation, software, and AI taking over jobs (as they should, if you ask me), in which case lower population might not only be ok but a perfect balance for how things might look in the future? Not to mention if radical life extension (a la Aubrey de Gray) is finally achieved, this too will balance out lower population growth?

Having more kids and increasing the population just so it fills the economy’s needs just doesn’t sound quite right to me. Would love if you could talk more about this.

Thanks again for everything you do!
Erik Torenberg — Former Product Hunt
@jaymutzafi fantastic question
@jaymutzafi I don't think anyone should have kids to fill outside economic needs. You should have as many, or as few kids, as you want for general human reasons of joy, privilege, and some duty to keeping the game going. But you should have kids understanding that there is NO long-term overpopulation problem. The main population problem in 50 years will be underpopulation. This is not a surprise to demographers; only to the public.
@kevin2kelly Ah, that makes a lot more sense to me. I completely agree. Thanks for clarifying!
@jaymutzafi I will add to further clarify what I said in the earlier podcast: the audience here is privileged, but the very fact you have the time to be here. Since you are privilege, you have the resources to be good parents, so I urge you to be parents.
Erik Torenberg — Former Product Hunt
@jaymutzafi @kevin2kelly is this conclusive? I felt as though this was the elephant in the room no one wanted to discuss, and it would come to something catastrophic at some point (e.g. some 21st century version of eugenics (gasp))
@eriktorenberg Can you elaborate on what you mean?
@kevin2kelly I’m not sure I agree here, again unless I misunderstand what you mean. I do agree that people who have the resources should have as many kids as they wish (although I think people are not great at assessing this), however, being privileged (and having the resources) is perhaps necessary but not sufficient for being good parents (i’m not even sure about that). Having the resources I do consider to be a base minimum for having kids, but that seems to me to be far from what make people good parents. But what makes good parents is a complex debate. I would not urge people to be parents just because they have the resources. I think being emotionally and physiologically balanced and in a good place (relatively), is far more important and plays a much bigger role in raising kids well.
Zander — Founder, Doorman
Hi Kevin, how has your farsighted perspective affected the way you raise your kids?
@zanderadell I try to remember they are the ones who will choose my nursing home, and so I give them as much slack as I can.
Hash_tag_jeff — Book Marketing and PR - get in touch
Hi Kevin - what do you think of the Wired Magazine of today? Has it held up the vision you had when it began?
@jeffumbro It's dangerous for former editors to speak about their past loves, but Wired in the last 2 years no longer holds my interest as a reader.
Chris Kay — Co-Founder, Multiplicity
@kevin2kelly If you could start a new technology publication today what would you want it to look like or feel like (tone, content, focus?)
@chrisjkay I ask myself that all the time. I have answers to all those questions but not the major one of how it would make money. To be honest, I would not want to be editing Wired today because it is almost an impossible job, to be intelligent, radical, edgy, and making enough money to keep going.
tim chang — Managing Director, Mayfield Fund
Kevin - you and I chatted at recent Arc Summit dinner about how the death of privacy may be inevitable in the networked and digital age. Is the Ashley Madison hack just the start of things to come in the era of "privacy is an illusion"? Also wondering if this means that prepaid anonymous debit and Visa cards will become the norm for online transactions!? :)
@timechange Yes, the Ashley Madison is a very good example of the rule that you should assume -- in all aspects of your life -- that you live in a transparent world. Sooner or later what you say in email will be shared, where you visit will be open, and what you say to others will be passed on.
Erik Torenberg — Former Product Hunt
What's a lie you tell yourself the most often?
@eriktorenberg That I am a nice person.
@kevin2kelly What are the top 3 technologies do you find most exciting today?
@starsandrobots AI, VR, and QUANTIFIED SELF sensors.
Melissa Joy Kong — Content, Product Hunt
What question do you think not enough of us ask of ourselves? What question do you think not enough of us ask about the world?
@melissajoykong What am I trying to maximize? At my funeral what will people remember about me?
YOW — ceo
@kevin2kelly where is the internet going now? What is the next phase for commercial apps in your opinion?
@yow_internet Don't know. I don't think in terms of apps.
Mike Coutermarsh — Code @ Product Hunt
@kevin2kelly Hi Kevin! 😃Is there anything you do everyday to help you be so productive?
@mscccc Read long articles, scientific papers, and books.
Joel Clark — Co-Founder, RVshare
If I recall correctly, you felled the trees and hewed the beams to construct your own house at one point. Do you think that we are headed towards a future where no one knows how to work with their hands, and do you see this as a problem, or at least a loss for humanity?
@joel_clark_ Yes, I did cut down trees to make a house. I've hauled rocks to make many walls. I've cut tile to make floors, etc. Using your own hands will continue to be an option, but only an option. Maker Faires and Etsy will continue to expand, but at the same time, they are never going to return to be the normal. Machine made things will be the norm. Artisan things will continue to be a higher priced option, or a do it yourself option, which is good.
Kunal Bhatia — Experience & Product Designer
Hi @kevin2kelly. If you were working on a remake of the Minority Report (as Hollywood seems to like financing these projects now), what might be different in your rendition of the future? What's the next big issue we face ethically?
@kunalslab That's a great question! I haven't thought about that, but I should. Let's say we move it 25 years into the future, to 2075. Some of the policing of pre-crime might be through automated ways that prevent you from doing the crime, rather than human cops. There would also be much more AI ,and maybe robots. Here's the pitch: Minority Report meets Robocop.
Jeff Huber — Founder, Standard Cyborg
@kevin2kelly What should I read next to build on "Finite and Infinite Games" by James Carse?
@jeffreyhuber I wish I had a perfect second recommendation, but I'd have to say: The New Testament.
Jeff Huber — Founder, Standard Cyborg
@kevin2kelly :) that's the highest recommendation! -- I also checked out "Art & Fear" - I found it to be sort of an applicable companion to Carse. thanks for your work!
@jeffreyhuber Art & Fear is highlly recommended. Best book I know of on marking art.
keren phillips — Co-founder, CMO - Weirdly
@kevin2kelly It's great having AMA opportunities with well-known, traditionally successful people. I'm always curious about who these people are interested in though. Who would YOU like to have access to for an AMA - any particular pockets of the world, or characters in society that you're curious about?
@kerenyp Living or dead? There's a bunch of dead notables I'd like to have over for dinner: Jesus, Tesla, Leonardo, and Thoreau. Among the living, I'd like to chat with JJ. Abrams, Bob Dylan, and Stephen Hawking.
Erik Torenberg — Former Product Hunt
re: Wired, Long Now, + a host of other projects, you have so much to be proud of, but what's something you're _not_ proud of and what would you have done differently?
@eriktorenberg Good question. I've tried really hard to do only things I am proud of, but this article is kind of embarrassing, especially today. The Roaring Zeros.
Corley — COO @ Product Hunt
@kevin2kelly thank you for joining. I remember when Wired was this new magazine on the rack - I loved reading it from the beginning.

