Kevin Kelly - Excellent Advice for Living
The BoldBrush Show: Episode #38
Get over 50% off your first year on your artist website with FASO:
Buy KK's book here: Excellent Advice For Living: Wisdom I Wish I'd Known Earlier
This is a very special episode because we were able to interview Kevin Kelly thanks to our CEO Clint Watson, who after seeing a twitter post made by Kelly, was able to get him onto our show. Kevin Kelly is a celebrated author, speaker, and technology visionary known for his influential work on the intersection of technology, culture, and society. Co-founder of Wired magazine, Kelly has been a leading voice in the tech industry for decades. He's authored multiple books on cutting edge technologies, the future of our world, culture, and even a graphic novel.
On this episode we will be discussing his new book "Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I'd Known Earlier" which came out on May 2nd and is currently available for purchase through Amazon or at your local book store. This little book of aphorisms packs a punch by giving you wonderful meditations, thoughts, and advice that apply to everything from finding inspiration, to finding your missing keys. Other notable titles by Kevin Kelly that are worth a read are The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Techonological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, Vanishing Asia which is a 50-year project documenting the disappearing cultures of Asia and What Technology Wants. And for our artist listeners, the title of the graphic novel he wrote is The Silver Cord. Kelly, a sought-after public speaker has given talks at numerous events around the world and is a founding board member of the Long Now Foundation, a nonprofit that is building a clock, known as the clock of the long now, that will accurately keep time for 10,000 years and is being built deep inside a mountain in West Texas.
Aside from publishing books, Kevin Kelly also has a weekly podcast where he discusses cool tools, and he also writes a daily blog where he discusses technological trends, digital culture, AI, and it's also where he published an essay in 2008 that we will be discussing called 1000 True Fans. This essay has inspired many creative entrepreneurs seeking financial sustainability and independence. In this essay, Kelly hypothesizes that by cultivating a dedicated fan base of just 1000 individuals who deeply appreciate and support your work, you as a creator, can achieve success and freedom. He emphasizes the importance of building authentic relationships with fans and delivering high-quality content that exceeds their expectations.
Kevin Kelly's contributions to the intersection of technology, AI, and human creativity have solidified his position as a seminal figure. His vision and foresight have been instrumental in shaping our understanding of the digital age and its profound implications. As we navigate an increasingly connected and technologically driven world, Kevin Kelly's ideas continue to guide and inspire, challenging us to embrace the future with curiosity, optimism, adaptability, and a deep appreciation for the power of human ingenuity. So sit back, relax, maybe grab a notebook to take some notes, and join us for an enlightening conversation with Kevin Kelly.
Follow KK on Twitter:
Kevin Kelly: 0:00
This is another piece of advice is kind of you want to shift your attention from trying to get through tasks as quick as possible to doing tasks that you want to do for as long as possible. Part of what maybe the book is about is trying to shift that so that that distinction between work and play, which I think especially artists who are really at their peak and in the flow would agree that there's almost no difference between when they're working when they're playing that's sort of you know, that the holy trinity of what most people are kind of aiming for when it's that's a good goal is where you're doing something that you love to do and are good at doing it. And that's, that's a that's something worth aiming for. And when you're in that spot, there isn't that much difference between what you would do if you weren't getting paid and what you're doing when you get paid.
Laura Arango Baier: 0:47
Welcome to the BoldBrush show, where we believe that fortune favors the bold brush. My name is Laura Arango Baier, and I'm your host. For those of you who are new to the podcast, we're a podcast that covers art marketing techniques, and all sorts of business tips specifically to help artists learn to better sell their work. We interview artists at all stages of their career, as well as others who are in careers tied to the arts in order to hear their advice and insights. This is a very special episode because we were able to interview Kevin Kelly thanks to our CEO Clint Watson, who is joining us on this episode. Kevin Kelly is a celebrated author, speaker and technology visionary known for his influential work on the intersection of technology, culture and society. Co-founder of Wired Magazine, Kelly has been a leading voice in the tech industry for decades. He's authored multiple books on cutting edge technologies, the future of our world, culture, and even a graphic novel. On this episode we will be discussing his new book Excellent advice for Living, Wisdom I Wish I'd Known Earlier which came out on May 2 of this year and is currently available for purchase through Amazon or at your local bookstore. This little book of aphorisms packs a punch by giving you wonderful meditations, thoughts, and advice that apply to everything from finding inspiration to finding your missing keys. Other notable titles by Kevin Kelly that are worth a read are The Inevitable, Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, Vanishing Asia, which is a 50 year project documenting the disappearing cultures of Asia, and What Technology Wants. And for our artist listeners, the title of the graphic novel he wrote is The Silver Cord. Kelly, a sought after public speaker, has given talks at numerous events around the world and is a founding board member of Long Now Foundation, a nonprofit that is building a clock known as the Clock of the Long Now that will accurately keep time for 10,000 years and is being built deep inside a mountain in West Texas. Aside from publishing books, Kevin Kelly also has a weekly podcast where he discusses cool tools and he also writes a daily blog where he discusses technological trends, digital culture, AI, and it's also where he published an essay over a decade ago, that we will be discussing called 1000 True Fans. This essay has inspired many creative entrepreneurs seeking financial sustainability and independence. In this essay, Kelly hypothesizes that by cultivating a dedicated fan base of just 1000 individuals who deeply appreciate and support your work, you as a creator can achieve success and freedom. He emphasizes the importance of building authentic relationships with fans and delivering high quality content that exceeds their expectations. Kevin Kelly's contributions to the intersection of technology, AI and human creativity have solidified his position as a seminal figure, his vision and foresight have been instrumental in shaping our understanding of the digital age and its profound implications. As we navigate an increasingly connected and technologically driven world, Kevin Kelly's ideas continue to guide and inspire, challenging us to embrace the future with curiosity, optimism, adaptability, and a deep appreciation for the power of human ingenuity. So sit back, relax, maybe grab a notebook to take some notes, and join us for an enlightening conversation with Kevin Kelly. So hello, Kevin Kelly, thank you so much for honoring us with your presence on our podcast. I know we're a very small podcast, and you're an amazing, incredible person who's done so many wonderful things and provided so much value to the world. So this is a huge opportunity for us. So thank you so, so much for being here. It's my pleasure. I'm really delighted to be here.
Kevin Kelly: 4:17
Thank you for inviting me, and I'm really looking forward to this conversation.
Clint Watson: 4:21
I know, people listening that are in our audience. They just heard Laura's detailed introduction about your past and your accomplishments and your new book. But I just want to say, you know, we're just so thrilled to have you here that I I sort of described Kevin Kelley as the Leonardo da Vinci of the modern modern day renaissance man, man so
Kevin Kelly: 4:44
I will take that praise gracefully, but it's actually untrue. But anyway, I understand what you're saying. But thank you so much. And again, it's a delight to be here. And I'm eager to talk about whatever you want to talk about.
Clint Watson: 4:57
And by the way, happy belated birthday.
Kevin Kelly: 4:59
You Thank you so much. I just turned 71
Laura Arango Baier: 5:02
A young man.
Kevin Kelly: 5:03
Yep. Yes, thank you.
Laura Arango Baier: 5:06
Course. Um, so, before we discuss anything further, do you mind giving us a little bit of background on why you wrote your book? Excellent Advice For Living, Wisdom I Wish I'd Known Earlier, like what inspired it? How did you decide to write a book of aphorisms, instead of your typical, more long format prose?
Kevin Kelly: 5:26
Yeah, so it is a departure for me, it's something that was not on my bucket list to do. I have always cherished kind of Proverbs, and really kind of interesting quotes. And like the ones that had a little surprise in them, and I began writing down my own bits, to remind myself to help me remember certain things. And I would kind of turn to compress them into this little telegraphic notice in order to have a handle on them to remind myself and the kinds of things would be like, if they're learned from an editor, or when you get invited to do something six months, six months from now, ask yourself, would you whether you would do it, if it was tomorrow morning, because oftentimes you say yes to things that are really far off. They seem they seem interesting at the time. But as it gets closer and closer, when you actually have to do it, it's like, that's not really something I wanted to do. So you kind of fast forward that make that immediacy filter. And that would something be something that I would repeat to myself, when I get invited, I would say would I do this if this tomorrow morning. And so I began writing those kinds of things down. And at some point, I realized that there were things that I wished I had known earlier things that had just took a long time for me to kind of get around learning the value of prototyping things of a building it more than once at redoing things to get them great. And I then realized that it'd be really good idea to do this for my kids who are grown, because we did not give them very much advice. We didn't we didn't, we didn't preach to them, we didn't, we try to model by behavior rather than by what we said. But there were things I wished I had heard earlier. So I made a bunch of them for my kids when I was 68. and shared them with the greater larger extended family. And they kind of traveled started to travel, and that viral way and my so I'll do this again. And I kept doing it for some years and didn't realize that it'd be really handy to have something to be able to give to a young person. So that's the origins of the book.
Laura Arango Baier: 7:35
That's awesome. And I really resonate with the self reminders type of thing, because I also keep a notebook with some of my favorite quotes.
Clint Watson: 7:45
I want to say the books already saved me once Saturday night, we were hanging out listening to music, having wine, having some snacks, and I stood up to go refill our wine glasses and grab some plates, and I grabbed the wine glass. And then I grabbed my wife's wine glass. And then my mind thought anytime there's a question, if you can do it in one trap, then save yourself some heartache and do it in two.
Kevin Kelly: 8:07
Yeah, exactly those those exactly the same thing. They just, you know, or another favorite one of mine, if I know I have something in the house, but can't find it, or men workshop, and they finally do find it. When I'm putting it back, I always remind myself, don't put it back where I found it, put it back where I first looked for it. And I just tell myself that again, again, put it back where you first look for it. So. So those are some of the very practical things, but there are others that are a little bit more higher level, you know, emphasize gratitude and generosity and kindness as the operating OS of the universe. You know, there's this really weird, weird paradox that makes no sense that seems to be fundamental at the core of at least human existence, which is that the more you give, the more you get back. I mean, you get back far more than you give. And so mathematically, this doesn't add up doesn't make any sense. But yet, it's the foundation of so much in the world that, again, it kind of maybe intuitively had that but being able to kind of you know, it's typical, if it was a difficult thing. A lot of the wisdom that I'm channeling is from the Stoics, and Confucius and the Bible, but I'm trying to put it into my own words and put it into a way that you can remember it and be reminded of it.
Laura Arango Baier: 9:29
Yes. And it's funny that you mentioned the stoics because I was actually going to say that your book reminds me very much of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations,
Kevin Kelly: 9:39
which I've never read. But I've heard I've heard a lot of a lot or a lot of little quotes and things so but yes, it's so it's I'm indirectly influenced by it in the sense that even they I'm sure we're channeling the ancients.
Laura Arango Baier: 9:57
Yes, yes. And they give timeless advice which I think your book provides as well. I think one of the funny quotes from Marcus Aurelius that he puts in his book in his, you know, in his meditations, which wasn't intended to be a book, he actually wrote, don't wear your street clothes indoors because it's dirty. Which is funny, because it still applies to today.
Clint Watson: 10:18
Yeah, it's interesting. You say that you're channeling something, because I've noticed this, as I've read different books having having earlier this year read a Rick Rubin's book, having read some of the stoic books like Marcus Aurelius, and, you know, sometimes writing my own tweets or my own things that I wish to remember. And then having just read this book over the weekend, and it's like, everybody sort of saying the same thing. In the end. Yeah, we're all just you're trying to express something that can't necessarily quite be put into words, but so use your own words.
