Maverick Thinker Wraps Up Shared Voices

Maverick Thinker Wraps Up Shared Voices

Kevin Kelly is currently “Senior Maverick” atWired, the magazine he co-founded in the early 1990s. The title is an apt one: Kelly was exploring cyberspace in the early ’80s – before most people even knew it existed – while also writing the futurist classicOut of Control in the early ’90s. These days he publishes Cool Tools, among other blogs, and is working with Long Now, a foundation that promotes long-term thinking. And this just scratches the surface of his nonconformist interests.

As the third and final speaker in the newShared Voices series, Kelly will visit RISD on Wednesday, March 14. In a talk titled Screen Fluency, he’ll discuss the importance of visual and multimedia literacy in a world where digital screens dominate how we access information.

Truly a Renaissance man for the digital age, Kelly now lives on the west coast – in Pacifica, CA. After dropping out of the University of Rhode Island in 1971, he traveled throughout Asia as a photojournalist, eventually publishing some 400 of his photographs in a wordless book calledAsia Grace. “Instead of going to college, I went to Asia,” he has said.

In the 1980s, Kelly’s fascination with technology drew him into the nascent years of cyber culture. He edited theWhole Earth Review, a journal of unorthodox technical news that reported on new trends – like virtual reality and artificial intelligence – long before any other publications, and he published new issues of theWhole Earth Catalog, the world-renowned compendium of the best tools for self-education, a countercultural favorite created in the ’70s by his friend and colleagueStewart Brand.

Kelly’s techno vision has inspired more than one futuristic, dystopian Hollywood film. His first book,Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems and the Economic World(1994, Addison Wesley), was required reading (along with two others) for the cast ofThe Matrix, the 1999 film starring Keanu Reeves. For the film Minority Report (2002), director Steven Spielberg got him and a group of other futurists together to brainstorm what the year 2054 would look like.

These days, much of Kelly’s attention is focused on the Long Now Foundation, where he and Brand co-host a seminar series. A nonprofit established in “01996” to fight the short-term thinking that drives most organizations, Long Now is creating a digital library of human languages and building a clock that will last 10,000 years. Kelly also speaks widely about technology, science, business and culture, and writes on these and other topics for such publications asThe New York Times, The Economist, Time, Esquire, Harpers, Science, GQ and The Wall Street Journal.

Kelly’s thinking has evolved and expanded into numerous books, including his latest,What Technology Wants (2010, Viking/Penguin), which looks at technology as a living, breathing organism that is malleable to our own needs. In addition, his bestselling bookNew Rules for the New Economy (1998, Viking/Penguin) has been translated into multiple languages.

Registration for Kelly’s presentation on March 14 is already full, but his talk will be webcast live on theShared Voices site and archived there after the event.

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