Kelly's writings have appeared in the New York Times, Esquire, The Economist and other periodicals —in addition to the books he has authored and the magazines he either edited, founded, or helped to found.
When he was 27 Kevin Kelly was a freelance photo journalist, and got locked out of his hostel in Jerusalem due to being late for a curfew. He slept on the supposed spot where Jesus was crucified, and in the morning had a religious experience. He decided to live as if he only had six months left to live. He went and lived peacefully with his parents, anonymously gave away his money, visited his friends, and came back home to "die" on the night of Halloween.
In 1981, Kelly founded Walking Journal. He is a former editor of Whole Earth Review (see also CoEvolution Quarterly), Signal, and some of the later editions of the Whole Earth Catalog. With Whole Earth's founder, Stewart Brand, Kelly helped found the WELL, a highly regarded online community. He has been a director of the Point Foundation, which sponsored the first Hackers Conference in 1984 (before the word "hacker" had its current common, negative connotation).
In 1994, Wired Magazine, for which Kelly was executive director, won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence. Kelly is now editor at large for the magazine. Partially due to his reputation as Wired's editor, he is noted as a participant and observer of "cyberculture".
Kelly's writing has appeared in many other national and international publications such as The New York Times, The Economist, Time, Harper's Magazine, Science, Veneer Magazine, GQ, and Esquire. His photographs have appeared in Life and other American national magazines.
Kelly's most notable book-length publication, Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World (1994), presents a view on the mechanisms of complex organization. The central theme of the book is that several fields of contemporary science and philosophy point in the same direction: intelligence is not organized in a centralized structure but much more like a bee-hive of small simple components. Kelly applies this view to bureaucratic organisations, intelligent computers, and to the human brain.