Kevin Kelly: 10:51
Yeah, there was a quote, that's not in the book is not really a piece of advice, but it is an observation I think is true, which is everything important has already been said. But nobody was listening. So we have to say it again.
Clint Watson: 11:01
Exactly . Iinteresting, I still find it useful to check all these different books, because sometimes it resonates one way and it doesn't a different,
Kevin Kelly: 11:10
right, right. And you can hear at different phases of your life, and it can have different meanings. But what I was trying to do is, in some ways, just encapsulate this and make it in kind of something that's in the modern vernacular, if at all possible, but the actual wisdom is, as you say, timeless, and I tried to, you know, some of us were more practical stuff again, you know, stuff that's not really that timeless, that could change over time, like, don't, when you're renting a car, you know, you don't need extra insurance, if you have a credit card. Yes. How long is that going to last? I don't know. Yeah. So, but that was thinking, I was thinking of my kids, and turning what do I know that they, they should, you know, be reminded of and know, or, you know, so, so some of it. So it does range, it does range into kind of practical stuff about how to buy tools, right, you know, start with the cheapest thing and then earn your way up to higher quality. And if you're using it professionally, buy the best you can afford. So then two, as you say, you know, kind of like the the timeless stuff that hasn't changed about human nature, which is like the rules of three in conversation, which is if you really want to get to the truth to some bodies state of being you've got to kind of persist in asking them and listening to the three levels of other answers to the question, as you know, how are you? What is this? What's the matter? Whatever it is, we're the first answer is the easy, convenient answer. And the second answer is a little bit more deeper. And the third answer, if you persist is actually closer to the truth of the situation.
Laura Arango Baier: 12:44
Yes. And as the stoics say, you can never truly reach truth, but you can approximate it, which means
Kevin Kelly: 12:51
you can get closer. It's an asymptotic trend if you know what an asymptote is in mathematics never reaches zero, but it approaches it. And that's all we can ask for.
Laura Arango Baier: 13:01
Yeah. I mean, if it's as close as we can get, you might as well...
Kevin Kelly: 13:04
That's right, we can always get closer and then, I think that's actually the story of our lives. One of my favorite bits of advice in the book is Don't aim to be the best aim to be the only and we have some great, that's a very high bar. And that will take most of us, including me, most of our lives to come close and we will never reach it. It's a it's an asymptote. It's it's something that we we tend towards it's a direction rather than a destination.
Clint Watson: 13:33
Yes. And that's one of our favorites as well and we're gonna come back to that later.
Kevin Kelly: 13:37
Sure thing, I'm kind of just meandering here, I'll let you drive it a little bit better.
Laura Arango Baier: 13:44
Oh, no worries, no worries. It's a it's still very wonderful wisdom to hear anyway, in the meandering, you know?
Clint Watson: 13:51
Yeah, please don't stop meandering. I just, I just wanted to prime me we have some further delving into that.
Kevin Kelly: 13:57
Yeah, sure thing. Yes, of course. That's a very deep thing that we can go. There's been a lot of time on that.
Laura Arango Baier: 14:01
Okay. Well, yeah, yeah. Um, but
Clint Watson: 14:04
thank you. One that you wanted to ask him a question about,
Laura Arango Baier: 14:08
right? Yes, I did. And I wanted to preface by saying that. So this podcast caters to artists and specifically artists who want to make a living from their work. And I'm one of those artists as you can see with some of my stuff behind me. And actually, one of my favorite quotes is making art is not selfish. It is for the rest of us if you don't do your thing, you're cheating us. Right? I love it because it's so many so many artists today they struggle with that they think oh no painting How dare I be an unproductive member of society and just sit around and you know, brood over a canvas for days and months and years? Um so how can artists learn to mitigate that guilt that they feel when they're creating?
Kevin Kelly: 14:55
You know, um, that's a really good question, you know, partly responsibility is not just the artists, you know, it's the people around them and us as a society. But if you're kind of if you are stuck there, you know, I don't know, maybe I might suggest reading biographies of artists, because you'll, you'll see that they they're is they're is flawed and imperfect. In fact, they may be more flawed and imperfect than most beings. And they had very similar struggles. And, and so you might realize that you're not alone, or that feeling is not something that only you are experiencing. But it is very common for those who are going to pursue a professional version of this. And another bit of advice that I have for artists is, you know, the saints and superheroes don't make art, you know, Mother, Teresa and Superman, they never made any art. Art derives from our faults and brokenness and our incompleteness and imperfection. It's the origin of it. And it's not as if you have these, you have to be a perfect enlightened being before you can be an artist. It's quite the opposite. It, it starts with the fact that we're imperfect and our imperfections and so, so yeah. And so it may be it's a shift in in that to understand that where you are right now in your, whether you're feeling an imposter, or whether you are feeling inadequate, or whether you're feeling like you're loafing. That is the normal state.
Clint Watson: 16:29
That's the topic a, by the way, if you've ever read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, yes, it has, I think his first book is all about how to overcome what he calls the resistance,
Kevin Kelly: 16:40
the great recommendation so that would be something that that person might want to read.
Laura Arango Baier: 16:44
Yes, and funnily enough, I've studied with a bunch of different painters, and the recent one that I did an apprenticeship with. He used to have philosophical talks in the morning before we all got to work in our studios. And one of the questions that I remember asking him was, is suffering the best form of inspiration? And he said, unfortunately, yes. And it is very unfortunate. But it seems like it's almost like the greatest inspiration is both love and suffering, almost as if they were the same sides of one coin.
Kevin Kelly: 17:19
Laura Arango Baier: 17:19
I mean, two sides of the same coin.
