Cognitive Revolution – Navigating and Influencing a World Controlled by Powerful New Technologies. Learn why unsupervised time enhances child well-being. Carve out an hour this week for your kids to play freely without scheduled activities or screens.
This book examines the benefits of unsupervised time for children from an educational perspective. Leaf and Doll-Steinberg explore how unstructured, child-led exploration develops important life skills like creativity, problem-solving, resilience and self-motivation. They discuss research showing kids who engage in more self-directed play and outdoor activities tend to be healthier, happier and higher academic achievers.
In contrast, overscheduling children leaves little room for independent discovery and imagination. The authors provide tangible strategies for incorporating unsupervised time into kids’ daily lives through open-ended activities, natural areas near home and minimal interference from adults. Case studies demonstrate how cultivating independence from an early age has lifelong positive impacts.
Overall, this book makes a compelling case for relaxing strictures on kids and trusting their innate drive to learn through autonomous free play and exploration of interests. Readers take away strong arguments for reconsidering modern parenting philosophies that over-emphasize structured activities.
parenting, child development, education, sociology, psychology, self-help, environment, health, family, philosophy
Technological innovation is “advancing at an exponential rate.” It’s therefore imperative, say investors Daniel Doll-Steinberg and Stuart Leaf, that society decides what kind of future it wants. This decision depends on understanding the potential of today’s and tomorrow’s technology. The authors provide a comprehensive overview of current and possible technologies and trends, including sentient artificial intelligence (AI), super-powerful quantum computers, and the migration of real-world activities to a computer-simulated “metaverse.”
- Technological innovation is fomenting a “Cognitive Revolution.”
- Artificial intelligence (AI) is a “foundational technology” of the Cognitive Revolution.
- Foundational technologies require “enabling technologies.”
- Hardware advances will fuel the Cognitive Revolution.
- The Cognitive Revolution will affect many sectors of society.
- Technology will eliminate some jobs and create others.
- Technology drives a “dematerialization” of many human activities.
Technological innovation is fomenting a “Cognitive Revolution.”
In the 19th century, the invention of the steam engine sparked the Industrial Revolution, which radically changed the nature of work.
“Our cognitive abilities are being copied, matched and replaced by technologies – the capabilities of which grow exponentially, while our own increase only linearly, if at all.”
Today’s breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and other technologies fuel an analogous “Cognitive Revolution,” as machines become increasingly adept at copying – and even replacing – human intellectual skills.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a “foundational technology” of the Cognitive Revolution.
AI encompasses a range of efforts to simulate human reasoning. Developers have made numerous breakthroughs. New AI tools can hold conversations, create visual art, write computer code and compose graduate school–level papers.
Types of AI include:
- “Weak or narrow AI” – This common AI appears in apps such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. It focuses on solving a specific problem.
- “Strong or artificial general intelligence (AGI)” – Theoretically, this AI can learn, understand and carry out any human cognitive task.
- “Artificial super intelligence (ASI)” – Though still theoretical, ASI would outperform the human mind. Unlike a human being, ASI’s thinking and actions would be purely rational.
“Too many dystopian futures (The Terminator, The Matrix, etc.) come to mind to make [artificial super intelligence] seem in any way appealing.”
Methodologies for simulating intelligence in machines include:
- Machine learning – This draws on data sets and algorithms to learn to solve problems.
- Neural networks – These use the human brain as a model, incorporating connected “nodes” that simulate the activity of the brain’s neurons.
- Deep learning – This form of machine learning emphasizes the machine’s continuing analysis of nodes rather than human-processed data.
- Generative pre-trained transformer (GPT) models – This incorporates elements of the other three, and aims to draw on data to generate original content rather than only analyzing it.
A second foundational technology is quantum computing, which could vastly increase computing processing power. Traditional computing calculates through a series of consequent steps to reach a definite conclusion. It stores information as bits, which exist in one of two states, represented as either a 1 or a zero. This renders the probabilistic nature of reality as a series of binary choices.
“Technology will continue to evolve at exponential rates with which we will not be able to compete. We shouldn’t try.”
Quantum computers exploit that probabilistic nature, storing information in quantum bits – qubits – that represent an infinite number of outcomes. A quantum computer runs many calculations at the same time, producing many possible conclusions.
Quantum machines’ large capacity for parallel processing may boost computing speed by astronomic amounts. In 2019, for example, Google asserted it had used a quantum computer to solve a particular problem in under five minutes. Google claimed a traditional computer would need 10,000 years to complete the task.
Developers regarded Google’s claim with skepticism. Developers must resolve a number of difficult technical problems before “general purpose” quantum computers become common.
“Whoever controls the technology controls our future. Given the vast implications, we all deserve a say; we all need to take ownership.”
Advances in wireless communication will prove critical to the evolution of foundational technologies. Wireless communication, such as 5G cellular and satellite networks, allows people to use technology on the move. Satellites, theoretically, will offer coverage anywhere on Earth. Wireless 5G is a nascent technology, but could eventually combine with the cloud to connect every kind of device, creating the Internet of Things. With cloud-based data storage, computers and other devices will utilize high-speed links to connect to far more data than on-board storage permits.
Foundational technologies require “enabling technologies.”
Software innovations that will facilitate the new technologies include:
- Blockchain – These computer protocols create what Euromoney describes as a “digital ledger of transactions.” Blockchain forms the infrastructure for cryptocurrencies and functions as a decentralized, extremely secure electronic database.
