Out of Control
62 Choice Quotes

The world of our own making has become so complicated that we must turn to the world of the born to understand how to manage it.

The central act of the coming era is to connect everything to everything.

Complexity must be grown from simple systems that already work.

There is nothing to be found in a beehive that is not submerged in a bee. And yet you can search a bee forever with cyclotron and fluoroscope, and you will never find a hive.

To err is human; to manage error is system.

A network nurtures small failures in order that large failures don't happen as often.

The only organization capable of unprejudiced growth, or unguided learning, is a network.

A system is anything that talks to itself.

We can only get smart things from stupid things.

The "I" of a vivisystem is a ghost. Like the transient form of a whirlpool held upright by a million spinning atoms of water, it can be scattered with a fingertip.

A mind cannot possibly consider anything beyond what it can measure or calculate; without a body it can only consider itself. Without the interruptions of hellos from the eye, ear, tongue, nose, and finger, the evolving mind huddles in the corner picking its navel.

The future of machines is biology.

An event is not triggered by a chain of being, but by a field of causes spreading horizontally, like creeping tide.

Life never falls, but never gets out of falling. It is poised in a persistent state of almost-fell.

We don't have a word for learning and teaching at the same time, but our schooling would improve if we did.

Artificial complex systems will be deliberately infused with organic principles simply to keep them going.

Biology always wins in any blending of organic and machine.

One can imagine the future shape of companies by stretching them until they are pure network. It will be hard at times to tell who is working for whom.

A company cannot be a learning company without also being a teaching company.

"It works, why worry?" is life's deepest philosophy.

In network economics, more brings more.

Anything that can hold an electronic charge can hold a fiscal charge.

There's nothing more addictive than being a god.

The great irony of god games is that letting go is the only way to win.

Any highly evolved form is beautiful.

What humans can't engineer, evolution can.

It is the great irony of life that a mindless act repeated in sequence can only lead to greater depths of absurdity, while a mindless act performed in parallel by a swarm of individuals can, under the proper conditions, lead to all that we find interesting.

"Correct" is a property of small systems.

Animals are robots that work. Toons are simply robots without hard bodies.

The nature of life is to delight in all possible loopholes. Every creature is in some way hacking a living by reinterpreting the rules.

We want a machine that is constantly remaking itself.

Life-as-it-could-be is a territory we can only study by first creating it.

The capacity to evolve must be evolved itself. Evolution has been, and will keep on, exploring the space of possible evolutions. Organisms, memes, the whole ball of wax are only evolution's way to keep evolving.

Memory is a reenactment of perception, indistinguishable from the original act of knowing.

An ecosystem is more like a conference than a community -- indefinite, pluralistic, tolerant, and in constant flux.

Life is a transforming flood that fills up empty containers and then spills out of them on its way to fill up more. The shape and number of vessels submerged by the flood doesn't make a bit of difference.

The great secret which life has kept from us is that once born, life is immortal. Once launched, it cannot be eradicated.

Dying creatively is the hallmark of vivisystems.

Life is the strange loop of a snake releasing itself from its own grip, unmouthing an ever fattening tail tapering up to an ever increasingly large mouth, birthing an ever larger tail, filling the universe with this strangeness.

Organisms are self-causing agencies. Every self is a tautology: self-evident, self-referential, self-centered, and self-created.

The story of automation is the story of a one-way shift from human control to automatic control.

Life is a verb not a noun.

What little time left is in this century is rehearsal time for the chief psychological chore of the 21st century: letting go, with dignity.

In turbulence is the preservation of the world.

Life is in the business of making its environment agreeable for life.

Urbanization is the advent of edge species.

The work of managing a natural environment is inescapably a work of local knowledge.

If machines knew as much about each other as we know about each other (even in our privacy), the ecology of machines would be indomitable.

Hereditary information does not exist independently of its embodiment.

The genes harbor their own wisdom and their own inertia.

Evolution is a technological, mathematical, informational, and biological process rolled into one. It could almost be said to be a law of physics, a principle that reigns over all created multitudes, whether they have genes or not.

The quickest route to describing a seed's output is to sprout it.

Inconsistency is an inevitable trait of any self-sustaining system built up out of consistent parts.

As life evolves it unbinds from the inorganic and interacts more with the organic.

Telling the future is what organisms are for.

We cannot import evolution and learning without exporting control.

We are all steering.

When everything happens at once, wide and fast moving problems simply route around any central authority. Therefore overall governance must arise from the most humble interdependent acts done locally in parallel, and not from a central command.

The hardest lesson for humans to learn: that organic complexity will entail organic time.

No one has been more wrong about computerization than George Orwell in 1984. So far, nearly everything about the actual possibility-space which computers have created indicates they are the end of authority and not its beginning.

We should not be surprised that life, having subjugated the bulk of inert matter on Earth, would go on to subjugate technology, and bring it also under its reign of constant evolution.

The apparent veil between the organic and the manufactured has crumpled to reveal that the two really are, and have always been, of one being.

This page was last modified on Friday, March 11, 2003