Reading Notes

Simon I: From computers to cognicity

In the essay “The steam engine and the computer” Simon makes a number of important, and interesting points about technological revolution. It is an interesting analysis and worthwhile reading – it is quite short – but I will summarize a few points, and throw out a concept idea. Simon notes that revolutions – their name notwithstanding – take a lot of time. The revolution based on the steam engine arguably took more than 150 years to really change society. Our own information revolution is not even half way there. We have sort of assumed that the information revolution is over and innovation and productivity pessimism have become rampant in our public debate. Simon’s view would probably be that this is far too early to say – and he might add that the more impactful change comes in the second half of a revolution (an old truth that John McCarthy reminded me of when I interviewed him back in 2006, when AI celebrated 50 years. We still hovered at the edge of the AI-winter then, and I remember asking him if he was not disappointed? He looked at me as if I was a complete idiot and said “Look, 50 years after Mendel discover the idea of inheritance genetics had gotten nowhere. Now we have sequenced the genome. Change comes in the second half of hundred years for human discoveries.” I must say that looking at the field now, the curmudgeonly comment was especially accurate. Makes me also think that maybe…

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