36: Kevin Kelly on Techno Literacy, Systems Thinking, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality

“If we have been living in rigid ice, this is liquid—a new phase state. We are marching inexorably toward connecting all humans and all machines into a global matrix. This matrix is not an artifact, but a process. Our newsupernetwork is a standing wave of change . . . the particular products, brands, and companies that will surround us in 30 years are entirely unpredictable. The specifics at that time hinge on the crosswinds of individual chance and fortune.

. . . The Beginning, of course, is just beginning.”

—Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

I almost fainted when today’s guest, Kevin Kelly, said yes to be on the Pivot Podcast. Kind, brilliant and the king of techno-literacy, Kevin is one of the great technologists, futurists, and thinkers of our time. We talk about how to get better at systems thinking, become more techno-literate in an ever-changing environment that fosters a constant “newbie state,” artificial intelligence, centaurs and robot whispering, virtual and augmented reality, why now is the best possible time to start a company, and much much more. I could listen to Kevin talk all day, but alas! Today’s episode is a digestable power-packed 50 minutes.

Side note: If you enjoy this episode please share it with a friend or two!! I am a huge Kevin Kelly fan and would love to see this episode spread its wings and fly across the listener-o-sphere 

Be sure to check out the previous Pivot Podcast, How to Become a Robot Whisperer with Dr. Tom Guariello (founder of RoboPsych), and as I mention in todays episode, if you want to have your mind blown watch this two-minute Magic Leap video: Exclusive Footage of What It’s Like to See Through Magic Leap and the Magic Leap website homepage demo.


Kevin Kelly is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine. He co-founded Wired in 1993, and served as its Executive Editor for its first seven years. His new book for Viking/Penguin is called The Inevitable, with a publication date of June 6, 2016. He is also founding editor and co-publisher of the popular Cool Tools website, which has been reviewing tools daily since 2003.

Photo on the right: me, Shama Hyder and Kevin Kelly at an author dinner, SXSW 2016.

From 1984-1990 Kelly was publisher and editor of the Whole Earth Review, a journal of unorthodox technicalnews. He co-founded the ongoing Hackers’ Conference, and was involved with the launch of the WELL, a pioneering online service started in 1985. His books include the best-selling New Rules for the NewEconomythe classic book on decentralized emergent systems, Out of Controla graphic novel about robots and angels, The Silver Cord, an oversize catalog of the best of Cool Tools, and his summary theory of technology in What Technology Wants (2010).


  • We are in a massive phase shift from rigid ice to flowing liquid—everything is in flux

  • We are still reverberating from this speeding up, constant state of change

  • Things are now always in a process of becoming, and we’re still adjusting to that

  • We are now in a perpetual newbie state

  • The importance of techno literacy, becoming a lifelong learner

  • The technium is becoming more lifelike: a super-organism that has its own urges and tendencies

  • Science of chaos: One small change can have large amplifying effects elsewhere

  • Systems thinking: Be aware that systems have their own way of doing things that are not present in any of the parts of the system

  • You’re not late; why right now is the best time for invention, or to start a company

  • “The internet is still in its infancy; it’s only 8,000 days old. The next 10-20 years will dwarf what we have now.”

  • “The most important thing we have not yet invented.”

  • There are very few AI (Artificial Intelligence) and VR (Virtual Reality) experts — you have as good a chance as any.

  • Cognifying: the business plan for the next 10,000 startups could be take AI and combine it with something else.

  • Virtual, augmented, and mixed reality—and the implications for the office of the future

  • People and experiences are the real power of VR

  • The currency of experiences, questions and uncertainties

  • The importance of creative and interpersonal work

  • AI and bots will continue taking over processing information, efficiency, and productivity

  • You will be paid by how well you whisper to AI, how well you work with robots

  • Centaurs: humans plus AI — still most successful application

  • How to spot coming tech trends, observe “street” uses of technology


Want to have your mind blown? Watch this two-minute Magic Leap video: Exclusive Footage of What It’s Like to See Through Magic Leap and the Magic Leap website homepage demo.

Kevin Kelly at SXSW 2016: 12 Inevitable Tech Forces that Will Shape Our Future


Check out other episodes of the Pivot Podcast here. Be sure to subscribe via iTunesAndroid or SoundCloud, and if you enjoy the show I would be very grateful for a rating and/or review! Sign-up for my twice monthlybehind-the-business newsletter to receive curated round-ups of what I’m reading, watching, listening to, andnew tools I’m geeking out on.