Kevin Kelly: 17:21
I don't know if either one is eclipsed the other but but but they're all are valid avenues and valid entries, whether it's, you know, exhilaration, joy, suffering, pain, anger, those all fly fly there, they're all, they're all good places to start. And there's another quote that is not mine, but it's lost in the origins of time, which is art is anything you can get away with, which is what I tell my son who was doing art for a while. And yeah, it's, it's if you if you convince other people that what you're doing is art, its art. This, you know, Jeff Koons done a great job with this. So it's, yeah, it's how you frame it, really. And a lot of performance artists are like that, as well. And whether it's a doodle or art, it's up to you.
Laura Arango Baier: 18:12
Yes. And I think the other interesting aspect of this skill, too, is a lot of artists, when they're shifting from, you know, their day job to full time pursuing this career, because this isn't a career you can just shift into that easily, unless you're very, very rich. Um, that's the other side of the guilt. And the difficulty of being an artist, which is making money, right. And this reminds me actually, of another one of your, your quotes, which helps kind of, I'd say, divide that thought into two things, which is don't create things to make money or make money so you can create things, the reward for good work is more work.
Kevin Kelly: 18:52
Yes, and this actually came kind of, in some ways from Walt Disney, who said something along the lines that we don't make, we don't make movies to make money, we make money to make movies. Okay? And, and, you know, the idea of the work, the reward for work is more work. It's a kind of Tom Sachs thing, too, which is the and this is a little bit of a talk to this guy named David Allen, who is the chief architect of getting things done, you know, productivity, and one of my observations was that, you know, this is another piece of advice is kind of, you want to shift your attention from trying to get through tasks as quick as possible to doing tasks that you want to do for as long as possible. That's the idea that the reward for work is more work is you actually want to do more work, and you want to work so that you can do more work. And, again, we're a little bit conflating some words in English work and work which have slightly different meanings here. One is the tasks that you have to do and the other one is, you know, the tasks that you like to do and so, part of what maybe the book is about is trying to shift To that, so that distinction between work and play, which I think best artists who are really at their peak and in the flow would agree that there's almost no difference between when they're working when they're playing. And I know that's true in my own life is one of the things I've tried to engineer is, there's really not that much distinction between what I'm doing for fun and when I'm doing for money. That that's sort of you know, that the holy trinity of what most people were kind of aiming for when it's a good goal is where you're doing something that you love to do and are good at doing it. And other people value it and they're going to pay you. That's, that's a, that's something worth aiming for. And when you're in that spot, there isn't that much difference between what you would do if you weren't getting paid and what you're doing when you get paid.
Laura Arango Baier: 20:47
It reminds me the concept, the Japanese Right. concept of IKIGAI, which is doing something that speaks to you, but that also nourishes you. Yes. Which is I think you explained it very, very well.
Kevin Kelly: 21:01
Yeah. I, you know, again, referencing what we talked about before about not aiming to be the best, be the only while that is the holy trinity of kind of work career. It's only there's another stage beyond it, there's another level. And that's the level of yes, you're doing something that you're great at the love doing other people value and will pay for it. But But there's another level to arrive. And that is Can anybody else do this. And the more you dwell, that area where you met those kind of elemental three requirements, the more you realize that there's other opportunities. And so part of what you're successful I used to do is start to make choices. And if you are lucky, you get to have another decision about what am I going to do the things that nobody else is going to do. So yes, I can imagine this thing, this assignment, that would be really fun, maybe you're really good at it, they're gonna pay me. But I could think of a couple other people that could do this, just like I would do it, I'm not going to do that one, I'm going to do the thing that nobody else would do want to do care to do kudu will, whatever it is. And that puts you much more on the path of becoming the only
Clint Watson: 22:14
this relates to the concept. We're constantly telling artists that you've articulated better than we do. But we're constantly saying it all starts with finding your truth. Yeah, this is the idea we're trying to get at what is it you What is it your soul wants to do? Yeah, what are you trying to express? And how do you do this in a way that you're the only person doing it, and when all those come together, then everything else sort of flows much more easily?
Kevin Kelly: 22:38
Yes. And you have no competition at that point. Things is that if you're there only, and one of the ways, by the way that I tried to get there is whenever I'm starting something new, I talk about it to everybody, I tell everybody the idea, I basically try to give away the idea. And if someone else would steal the idea, it's like, I don't have to do that, because they're gonna do it. Okay, and I want to get to something where I can't get anybody to do it. And then that's me, if I can do it and do it, well, I'd love to do it, I don't have to look over my shoulder, I have to worry about people stealing it, I don't, it's it's like I've been trying to get them to steal. And so that's one of the ways that you can kind of, you know, nudge yourself in that direction is by trying to give away ideas. And that, you know, goes back to another piece of advice, the be able to do that you have to have confidence that you can produce more of it. And that confidence comes basically from our practice of actually doing it on a regular basis. So one of the fundamental things that for, for artists, particularly professional artists, is that you just have to produce a lot, do it constantly. And that the content is there's two parts of it. One is it allows you to kind of prototype things, most really great things are iterative. They arrived there by doing things over and over again, you know, like Hamilton was is this incredible musical because they workshopped it for like a decade. I mean, it's like they were they were constantly prototyping iterating on it. That's why it was just so stiff dependence. And so doing something on a regular basis allow you to kind of do iterative stuff. Terry Gross, the podcaster I mean, radio, you know, radio host does, there was just something about doing something on a daily, a daily little radio show, because if she screwed up one day, doesn't matter the other day, she's gonna redo it, she has another chance tomorrow. And so, so there, there's that one aspect of kind of, you know, redoing things over and over again. But the other advantage that that gets you is that you understand that you have infinite ideas, you have infinite things that that you cannot exhaust it and that the more you do it, the deeper it gets. And so doing something on that kind of basis gives you the confidence that you can give something away because there's more from where that came from. Okay, because I'm do doing it every day, because I'm doing it all the time, I know that there's more so so I don't have to be stingy and precious about that, I can hope that you take them away because I have a well, and and I believe that every person, that's true when you get into that place where you are really, as you said, authentic and true, you will have infinitely deep well of stuff that you can afford to give it away.
