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Kevin Kelly Q&A

YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY EXPERIENCED A GREAT DEAL OF SUCCESS IN YOUR LIFE.  WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT, AND WHY?

I have so many things that I’m happy about in my life. My kids give me great joy.  That gives me great satisfaction.

My first book that I wrote, I had no idea what I was doing I had never written a book before, I had never written very much at all.  I was going through it, it was written 25 years ago and I am tweeting the entire book, meaning for every page I am taking one tweet.  It’s a huge book, 240,000 words, so I’ve been re-reading it, and it really does stand up, it still works, there’s almost nothing that’s dated.  So I am feeling good that that is in the world and it has a huge influence, particularly in China.  I think I’m proudest of that even though it’s flawed in many ways.

It’s called Out of Control, it talks about the internet before the internet came. There’s a whole chapter on crypto-currency, e-money, it’s about the web and internet before there was either. It’s about networks, artificial life, artificial revolution, its till works now.

LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS SMOOTH.  CAN YOU TALK ABOUT A SETBACK OR TRAGEDY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED, HOW YOU DEALT WITH IT, AND THE IMPACT IT HAS HAD ON YOU?

I am a very even-tempered person.  I’m always worried about my mortality.  I have on my desk a countdown clock, what it is I use actuarial tables to determine someone born when I was born when I should die, and I convert that into a number of days.  That kind of reminder, whatever setbacks I have, it helps me focus maintain the awareness that we have a very short rider, and I want to maximize my relationships, my family, my wife, what would I do.  I keep that in mind all the time.

DO YOU SET ASIDE “ME-TIME” IN YOUR CALENDAR, AND WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME TO RELAX?

For relaxation, I hike up in the hills on the coast of California where I live, and I bicycle.  These days, actually, I bike on a pedal-assisted e-bike with an electric motor that I bought in China.  That has rejuvenated my biking time.  I rode my bike when I was younger from San Francisco to New York, and when my son was a teenage, we rode from Vancouver down to Mexico along the coast.  The electric bike helps me keep up with these guys.

DOES PHILANTHROPY PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR LIFE, TO WHAT EXTENT AND HOW?

I have always given. I was in Christian churches for a very long time, so 10% was always the goal.  Right now, we have a Fidelity trust, philanthropic foundation, one of those easy foundations, so we give through that.  The kind of things we fund – – a lot of international work, schools for girls in Central Asia, and bringing world class health care to the developing world.  So it’s mostly the developing world that we fund.

WHO IS ON THE GUEST LIST FOR YOUR IDEAL DINNER PARTY, PRESENT OR PAST?

I would love to have dinner with someone from the future, almost anybody, in fact the less notoriety they have, the more interesting I think it would be. One of my first thoughts is an ancestor, that would be cool, because we are connected in some weird way.  I think I would like to have Jesus, and then, I think I ‘d like to talk to somebody who is completely out of civilization, like an Amazon tribesman, who had no contact with the modern world.

CAN YOU OFFER ANY WORDS OF WISDOM FOR OUR READERS?

First, devote most of your energy to figuring out how you learn best. Put some energy into trying to increase, or optimize your ability to learn, no matter how old you are.

Second, in the world we are heading to, answers become cheap and free.  If you want the answer to something, you ask a machine.  But the guy with the questions become much more valuable.  It’s going to be a long time before machines ask questions.  So, learning to ask questions, learning to challenge what everyone knows, learning to ask what if, is more important.  My advice would be to spend more time trying to ask better questions.

Third, it took me a long time to realize this but there’s a bit of a trajectory in what we view as an ideal occupation, the way we spend our time.  When we very young, we spent our time trying to do something without messing up.  Later on, once we knew how to do things well, we wanted to get paid for it, and enjoy it.

Fourth, once I learned to do a job well, got paid for it, and enjoyed it, I began to ask myself whether anyone else can do this job.  If someone else is doing it, then I should not be doing it.  I should only be doing those things that nobody else can do.

So, my advice is to look for that place where you are doing something only you can do, that is what we are aiming at.  It will take your life to figure it out, but that is what we want to aim for.