The Technium

Remix of Out of Control

The other day I got a note from a Danish guy who is a fan of my book OUT OF CONTROL. He found my ideas great but my presentation “frustrating.” But unlike my other “frustrated” readers, Andreas Lloyd decided to do something about it: he remixed my book!

I think the result is quite amazing. Remixing is perhaps too strong a word because he mostly simply dropped entire chapters, with a little re-arranging here and there. It is a very sharp but intelligent edit. But the effect is striking. Instead of a rambling book about one dozen things, Lloyd’s remix of my book focuses it on the cybernetic and feedback aspects of the systems I was reporting on in the early 1990s. I suggested this focus needed a better title than OUT OF CONTROL, which I never was happy with anyhow, so Lloyd came up with a new one for this version of the book. He calls it BOOTSTRAPPING COMPLEXITY.


So if you never read OUT OF CONTROL because you were put off my its length, here is a user-generated remix that shortens and focuses the book. You can read it on Lloyd’s website or even download the PDF. (I will post the PDF here on as well.)

Lloyd’s notes read thus:

Kevin Kelly’s book “Out of Control” is a fascinating book full of fascinating ideas reaching across the board from artificial intelligence, evolution, biology, ecology, robotics and more to explore complexity, cybernetics and self-organising systems in an accessible and engaging way.

But in reading Out of Control, I found it suffering from a number of frustrating flaws: Not only is it way too long-winded, it is also almost completely void of meta-text to help the reader understand what Kelly is trying to do with his book (having read the book, I’m still wondering).

Indeed, reading the book I got the feeling that Kelly was trying to combine several different books into one: There is a fascinating study of self-sustaining systems. But there is also a sort of business-book take on network economy. And an extended meditation on evolution and postdarwinism.

I’m sure that to Kelly, all of these things are tightly interconnected. But he doesn’t explain these interrelations very well to the reader. His central argument is that as technology becomes ever more complex, it becomes more akin to biological systems (eco-systems, vivisystems, interdependent and co-evolving organisms). But because the individual chapters are set up as essays on their own, there is often little to tie these wildly different ideas together.

I would have preferred a much shorter book, more narrowly focused on the idea of self-organising systems. The whole text of the original book is easily available online at Kelly’s own website, so I thought: Why not remix the online text to make such a book?

So I did.

However, if you liked BOOTSTRAPPING COMPLEXITY, you may also want to try my “long-winded” original version with lots more stuff. It is available as web text and a free PDF as well.

I think Lloyd is a fantastic editor, and his fan-based work is exactly the kind of liquidity of text that I believe will propel books in the next century. His remix is the kind of literary fluidity I was talking about in my Scan This Book article for the New York Times.

  • Kennon Ballou

    This sounds like an awesome idea, but I have to say that I didn’t find the original long winded at all – I would have been happy if it had been twice as long :-)

    I first read it a couple of years ago and I was amazed that someone had built practically a bibliography of everything I’m interested in, and had written it over ten years previously!

    Kevin, I think the ideas you expressed in that book are more relevant (and trendy) than ever before, and while the book holds up remarkably well, there are a few passages and references that tend to be a bit dated. Do you have any plans for producing a new edition? (Or will you just leave it up to your fans, a la Mr. Lloyd?)

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure I’m one of many who would also greatly appreciate a “Further Out Of Control”.

  • Edwin


    Off Topic: All of Andrea’s URL’s are .dk. I assume he’s Danish, not Dutch. That’s .nl.

  • @Edwin: You are right. He is Danish. My mistake, now corrected.

  • Mickey McManus

    I loved Out of Control. You might enjoy this short preview film that we just completed about the future of computing.

  • Nathanael Boehm

    Unfortunately I was only in primary school when you published Out of Control so I only discovered the book last year and am still working through it (I read a dozen books simultaneously) but it’s absolutely fascinating, a 5 out of 5.

    I get Lloyd’s point – the book doesn’t seem to have a strong purpose, except to open people’s minds to fields of science in distributed intelligence, hive mind, networks, biologic etc that 15 years on many people still don’t know about and your predictions of the future that have yet to be realised and 15 years while I’m reading your book I’m finding it inspirational.