Clint Watson: 25:26
Laura Arango Baier: 25:27
Now more than ever, it's crucial to have a website when you're an artist, especially if you want to be considered a professional in your career. Thankfully, with our special link faso.com forward slash podcast, you can make that come true. And also get over 50% off your first year on your artists website. Yes, that's basically the price of 12 lattes in one year, which I think is a really great view. Considering that you get sleek and beautiful website templates that are also mobile friendly, e commerce print on demand in certain countries, as well as access to our marketing center that has our brand new art marketing calendar. And the art marketing calendar is something that you won't get with our competitor. The art marketing calendar gives you day by day, step by step guides on what you should be doing today, right now, in order to get your artwork out there and seen by the right eyes so that you can make more sales this year. So if you want to change your life, and actually meet your sales goal this year, then start by going to our special link faso.com forward slash podcast, that's s a s o.com. Forward slash podcast. BoldBrush would also like to give a huge thank you and shout out to Chelsea classical studio for their continued support in this podcast. If you're interested in archival painting supplies that are handmade with a lot of patience, then go check out their Instagram at CCS fine art materials. I think the interesting thing that I'm getting from what you're saying is that you almost make these ideas sound like a burden. Like if I'm going to spend my time doing this thing that I know someone else can do I I'd rather do something else. So you're it's like you're passing it on to someone who would want to do it. Yeah. So you can focus on the things that you shouldn't be doing,
Kevin Kelly: 27:06
It's a gift to them, as well as to you. You're you're released from it. And so, yeah, it's liberating in that sense. And, you know, once once you realize the universe is, is really abundant and hugely abundant. Again, I have to be careful, because I'm obviously talking from a privileged position of being a very lucky person to be born, as I have been where I've been. But I also have spent 50 years traveling in Asia in very remote parts where there is huge, immense poverty and inequality, and racism and all this other stuff at a level that we don't even experience here in the US. So and whatever the observed is even true there. I mean, the peak, it's same, we're not starting at the same levels, but the range for improvement is the same for all, which is there's no limit to how better how we can get better how much better we can do, we can only get better. And so and that's true for even for those who are starting with very limited or scarce resources, all it's the same, it's the same story that that they can, if they can bind their authentic self, their true self, that that will give them a huge amount of power to to produce, even with the constraints. And we know, art actually benefits some constraints at times, or most of the time, and so and so. So that that sense of like seeing that the universe is abundant. It's not necessarily abundant with money or abundant with, you know, free paint or whatever it is. It's abundant with ideas and possibilities. And one of my bits of advice about money is that, you know, a lot of people are often thinking that, well, money is usually not the constraint or innovation for doing really innovative things. Because if money was needed to do breakthroughs, then all the billionaires would have a monopoly on all the breakthroughs, but they don't. Because the ingredients for a breakthrough for novelty for an invention for something really, tremendously great is is things like ingenuity. And what happens is if you have money, then you're going to try and buy the solution. But if you don't have money, you're forced to invent great, something new and that requires, you know, ingenuity and patience and gumption and tremendous cleverness and all kinds of things, which often abundant, those without money, okay, and so that's why a lot of the breakthroughs usually happen out on the edges in the fringes and not in the billionaire or the big companies. And so you can take heart if you have no money because you could also have all the other ingredients that you need to do something really great and it's very, very rare when money alone is the limiting factor.
Laura Arango Baier: 30:05
Yes, yes. And I do also, I mean, there are a lot of artists out there who do have a day job. And that just feeds their, you know, their passion, they'll find ways of, I don't know, they'll tear fabric from their clothing and turn that into their their chemists. But, you know, this also does remind me of your, your essay 1000 true fans, where you discuss how artists and other people who are in creative careers can make a living from, you know, their passion. So what advice or recommendations can you give artists who are just starting out, and maybe they want to take the first step into cultivating this fan base?
Kevin Kelly: 30:44
Yeah. So one of my bits of advice is, you know, prototyping things is better than having grand plans, you, you kind of want to iterate your way to whatever it is you're doing. So you take you test out things, you experiment, you, I like to call it kind of failure management, you want to have your failures in regular small doses, rather than cataclysmic you know, terrible events, like, Okay, I'm going to start a business and get a loan, and I'm going to have a five year business plan, and you know, whatever, that sometimes worked, it really works, you want to try something at a small scale and test it out. And so, um, you know, baby steps, prototyping, trying something. And, you know, pay attention to what moves people what they like, listen really carefully. I think that's something that I would recommend when you're making art that you want to sell or whatever, you kind of have to pay attention to the reaction and you want to, you really want to get an honest sense. And that can, it can hurt if people come in the worst thing is they ignore it. It's almost better to have them hate it than it is to ignore it.
Clint Watson: 31:57
100% agree with that
Kevin Kelly: 31:59
And yeah, we, we did a 11 year was worked on a graphic novel that was kind of ignored. And so that's a signal, that's a signal too that, you know, you need to do something again, you need to do another version, you know, so there's or tried out it, there's a piece of advice that I have, which is that when someone tells you that something doesn't work, or is a broken, or problem, they're usually right, when they tell you what the solution is, they're usually wrong. Okay. And that's the same thing I use for the audience, the audience is really, really good at identifying what doesn't work, they're not very good about giving you the solution. So So I, so I listened really closely when things aren't working, but I don't pay much attention to what they think the fix is, you know, within reason. And so, because, because that's because we can, because it's much easier to see how things fail. That's the probable state of most things. Most things that we try don't work, most startups don't work. Most, most new ideas don't work. Most mutations don't work. That's the normal, probable entropy version of the world. And the things that really worked at a complicated or improbable in that sense, are harder to imagine, they're, they're harder to get to, and you have to have, there are many steps that have to work to get this to arrive. And so if you're making an opera, if you're making a film, if you're making a book series, there's gotta get a lot of things in a row, that all work, and it's very improbable and very hard to get there. And I think the way to do it is, is iteratively. And working as much as possible with feedback from people. I think the professionals what they what they've done, sometimes they're kind of, they've had so much experience with people feeding back that they've internalized that. So they don't necessarily actually have to bring everything to the public. Part of what that experience is that they've accumulated is the reactions of things to people's reactions to the work. If you write 100 bucks, and you've gotten reviews, you have some idea of what that reaction is going to be much more than, say, a person writing their first book. So as you're starting out, I think you really do want to use the signals of the eyes and what people are saying to help guide you, it doesn't mean that you have to obey them. But you have to use that as a signal to help you decide what it is you want to become. And to your point about being authentic and true. I think you know, we all know that art is an expression of that your personality and your being. And I think the best way to think about your journey is to think about it like you're on a journey. It's not a it's not a journey of a career. It's a journey of you. It's like who are you becoming? Right. So the bit of advice I have in the book is when you try to think about what it is that you want to do next. The real question is like who do you want to become next? That's, that's how you want to be framing this and so You can't say I'm an artist. And that's part of your being that's, that's fine, legitimate, but whatever you're expressing is really going to be about who you're becoming. Because if you are becoming an complicated, interesting person, the new your art, we're going to be more likely to be complicated and interesting.
Clint Watson: 35:17
So can we don't just a little further into the true fans idea, and I bring, bring that up, because this idea is something artists want to believe. And it's that essay inspired a lot of artists and different mediums, in a lot of ways spawned off a whole lot of business models, and including basically our own I mean, we're, we're a SaaS company for artists. And basically, we give them tools that help them communicate with these 1000 true fans. And in fact, it's even the word true fans is even in part of the marketing framework we suggest they follow. So I know that was I've heard that was the most popular thing you've written. If you were rewriting that article for the 2020s, I guess the question is, what would you change? Has the effect grown? Has it gotten less?
Kevin Kelly: 36:02
Yeah, I'm actually, you know, I read through it recently, there's not much I would change the, you know, the arithmetic is still the same. You know, if you, if you're a solo person, that's the order of magnitude, maybe if you're a duet or a partner, you have to double things. If you can't get $100 A year from your true fans and get only 50, you've got to double but the order of magnitude is really the important thing. And the technologies for disintermediating for directly dealing with your fans have have increased what I think one of the corollaries of the 1000 true fans was that if you if you if you're passionate about something very obscure niche, and you should be, it may only appeal to one in a million people, you may you may have some weird fascination with, you know, I don't know flying dinosaurs or dragons or something dragons in the tropics, drag three dragons in Antarctica, okay, whatever it is. And it's really, really, really, really niche and obscure, but but if only appeals to one in a million people who kind of get it? Well, because there's several billion people in the planet, the potential audience for that is 1000 people. So there, you can have 1000 true fans for any any idea or concept, but the difficulty is in finding them and then finding you that matching up, we don't yet have very good technology to do that matchmaking. That's sort of what's lacking right now. So I think to take the next step in and make sense in that. And so I would say that that's one of the challenges right now for the 1000 true fans model is at you know, the out there some of the world there are people who are going to love whatever really weird thing that you are doing, but how do you find them? How do they find you and social, the social medias were partly helpful for that, but that's but you know, they're flawed, and they're imperfect to and the other. So the next step, I don't think it's quite been invented. But that is the challenge. And that would be where I would be looking for whatever tools or helps that we could need as a as an system. And, you know, included in that, by the way is, you know, I'm talking about billions of people, many of them who don't speak English. So part of that toolset is going to be the new API's of human translation, real time translation where we can overcome you know, certain aspects of the translation visual stuff translates easily and so the the the community around, it could could use real time translation and you could, you know, it will work really, really good. The prototypes I've seen are just amazing. And so that's part of the toolset that we need to be able to match those potential 1000 true fans were every one and a million ideas.
Clint Watson: 39:03
Well, since you brought up AI and as you can imagine, in our space with visual artists, your AI is a kind of a contentious subject especially the image generators like midterm and Dolly you know, some artists are embracing it we've interviewed some on this podcast that have been embraced it and are doing Ayar others find it repellent and abhorrent. Some are mad because they think their copyrights had been infringed. Yeah, consider that so what are your thoughts on these types of AI and AI in general?
Kevin Kelly: 39:36
I'm incredibly enthusiastic about AI you know, I for a year I was doing my own art on iPad and this year I'm doing a posting one piece a day with with CO CO generated code co created with with with the AI's and given how much time I spent I am perfectly comfortable in CO signing this thing. I and the AI are making this together. Because, and actually just saw recently, a guy who, you know, is spending up to seven hours or more, and he's a professional professional guy using the AI to produce commercial work. And that's it. That's, I mean, there's a lot to say about it. But anyway, just briefly, I'm very enthusiastic about it. I think some of the concerns, the concerns are legitimate, and will be, or can be, can be fixed. But what's interesting to me so far is I am not, you could correct me, I'm not aware of any artists who's lost her job, because of a lot of this is what I call a third person worry there, people are saying, well, a friend of a friend could lose her job. Or I could imagine how the friend of her friend or other artists could maybe I'm unlikely to but my I can imagine other people, and so far, so I always want we have to always evaluate technologies on the evidence and rather than on our imaginations, and I would say, what is the evidence of artists losing their jobs to AI? Well, I can assert anybody is there a single person who has lost their job due to AI? I'm not aware of it. There are maybe maybe there are people who feel that they didn't get a job or assignment because it went to AI, I think it'd be hard to prove so far in our space,
Clint Watson: 41:26
just anecdotally, in the visual art space, and we're in we're fine art not like great game brass, right? That kind of art artists are either not using it or afraid of it, or they're using it and they're making more money because they're using it.
