Trying to predict the future when you don’t even understand the past

kevin kelly

Kevin Kelly was a co-founder of Wired magazine and he’s authored several technology related books. I picked up his book The Inevitable Understanding the 12 forces that will shape our future at my local library on a whim. Surprisingly the book is riddled with errors and the writing is very repetitious.  Book publishers have been cutting back on copy editors as the pressure on their operating budgets increase and I think this book could have really used one. In fact the book would have made an excellent Wired article if the fat was boiled out of it.

No, Mr. Kelly, Lotus 1-2-3 was not the first spreadsheet. That was VisiCalc. And while we are on the subject, Microsoft Windows was not the first platform either – that was the Apple II. Steve Wozniak put seven slots in the Apple II to enable third parties to develop new hardware add-ons for the Apple II. He also wrote a version of BASIC to enable development of Apple II software.

Perhaps the most humorous gaffe is when Mr. Kelly claims to have founded Wired before the invention of the web. Maybe he should learn to use Google, which will inform him that Tim Berners-Lee invented the web in 1989, four years before the publication of the first issue of Wired.

Finally I’m a big fan of Brian Eno – I’ve been following him since his days with Roxy Music. I’ve have been following electronic music since my undergrad days at Michigan State and can state definitively that Brian Eno did not invent electronic music, contrary to Mr. Kelly’s assertion. Perhaps he means that Brian Eno invented ambient music. Informed observers will differ on that claim.

What was most interesting about the book was that from his perch in the Bay Area Mr. Kelly got an early, insider view of exciting new technology, such as Jaron Lanier’s virtual reality system and one of the first online communities, The Well.

His book would benefit from footnotes, as he makes many assertions and quotes various experts and studies. I did find a Notes section at the back of the book. These citations would have been a lot more useful within the text as they are then presented in context rather than as pages of notes organized by chapter. For example, he quotes a study of 2,734 open source developers as concluding that the most common motivation for working without pay was “to learn and develop new skills.” Such pearls kept me reading in hopes of finding others.

So while I can’t recommend the book to the technorati it’s probably an eye-opener to those not familiar with phenomena like Linux and Wikipedia.



Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: