Kevin Kelly: Cool Tools…


Kevin Kelly is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine. He helped launch Wired in 1993, and served as its Executive Editor until January 1999. He is currently editor and publisher of the popular Cool ToolsTrue Films, and Street Use websites. His most recent books are Cool Tools, and What Technology Wants.

A few weeks ago David Carr profiled Kevin Kelly on page 1 of theNew York Times Business section. He wrote that Kelly’s pronouncements were “often both grandiose and correct.” That’s a pretty good summary of Kevin Kelly’s 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 notes, “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.”

The biggest change in our lives is the rate of change and while for many, Facebook and Twitter are a fact of life today. It’s interesting to note that today (February 4th) marks only the 10th anniversary of the founding of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg. When, during that same month, Forbes Magazine published their 2004 Billionaires List, it occured during the Edge Dinner in Monterey, California. Larry Page, present at dinner, made the list for the first time. When he showed me the Forbes headline, it was on his Blackberry pager. And it wasn’t until 2006, just 8 years ago, that Twitter was founded by Ev Williams and his colleagues. If you read your news electronically at that time, most likely it was on a pager. “Sharing” was something you did at a Chinese restaurant.

Kelly recently successfully published an over-sized book based on his blog Cool Tools. He is one of the few actually making a living from a blog, while he is also reinstating print as a great publishing medium (Carr’s point).  He doesn’t just pontificate; he innovates himself.  He was one of the founders, for example, of the “quantified self” movement.

Kelly is well aware that his complete embrace of what he calls “The Technium”, is a lightning rod for criticism. But, he points out that “we are still at the beginning of the beginning. 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.”

In the meantime Kelly is doing what he’s been up to for decades, acting as a sensing and ruddering mechanism for the rest of us, finding his way through this new landscape.

Text of interview video here