Kevin Kelly: 41:40
Yeah. So so there are there are complicated issues about you know, the issue about training them on their own work. Again, we always have to say with new technologies compared to what so are we should we be upset that human artists study other artists and are influenced by them? Or is it just a is so so there's, there's there's a reckoning, and I think it's going to take some time, I think we're going to make versions of this that have very curated training sets. And my my hypothesis was that when that happens, artists will be stampeding to be included into the training set. They want they that will be the that will be the mark, if you have a curated training set. It's like yeah, yeah, I want to be the influence. I want to influence people. So there'll be different careers, and you'll have choices. And so the thing about the AIS is always that they're plural, there are many versions, they're gonna have all kinds of chat GBT versions, where there's gonna be trained on different different kinds of literature there people who don't want to have them trained on the best, the classics, and others who say, No, I want to be trained on everything, I want them to be worldly, I want them to know about everything. So So there'll be there'll be different versions. And that was sort of some of those those concerns. In general, I think those are tractable problems that can be solved. In general, the relationship that we're having with AIS is going to be partners, artificial aliens, the current version of the mid journeys, and they're they're, they're your universal entrance, they produce generally average human output, they can do things that a human could do, you know, that kind of synthesis of, you know, taking Picasso and, and Keith Haring and do something in between, a human could do that. But it's a so laborious for us that we don't, we don't want to just kind of do it trivially. But they will do it trivially. But they're doing it still kind of on an average human level. And getting them to do anything remarkable is an incredible amount of pushing and nudging and conversation and working with them. It's very easy to get them to do something. But to get them to do what you want. Oh my gosh, I mean, it's really hours and hours and hours trying to say, push it this way. No, no, no that way. And here, here's something that actually had an epiphany recently about the image generators in art. And that is that okay? The current batch of images, generators are large language models. Okay. So the thing the engine that can is not new, the engine that produces the images is not new, and AI is years old, the new thing that now there is now there is a conversational user interface to this. Absolutely. So instead of having to program things, you can have a conversation with it. And that will drive it. It's like the internet before there was the graphical user interface, which was the web. So initially, the Internet was around nobody paying attention. And then when the graphical user interface and you can see pictures and drag and drop, that was the big thing. AI has been around a long time and now we have nobody was paying attention. Now we have a conversational user interface. You can converse with it and then Big Bang. So here's but here's the problem. Here's the problem with the conversational interface is that we're trying Get we I'm people like myself who are using it for art, we're trying to get it to produce art. And I have ideas in my mind of what I'm trying to do. And I realized the problem was that there's no language for it, you can't put it into words, here's a picture. Take one of your famous great pictures. I mean, it's like, what are the words that would completely encompass it, and the greater the art, the less likely it is to have words for it. And so we can't get to, even though the engine can make any possible picture, we have no interface to get the AI to produce it, because we're trying to use words, and so is really bound by what can be described where some of what we're trying to do, there are no words for it, which means that for the time being, the human artist is going to be able to produce things that are beyond words, whereas the AI is bound to the words,
Laura Arango Baier: 45:54
that's a very awesome thing to say. Because it I was actually having a conversation about this the other day, with my boyfriend, who's also an artist. And I was telling him how I think that AI is exactly that. It's like you look at a picture. But words are a very poor way of describing things, especially when they have nuance, and they have depth, and they have so much more. So I actually tried mid journey the other day with Clint for the first time, and it did not produce anything that looked exactly like the image in my head for the painting that I want to make.
Kevin Kelly: 46:27
Right, it's probably not going to be able to get there with that it can produce cool stuff that you had not thought of, which is I think this major use is to help us think differently. But it's not going to be able to produce all the things that we can imagine ourselves, and therefore we you know, for the time being, that's what we can do as human artists, but But it's not just that, I mean, I think we can do both. And so I see this as another, you know, another tool set. And so, using it to kind of really helped me think about things I had not thought about or trying to do. And so I so these days I do a couple things is one is I generate with the AI, and then I can then paint from there or draw from there. And the other thing is I feed it also, I give it stuff that I've already produced as a starting point to see what it where it goes from there, something kind of as a starting point. And you know, and so those are just because my art is for myself, even though I share in the thing that I'm trying to do is very simple. It's not what most artists trying to do. It's certainly not a commercial thing, because I'm not doing assignments. But for me, I have one kind of goal, which is I'm trying to surprise myself, when I sit down, I literally have no idea what I'm going to do. And so what that's true with AI or not. And so what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to make something that I had them surprised by myself in terms of how it looks. It's kind of a different kind of look that I'd normally do. Or it's like, no, no one's ever seen that before. It's sort of like, literally, I want to be surprised. And the AI is really good at that. Helping me be surprised. And so that's what I'm using mostly for as surprise me.
Laura Arango Baier: 48:07
I love that. I love that because and I love specifically that you said that it's a tool. And I think currently we're at a stage with a lot of, you know, artists who create in the, you know, 3d worlds instead of the 2d. Personally, I had this knee jerk reaction when the AI generators came, I was like, oh, no, you know, I was like, Oh, dear, you know, this is this is gonna change everything. And it wasn't a very positive feeling at first, and then I sat with it. And I realized that the reason it bothers so many artists is because so many of us, like me, for example, I've been studying painting for five to 10 years now. It's been a laborious thing where I've literally had to face my demons and sit with all of my imperfections staring right at my face. And then it's kind of crap. When these AI generators, yeah, it's impressive images, that would have taken me a lot longer to achieve with my human abilities. But I think the the side that is the good reconciliation is that it is a tool. Right. And, and the statistic that you mentioned as well, in some of the other interviews, were majority of people who use these AI generators do it for themselves. They do it for fun.
