When I started blogging and podcasting back in 2009 topics like wisdom were near-invisible, if not considered irrelevant to the conversations of AI, transhumanism, genetic engineering, and human enhancement. So bringing ethics to the technology conversation became my longstanding goal and unique selling proposition for both Singularity Weblog and Singularity.FM.
At the time, most conversations were about the how and when – i.e. the technicalities and timeline, not the why – i.e. the wisdom and ethics related to the technological singularity. The prevailing romanticism was the belief that utopia is within our reach and the main obstacles were of scientific, technological, or legislative nature. So if we were to let inventors, entrepreneurs, markets, and Moore’s Law do their thing without any government or other interference we would reach THE Future – a place that is “better than we think” – with abundance, freedom, flying cars, robots, space exploration, and immortality for all.
Fifteen years later, the Singularitarian romanticism has been replaced by popular skepticism, if not outright cynicism. Given that the gap between our collective power and our ability to use it in a non-destructive, net-positive manner is growing, we need wisdom and ethics more than ever. I believe that this is not a mere philosophical exercise but one of life and death for many species, possibly all life on our planet. That is why I want to discuss wisdom and ethics more than ever. And there are few better people for this kind of conversation than Kevin Kelly. Kevin is a radical optimist who has been twice before on my podcast when we discussed his books on technology. This time around his most recent book aims to provide Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier.
During this 90 min conversation with Kevin Kelly, we cover a variety of exciting topics such as: wisdom as the long-term view of the true, good, and beautiful for the maximum people and time; consistency, ideology, and thinking; learning from those you disagree with; Christianity, evolution and creationism; intelligence, wisdom and AI; our individual and collective power to affect change; whether AI, Nuclear Weapons or Climate Change are existential risks; the Cult of Personality in the East and the West; mirrors, selfies, Zoom and Narcism; AI and the Singularity; the gap between our wisdom and technological power.
My favorite quote that I will take away from this conversation with Kevin Kelly is:
Work on something (or head in a direction) that has no name.
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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 newest book is Excellent Advice for Living, a book of 450 modern proverbs for good living. He is co-chair of The Long Now Foundation, a membership organization that champions long-term thinking and acting as a good ancestor to future generations. And he is the founder of the popular Cool Tools website, which has been reviewing tools daily for 20 years.
From 1984-1990 Kelly was publisher and editor of the Whole Earth Review, a subscriber-supported journal of unorthodox conceptual news. He co-founded the ongoing Hackers’ Conference and was involved with the launch of the WELL, a pioneering online service started in 1985.
Other books by Kelly include 1) The Inevitable, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, 2) Out of Control, his 1994 classic book on decentralized emergent systems, 3) The Silver Cord, a graphic novel about robots and angels, 4) What Technology Wants, a robust theory of technology, and 5) Vanishing Asia, his 50-year project to photograph the disappearing cultures of Asia.
Kevin Kelly is best known for his radical optimism about the future.