- “Smart contracts” – Parties in a negotiation use these computer programs to agree to a set of “rules and conditions” and record them in a blockchain. Subsequently, the computer carries out agreed-to preset actions when appropriate. Smart contracts may eliminate trust issues and mistakes in contracts in law, accounting, government and banking.
- Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO) – Essentially a supercharged version of smart contracts, a DAO operates without human supervision and relies on rules-based software. When integrated with AI, DAOs could “evolve” as the program accumulates knowledge and experience.
- “Tokenization” – A token is a digital representation of a real-world object or a concept, such as money. Computers can securely and quickly transfer such tokens. Cryptocurrency is an example of a token.
Hardware advances will fuel the Cognitive Revolution.
Improvements in software – including cognitive abilities – miniaturization and interfaces grant robots and other physical technologies increased functions.
“Today, more than ever in history, data holds the key to power dynamics.”
Other significant advances are underway in industrial automation, 3D printing and other additive manufacturing technologies, virtual and augmented reality and the network of smart devices comprising the Internet of Things.
The Cognitive Revolution will affect many sectors of society.
One of the most dramatic impacts could come from the development of the “metaverse.” The metaverse consists of digitally generated virtual worlds that people enter through avatars – digital versions of themselves. Currently, the metaverse consists mostly of 2D representations in video games, but breakthroughs in virtual reality, augmented reality and holography could allow for more immersive experiences. Currently, each virtual world has its own protocols, so an avatar cannot travel freely through many worlds. In addition to entertainment and social uses, the metaverse could revolutionize commerce. Google, Meta, Microsoft and Zoom are working on metaverse projects. A Citibank report surmised that by 2030, the metaverse could become a “revenue opportunity” worth up to $13 trillion.
“The metaverse is likely to become very important, not just as entertainment but economically and socially as well.”
The energy sector will experience significant change. Fossil fuels, despite their disadvantages, remain the world’s primary source of energy. Emerging technology could bring new efficiencies to solar, wind and geothermal power. Technological breakthroughs could lead to higher capacity storage technologies, potentially including non-depleting, toxic-emission-free hydrogen fuel cells. Smart technology could support more efficient transmission and use of electricity.
AI and other emerging technologies will affect many facets of health care, from research to treatments. Applying quantum computing, health professionals will harness genome data to produce personalized treatments. AI can analyze huge troves of medical data and integrate the wide array of computer systems the current health care system utilizes.
Financial technology, or “fintech,” is about to change banking, investment and other sectors of the financial industry. New capabilities include enabling consumers to trade securities without brokers and systems that set interest rates algorithmically, based on supply and demand.
“No sector of the economy is immune to technological change.”
Manufacturing industries are increasingly adopting digitally controlled automation to cut costs and improve speed, quality and safety. Advances in additive technology – such as 3D printers – will accelerate this trend. Technological advancements could reduce dependence on foreign manufacturers, a significant concern in light of the COVID-19 era’s supply-chain problems.
“Our world is now entering a period of true innovation Darwinism, the Cognitive Revolution, as companies and industries quickly adapt or die.”
Improvements in machine learning could turn computer programs into information gatekeepers. AI-fueled search engines might find data and evaluate it to determine whether the information it contains can benefit humans. Society might reassess education’s traditional emphasis on reading, writing, mathematics and research as systems such as ChatGPT will replicate these skills.
“Goldman Sachs has already suggested ChatGPT will eliminate as many as 300 million jobs.”
Eventually, machines could take control of their own development. They already write their own code and install their own updates. At some point, machines will build and manage themselves without human input.
Technology will eliminate some jobs and create others.
Machines will never match all human capabilities, but will take over specified tasks. Many transportation, logistics, manufacturing, agriculture and public and corporate bureaucracy jobs will likely disappear.
“Employment in the face of frontier technological advances will depend on two main catalysts – existing jobs that can be done differently and new jobs that currently don’t exist.”
Technology will create jobs at reduced salaries but may also reduce the cost of living. Sectors that will still need human workers include:
- Infrastructure – Developing nations, in particular, need all sorts of infrastructure, including a rejuvenation of their brick-and-mortar foundations.
- Education – Technology can contribute to managing information, but only humans can provide the socialization experiences crucial to preschool and K-12 education.
- Health care – Although technology will perform many medical functions, the human touch of doctors and nurses is indispensable.
- Leisure and recreation – Workers in gaming, entertainment, travel and sports will be in demand.
Technology drives a “dematerialization” of many human activities.
In the past, the products of the marketplace and of the wider culture had significant physical components. Software, for example, came on disks or cartridges and “physical retail channels” sold it. Adding updates or fixes to programs was a cumbersome process. With the advent of the internet, companies began delivering their products and providing updates and fixes digitally. Thus, disks and retail processes “dematerialized.”
The rise of digital newspapers exemplifies “physical dematerialization.” This reduces the real-world presence of physical newspapers and the physical infrastructure that supported newspapers, such as printing presses, paper factories and newsstands. Physical dematerialization will also affect computers and smartphones. Physical devices will serve mainly as gateways to the cloud’s data and computing power.
“There is nothing preventing us from completely redefining what human productivity means.”
Computers will increasingly take over human reasoning and skills to drive “cognitive dematerialization.” Consider, for example, securities trading, in which computers attend to the nuts and bolts of the trading process while replicating traders’ decision-making.
About the Authors
Investor Daniel Doll-Steinberg specializes in emerging technologies. Stuart Leaf founded the investment firm Cadogan Management.