Kevin Kelly: 49:21
Yeah. And, you know, a lot of these concerns were explicitly the same when photography came along. Exactly. I mean, artists were really upset that it was they were saying that all the artist has to do is to click, and of course, we know, all the photographer had to do is to click, and we know that that's not true about photography. It's not just a matter of clicking. I mean, you can click and make okay picture but if you want to make a great photograph, you've got to do a lot more than just like the picture. It's it's the view, it's a standing, it's delighting it's in and that's very much like working with the AIS, it's, you kind of you have to work your way through and find the place just sanding, you've got to, you've got to be concerned about the lighting and everything else and the composition. And so it's not just clicking it's there's an art to it, there really is an art to it. And that's why some people are 1000 times better than others in getting it. I mean, I hear that all the time. It's like, how can you get that from it? Well, you you put five hours into it, and then you might, you might come close.
Laura Arango Baier: 50:24
Yes. And I think the other interesting aspect as well is that it has, you know, it has this potential of completely influencing and generating a new generation of artists as well, kind of like how the camera today in the painting world, we actually have a whole category for painters who use pictures as reference, and we call that hyper realism. Right? So I'm curious what you think this new generation will become with AI generated art?
Kevin Kelly: 50:54
Yeah, well, there's several things about that. One is that I think I said, my Wired article, I think we're at peak 2d, I think the real effect of this is not really going to be on 2d images and paintings. Because you know, even an amateur person who doesn't call themselves artists could produce, you know, a rectangular picture of some sort that might pass for a generous way for something art, you know, maybe it's kind of crude and naive, but okay, that's, that's fine folk art. But almost nobody is really capable of producing a 3d world, like a video or a gaming world that's full of all those details. And whether it's realistic or imaginary, it's just a lot of work that's beyond and in the way that a human individual person could sit in their bedroom and write a novel that can be read by millions of people can, they can be in full New World, like, you know, like JK Rowling. And that's, that's, that's one person by themselves. One person by themselves cannot produce an hour long movie, particularly a movie of a different world or an imaginative place. But they will be able to do that with AI in the coming years. And so suddenly, there's a lowering of the bar and, and a whole new VISTA for artists that is just beyond anything right now, the only way to make them one of those things today is it's the whole team of people, it's very expensive. And because of the expenses so high, you can't afford to do anything crappy, you can't afford to do and you can't afford to take to try stuff to do some experimental, but when when that barriers low a lower to the point where anybody could command and use these tools to fill out a world or a movie with characters and dialogue and a soundtrack and the whole thing, that's where I see the real new art styles coming out is is is there because that's because there's gonna be a lot of crap produced. But that's what you need to have the really great stuff you have to really be able to make it be done really productively or abundantly promiscuously you want to have a lot of stuff done.
Clint Watson: 53:03
The next James Cameron is gonna come from a dorm room.
Kevin Kelly: 53:06
Yeah, exactly. Right. And so, so so that's what I would say, that's where I'm looking to, for for the new styles, not so much in the 2d, which I think is very well well trod. But this new area, which we have not been able to really explore yet, the 3d kind of gaming worlds or metaverses as well as videos, you know, there's so much that's going to happen there. We're having so much fun that time flies
Laura Arango Baier: 53:36
does, yeah, this is Oh, I'm so inspired. I have so many notes on my, my papers. Oh, but I guess you know, to end off the show, I I wanted to discuss one of your quotes from your book and that is when you have some success, the feeling of being an imposter can be real, who am I fooling but when you create things that only you with your unique talents and experience can do then you are absolutely not an imposter, you are ordained it is your destiny to work on things that only you can do. What was the inspiration for this quote?
Kevin Kelly: 54:10
Well I was kind of um walking around the this is another version of Don't Be the best be the only and it was inspired somewhat from my experience at Wired magazine where I was trying to make assignments to writers for my ideas, and there'll be certain ideas that I could not sell to anybody and I would end up writing them myself and those were my best pieces the ones that I could not get anyone else to do and so that at first seems indulgent. And you know, there are there are ways in which it can be mistaken and that's and that's I think Southworth in the in the book I talked about the you know, three things are needed for success two, one is to be able to know when it never to give up and the other one is to be able to give up when it's clear. And then the third one is to have friends and families clients and customers to help you distinguish between those two times. So so so some yeah, sometimes you may be full of yourself, and you should be called on it, you're trying something that's not working is being ignored. And other times, then you want to, you know, pay attention and ignore or ignore those kinds of signals. And so you in order to be the most unique, it's really kind of a product, you need the entire world, you need everyone else to help you become unique. You can't be gimmick on your own. It's really, really a paradox. So I would say Have other people involved in helping you find out who you are becoming and who you want to become. It's a it's that personal journey requires other people around you to help
Clint Watson: 55:48
I think that ties in with another one of my favorite quotes in the book, you said that thing that made you weird as a kid could make you great as an adult if you don't lose it.
Kevin Kelly: 55:56
Clint Watson: 55:57
That might be a clue for people to look for the thing.
Kevin Kelly: 55:59
Exactly right. Look, you know, when the weird go Pro is the thing in Austin, Texas, well it's been a delight talking to you guys, thank you for having me and hosting me in here. I really appreciate so much. Yes.
Clint Watson: 56:15
It's called excellent advice.
Kevin Kelly: 56:17
And here it is. So thank you. Again.
Clint Watson: 56:19
it's packed with wisdom.
Kevin Kelly: 56:20
Laura Arango Baier: 56:21
Thank you so so much.
Kevin Kelly: 56:22
Great! And I wish you the best on your own journeys.
Laura Arango Baier: 56:25
Kevin Kelly: 56:26
Okay everybody. Bye.
Laura Arango Baier: 56:28
Bye. We here at BoldBrush would like to give a huge and warm thank you to Kevin Kelly for coming on to our podcast and for giving us such great words of wisdom and advice. I do highly recommend buying a copy of his book Excellent Advice for Living, Wisdom I Wish I'd Known earlier because it truly is a book full of amazing inspiring quotes that you will be thinking about for days on end. The book is available on Amazon and your local bookstore. And you can also find all of Kevin Kelly's links in the show notes below where you can find out more about his views on AI, his views on online culture, and his other amazing publications and projects.