Over the long term, the future is decided by optimists

Kevin Kelly

Out of Control


Out of Control is a summary of what we know about self-sustaining systems, both living ones such as a tropical wetland, or an artificial one, such as a computer simulation of our planet. The last chapter of the book, “The Nine Laws of God,” is a distillation of the nine common principles that all life-like systems share. The major themes of the book are:

  • As we make our machines and institutions more complex, we have to make them more biological in order to manage them.
  • The most potent force in technology will be artificial evolution. We are already evolving software and drugs instead of engineering them.
  • Organic life is the ultimate technology, and all technology will improve towards biology.
  • The main thing computers are good for is creating little worlds so that we can try out the Great Questions. Online communities let us ask the question “what is a democracy; what do you need for it?” by trying to wire a democracy up, and re-wire it if it doesn’t work. Virtual reality lets us ask “what is reality?” by trying to synthesize it. And computers give us room to ask “what is life?” by providing a universe in which to create computer viruses and artificial creatures of increasing complexity. Philosophers sitting in academies used to ask the Great Questions; now they are asked by experimentalists creating worlds.
  • As we shape technology, it shapes us. We are connecting everything to everything, and so our entire culture is migrating to a “network culture” and a new network economics.
  • In order to harvest the power of organic machines, we have to instill in them guidelines and self-governance, and relinquish some of our total control.


九问KK (“Nine Questions for KK”)
Interview by Jiamin Zhao, Dongxi, December 21, 2010



Richard Thieme , vol. 3, no. 1, Spring 2000

William Grassie
Temple University

Susan Stepney May 1996

Voice Literary Supplement
Bill Boisvert, vol. 148, Sep. 1996, p. 14

Technology Review
Melanie Mitchell, vol. 98, Oct. 1995, pp. 74-5

Electronic News
Robert Sobel, vol. 40, Oct. 10, 1994, p. 38

Harvard Business Review
William C. Taylor, vol. 72, Nov./Dec. 1994, pp. 64-6

Rick Tetzel, vol. 130, Sept. 5, 1994, p. 111


The Media Project , March 18, 2011
“Wired” founder’s journey holds lessons for Chinese creativity, Promise Hsu

China Daily, December 13, 2010
Plug into Chinese version of ‘God’s laws’, Yang Guang

Beijing News, December 2010
Books of the Year candidate, Social Sciences

Select Blurbs

“Kevin Kelly’s wonderfully perceptive new book shatters more paradigms per page than any other text in this decade. Out Of Control makes me feel good to be alive.”
— Bruce Sterling

Out Of Control is the breakthrough concept of contemporary science and technology. It links the best of cutting-edge biology, computer science, economics, organizational theory, art, and much more. No longer just the best journalist on the subject, Kevin Kelly with this book is actively shaping the intellectual implosion.”
— Stewart Brand

Out Of Control is in! Extremely cool McNuggets of information on every page.”
— Doug Coupland, author of Generation X

“Kevin Kelly’s Out Of Control is a sweeping and imaginative tour de force, exploring the frontiers of science and technology. If you are having trouble with the complexity of things, get Out Of Control, and into some of the most creative current thinking in America: fractal and far out, chaotic and post-Darwinian, and reaching for the Divine.”
— George Gilder

“This lively and fascinating read is the classic, millenial paradigm-buster. After reading Out of Control, you’ll never again think in the same way about how your world is organized. In fact, you’ll feel slightly superior to, and impatient with, all those people who are still stuck in old-fashioned, 20th-century modes of thought”
— Joel Garreau

Out of Control is a real thriller, full of astonishing and bold connections, and more gripping than almost any sci-fi book I’ve ever read. What I like is the way the book jumps between specifics and far-reaching generalities – from how modern computer animation works, for example, to how complex organisms evolve self-regulation. I find it difficult to contain my enthusiasm in just a few lines for a work so rich and complex.”
— Brian Eno

“[Out of Control] represents an attempt to comprehend the possible future evolution of everything. This is the wonderful sort of subject which can quickly transform a reader’s idle curiosity into an obsessive craving for more knowlege and imaginative interpretation. Kelly offers plenty of both, with hackle-raising enthusiasm, eloquence, and even that scientific rarity, a sense of humor.”
London Spectator

“Kevin Kelly’s Out of Control offers a genuinely new, idealistic, futuristic vision of our relationshp with technology. What emerges is a vision of how things work, how things fail, and how we should structure our world as we enter the 21st century.”

“[Out of Control is] a vivid gallery of intellectual and technological pioneers.”
The Boston Sunday Globe

“This mind-blasting exploration of the ‘neo-biological world’ provides constant and unexpected insights for managing the turbulence ahead.”
Industry Week

Out of Control is the best of an important new genre. The book offers a pointed reminder that self organization… is the essence of innovation, progress, and life itself. These are eternal ideas–and ideas whose time has come.”
Forbes ASAP

Other Editions

Out of Control
2003, HTML
2009, PDF

Out of Control
1995, paperback
528 pages
Addison Wesley, MA
ISBN-10: 0201483408
ISBN-13: 9780201483406
Available from Amazon

Out of Control
1994, hardcover
521 pages
Addison Wesley, MA
ISBN-10: 020577933
ISBN-13: 9780201577938
Available from Amazon


English cover
English (British)
Out of Control
4th Estate, London
ISBN-10: 1857023080

Das Ende der Kontrolle
ISBN-10: 3927901873

Out of Control
Urra, Apogeo Srl
ISBN-10: 887303182X

Fukuzatsukei o koete
ASCII, Tokyo
ISBN-10: 4756130186

통제 불능
Gimm-Young, Korea
ISBN-13: 9788934972778

Извън контрол
Iztok-Zapad, Bulgaria
ISBN-13: 9786191527359

East-West Library, China
ISBN-13: 9787121272295

Xrefinc, Russia

Objetiva, Brazil


Bootstrapping Complexity
An Out of Control remix by Andreas Lloyd
2009, HTML

Whole remix in web format
2009, PDF

155 pages, 1.2 MB
2009, Kindle edition