In this mind-expanding exploration of the synergistic intersection of computer science, biology, systems theory, cybernetics and artificial intelligence, Kelly investigates what he calls ``vivisystems''--lifelike, complex, engineered systems capable of growing in complexity. Among the objects and ideas that he scrutinizes are computer models that simulate ecosystems; the ``group mind'' of bee hives and ant colonies; virtual-reality worlds; robot prototypes; and Arizona's Biosphere 2. Former publisher and editor of Whole Earth Review , now executive editor of Wired , Kelly distills the unifying principles governing self-improving systems, which he labels ``the nine laws of god.'' Leaping from Antonio Gaudi's futuristic buildings in Barcelona to computerized ``smart'' houses to computer simulations that challenge Darwinian evolutionary theory, this sprawling odyssey will provoke and reward readers across many disciplines. (July)
Kelly is editor of the cyber-yuppie magazine Wired and founder of the computer network known as ``The Well''; Out of Control indicates that he should turn the computer off and get outside more often. This gee-whiz hodgepodge suggests that civilization works best when it allegedly mirrors the charms and whimsies of uncontrolled systems (beehives, prairies), but the book is more noteworthy for its antiseptic self-absorption: while ostensibly lauding nature's stunning complexity, the closest Kelly comes to the real world is a fawning chapter about the widely discredited Biosphere 2 project. There's lots of emphasis on Jetson-like gadgets (``smart'' electrical appliances that announce ``I am a toaster'') and lunatic-fringe cyber-theosophizing but no mention of the more prosaic problems that smart toasters won't fix; the only people in Kelly's definition of civilization are those with an address on the Internet. Expect requests from wan undergraduates and hipsters who agree with Kelly's own impression that he edits the ``hottest and hippest magazine of the 1990s.'' Everyone else may safely ignore.-Mark L. Shelton, Athens, Ohio
Kevin Kelly is Executive Editor of Wired, the new bible of the techno-culture. Formerly Publisher and Editor of Whole Earth Review, he has been instrumental in helping launch a number of cultural innovations: The Hacker’s Conference; Cyberthon; the first virtual-reality jamboree; and the WELL, model way station on the information superhighway.