The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly – Understanding the Twelve Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

The Inevitable is an extremely enjoyable book. Kevin Kelly is a Futurist with an amazing ability to convey his visions of both what is coming and what is possible.

The twelve forces Kelly writes about are:


Everything requires energy and order to maintain itself. The more complex the gear, the more attention it will require. In addition, there is a constant assault on the digital landscape in the form of continuous digital upgrades. It’s an upgrade arms race.

Technology is changing so fast that we are all newbies. Forever. You can’t keep up. This leads to a constant state of discomfort. “Today is a wide-open frontier. We are all becoming. It is the best time ever in human history to begin. You are not late.”


Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming the new electricity in innovation. Instead of creating new tools by electrifying them, tomorrow’s new tools will spawn from the addition of intelligence.

Everything around us is becoming smarter. And the Internet of Things will accelerate, enhance, and illuminate the influence of all this data on our lives and work.


“The Internet is the world’s largest copy machine. The digital economy runs on this river of freely flowing copies.”

The first digital age of computing borrowed from the industrial age, the second brought forth the organizing principle of the web and now the third is the age of computation. Pages and browsers have diminished importance; flows and streams are the future. And Tags have replaced links. In addition, the third mode is in real-time.

To operate in real-time, everything must have flow. The only things truly valuable are things that cannot be copied, like trust. Here are eight generatives better than free: Immediacy, personalization, interpretation, authenticity, accessibility, embodiment, patronage, and discoverability.

With flow comes liquidity. From liquidity grows ease in creating and a shift from what Kelly calls fixity to fluidity. With fluidity comes streaming.


Today more than 5 billion digital screens illuminate our lives. In the past, our lives and communication revolved around the spoken word, this evolved to the written word with mass production of books and now we are shifting to screening. Or as Kelly calls them, “People of the Screen.”

“People of the Screen tend to ignore the classic logic of books or reverence for the copies; they prefer the dynamic flux of pixels.” The new activity is called, “screening” because people still read, they do it on a screen and also consume images, watch videos and listen to sounds. Screening.

A significant gain in the shift to screening is the interactivity available in the digital information age. Our documents are now hyperlinked, annotated, marked-up summarized, and anything else one may dream up.

Wikipedia is the first networked book. Books were good at developing a contemplative mind and screening spawns more utilitarian thinking. What influence this will have on society remains to be seen.


Possessing is not as important as it once was. Personally, I have stanched my own constant pursuit of more and replaced it with a desire for simplicity.

This section is one of the most interesting in the book because the way we access so many things in our lives today are changing right in front of our eyes.

Think about movies, music, and finances. Netflix, iTunes, and ATMs have changed our lives in ways never imagined 25 years ago.

Kelly writes about five deep technological trends accelerating the long-term move toward accessing and away from ownership: Dematerialization, Real-time On-Demand, Decentralization, Platform Synergy, and Clouds.

In the future, accessing will trump owning.


Bill Gates once described open source software as modern-day communism. The frantic rush to connect everyone may feel like this and maybe giving rise to a revised technological version of the what feels like socialism.

Kelly writes this to describe what he believes is happening: “But there is one way in which ‘Socialism’ is the wrong word for what is happening: It is not an ideology, not an ‘ism.’ It demands no rigid creed. Rather it is a spectrum of attitudes, techniques, and tools that promote the collaboration, sharing, aggregation, coordination, adhocracy, and a host of other newly enabled types of social cooperation.”


The sheer velocity of creation today is mind-boggling and requires some type of filter.

Kelly outlines a long list of filter-types ranging from gatekeepers to friends. The Internet and it’s infinite shelf space give rise to the opportunity, and perhaps the necessity, for one to develop very specific filters that we turn to again and again to accomplish specific tasks, guide our thinking, parse our information and influence our actions.

One of my favorite sections of the book is when Kelly writes about the notion of paying people for their attention. He asks, “Why don’t we charge companies to watch their commercials?” Classic!

Filtering also gives rise to the Experience economy. Experiences have tremendous value because they cannot be copied. And, you can’t really filter an experience, it just happens.

Some interesting statistics Kelly cites to support the experience economy notion are the rise in spending on luxury entertainment, Restaurants, bars, concerts, and healthcare.


Paul Romer, an economist at New York University says real sustainable economic growth does not stem from new resources but from existing resources that are rearranged to make them more valuable. Growth comes from remixing.

Kelly writes about movies, YouTube, and the ability to create because remixing allows makes it so much easier. He says that the tiger represents the animal kingdom, but the grasshopper is a truer statistical example of an animal.

The prospect of remixing has implications on our notions of property and ownership. The global economy is tipping away from the material and toward intangible bits. Kelly posits that in 30 years the most important cultural works and the most powerful mediums will be those that have been remixed the most.


Virtually every aspect of our lives is becoming more and more interactive. In the coming decades, this will keep expanding and Kelly believes the expansion will follow three thrusts: More senses, more intimacy, and more immersion.

Gamification has and will continue, to have a major influence on much of our lives. Adding to this is the evolution and improvement of Virtual Reality (VR). Gamification, VR, and Artificial Intelligence have the potential to create amazing experiences for people, change education, and positively change lives.

Kelly believes that in the next 30 years, anything that is not intensely interactive will be considered broken.


We are beginning to track everything. This is good and bad at the same time.

Kelly writes about the risks in “N=1” experiments and how this can lead to bias. Especially when one is hurting or desperate. This risk is mitigated by automated options for self-tracking.

Perhaps more than any other section, tracking is becoming ubiquitous. In fact, is customer data the new “gold” in business? Is the data about how people make decisions and why the next frontier where we will pour our corporate resources? Yes, I believe it is because doing this allows us to create instead of competing.


Wikipedia is the crowd-sourced version of questioning and it seemed impossible when it started. There was no way this thing could stay under control and people would abuse it.

A funny thing happened in that collaboration outpaces competition. Kelly goes deep on the possibilities of what seems like, “Wiki-Anything.”

Kelly writes: Every fact has an antifact, The Internet’s extreme hyperlinking will highlight those antifacts as brightly as the facts. Some antifacts are silly, some borderline, and some valid. This is the curse of the screen: You can’t rely on experts to sort them out because for every expert there is an equal and opposite anti-expert. Thus anything I learn is subject to erosion by these ubiquitous antifactors.

Our society is moving away from the rigid order of hierarchy toward the fluidity of decentralization.


Kelly lays out his case for calling the interconnected world we are part of today and what it will be in the future, the Holos.

I recommend highly that you read this book. To me, this final chapter made clear the genius of Kevin Kelly I came to admire while consuming his art. So if you enjoy books that twist your mind, ask great questions, and challenge your thinking, this one is for you.

To get a copy of the book, click on the image and it will take you to Amazon.

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