What do you think is the most interesting untold story and who do you think should tell it?
@corleyh I'd like to hear about the people in China who censor the internet and what they are thinking. Wired?
Erik Torenberg — Former Product Hunt
What's the biggest thing you've changed your mind about in the last year or so?
Than Tibbetts  — UX developer
What is the coolest of all tools? What's the one thing that consistently amazes you, or makes your life better, or simply astounds you that humans ever lived without it?
Chris Kay — Co-Founder, Multiplicity
Kevin, with the automation of knowledge based jobs (Legal, Accounting, etc) by decentralized and machine learning systems, what would you consider to be the most important skill or trait for people have to outpace automation or maintain a competitive advantage over automation?
Danny Quick — Building things where culture meets tech
16 years later, "New Rules, New Economy" continues to be a seminal work, and only seems to get more and more relevant every year. If you had to release a new, "updated and expanded" version, what changes would you make, if any?
I'll be here the rest of the hour.
Thanks everyone for your great questions and chance to chat. Thanks Erik and team for having me. Gotta go. Till next time, Peace.
Erik Torenberg — Former Product Hunt
@kevin2kelly Everyone - Please welcome me in giving @kevin2kelly a HUGE thanks for taking the time to do a Product Hunt LIVE Chat and more so for his work.

If you want more Kevin Kelly, we spoke on the PH podcast for 1.5 hours here:

Also, reminder to check out his graphic novel, The Silver Cord, here:
@eriktorenberg @kevin2kelly That was awesome. thanks you both!
Emmanuel Amberber — Data & Product Head | @YSProfiles
Hi @kevin2kelly, how did you come up with "1,000 True Fans" concept? Has the number changed over the past half a decade as Facebook narrowed down the six degrees of separation to four?