"The Cognitive Revolution, Reading Technology, and the Future of Learning"


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 05, 2023

4 min read


"The Cognitive Revolution, Reading Technology, and the Future of Learning"


Throughout history, humanity has experienced transformative shifts that have shaped our progress and development. From the cognitive revolution that propelled Homo sapiens to dominate the planet to the advent of reading technology, each milestone has had a profound impact on our collective knowledge and understanding. In this article, we will explore the common threads between these two seemingly unrelated topics and delve into the future of learning in the digital age.

The Cognitive Revolution and Collective Learning:

About 70,000 years ago, Homo sapiens underwent a cognitive revolution that set them apart from their rivals and enabled them to spread across the globe. This revolution, as described by historian Yuval Noah Harari, allowed humans to engage in collective learning – the ability to share, store, and build upon information. This concept resonates with David Christian's notion of "collective learning" in Big History, emphasizing how our ability to unite around common myths and ideas has propelled us forward.

Human Imagination and Cultural Cohesion:

One remarkable aspect of Homo sapiens is our unique ability to imagine and believe in concepts that do not physically exist. Ideas like freedom, human rights, gods, laws, and capitalism exist solely in our imaginations, yet they have the power to bind us together and motivate us to collaborate on complex tasks. These shared beliefs have played a crucial role in the development of societies and the progress of civilization.

The Evolution of Reading Technology:

In the modern era, technology has disrupted traditional publishing and distribution models, but the experience of reading itself has remained largely unchanged. While platforms like Kindle, Pocket, and Goodreads emerged to control the distribution of content, they did not significantly advance the practice of reading. Readwise, a reading app, aims to address this gap by improving the practice of reading through software.

Improving Retention and Conquering Content Overload:

Readwise recognizes that retention is a critical challenge for readers. Building on a local-first foundation, the app enables fast and comprehensive search of users' entire library, promoting better recall and preventing the forgetting of valuable information. Additionally, Readwise acknowledges the problem of content overload, allowing users to save and organize their reading materials effectively.

Highlighting as a Core Feature:

Unlike other reading apps, Readwise considers highlighting as a first-class feature. By encouraging users to write between the lines, Readwise recognizes that the best way to extract meaning from texts is to engage actively with the content. This approach ensures that highlighting becomes an integral part of the reading experience, rather than an afterthought.

The Future of Learning: From Single-player to Multiplayer:

While Readwise focuses on enhancing individual reading experiences, it does not aim to create a social network or enable an internet-scale annotation layer. The app prioritizes the needs of users and recognizes that there is still much untapped potential in single-player mode. By streamlining and optimizing individual workflows, Readwise helps users maximize their learning potential.


As we reflect on the cognitive revolution and the evolution of reading technology, it becomes evident that the pursuit of knowledge is an innate human desire. The ability to share, store, and build upon information has been the driving force behind our progress as a species. In the digital age, tools like Readwise offer new possibilities for enhancing the reading experience and improving learning outcomes. To make the most of these advancements, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Embrace active reading: Instead of passively consuming content, actively engage with the material by highlighting and annotating key points. This practice promotes better retention and understanding.
  • 2. Prioritize selective reading: In a world of information overload, focus on quality over quantity. Choose reading materials that align with your interests and goals, and be selective in what you save and consume.
  • 3. Leverage technology for better learning: Explore reading apps and tools that enhance the reading experience, promote retention, and enable efficient organization of information. Experiment with different platforms to find the one that suits your needs.

By combining our innate cognitive abilities with the power of technology, we can unlock new frontiers of learning and knowledge acquisition. The future of reading and learning is bright, and it is up to us to embrace these advancements and make the most of them.

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