Randhir Mishra, Co-Founder, MetaCog Innovations

Co-founder of MetaCog Innovations, an EduTech AI start-up that is working in the area of evolved personal learning through the use of deep technology, Randhir Mishra is an acknowledged L&D professional with expertise in digital transformation, capability building, and advanced learning modelsl, bringing a diverse business domain specialization. He likes to think of himself as a digital evangelist with a focus on creative thinking, holistic transformation, and exponential growth that it should trigger.

The journey of smart – mankind’s single most differentiating and enabling factor. Smart, as I refer to it here, relates to a general skill which is a combination of insights (a grasp of the context that makes it truly relevant), action (in terms of its practical applications) and inherent learning (self-evolving). 

The natural outcome of the above approach is the constant update (transitional) and upgrade (transformational) of the current version. I capture this in a framework of 5 stages. This framework looks at the earliest development of smart – SMART 0.0 to current SMART 4.0, which extends to non-living things too (the Mars Rover had built-in intelligence to counter all known and some unknown challenges to survive). I do venture a bit into what lies beyond and offer SMART X.0 which relates to the journey into the future, beyond what seems surmountable today. But that part is at best sketchy and most likely will need a rehash as the clarity of the current version emerges.


Smart at the foundation of the complicated and evolved form was a simple logical state. In this “zero” state, the matter interacted with each other in a quest to find a form that could persevere. 

Insight: Physical form

The stable physical form that allows the rocks, sea or the magma to endure ages of a turbulent and devastating period of the initial formation of our planet fulfills the primary character of smarts – insights.  

Action: Enduring Intelligence

Adaptively (an intelligently) taking a form that would endure the changing physical conditions is the intrinsic nature of matter to achieve equilibrium. As we move along the phases of smart in this note, it will also seem like an insight for longer lifespan to look at inorganic existence which has a slower decay rate. 

Learning Implication: Continuity

The scale of transformation that leads to the control of various forms of energy, even manipulating life itself and eventually taking the smart to challenge the so far accepted pinnacle of smart – humans is surely unfathomable for anyone. 


The life form clearly saw two avenues to survive in the new form. 1. Replicating itself continuously to ensure that the natural passage did not lose the last evolution progress and 2. Challenging itself with better insights to improve their ability to replicate itself not just in identical form but as evolved forms. 

Insight: Survival

Life takes into stride all the challenges pertaining to physical dangers, availability of resources and the natural life cycle to maximize its survival. 

Action: Replication

While the challenges of physical dangers and resources need the life forms to be smart in choosing the surroundings, it replicates the previous generation to a large extent. In parallel, they also see that the chances greatly improve if they collaborate and leverage each other. The learning implication for smart 1.0 is, therefore, the idea of co-existence.  

Learning Implication: Co-existence

The need to acknowledge other dynamic life forms that impact individual life is a critical need for survival. But this is the basis for the humans to race ahead in this aspect to other life forms for being able to create extreme dependence and motivations to serve them. 


The next version of smarts relates to the ability to work together as units to make the primary challenges of life less of a primary threat. They can go beyond trying to survive onto looking at nourishing life and improve upon the process of replication to increase their numbers.

Insight: Collaboration

The external dependency and hence the need to articulate the expected outcomes in a way that could be understood by others. This seemingly simple act leads to two critical developments – alignment of thoughts across individuals and resulting alignment of actions leading to force multiplication and exponential development. 

Action: Specialization

Humans take the idea of collaboration to the next level bringing sophisticated planning, specialization and adding various elements of nature (including other life forms) to extend their capability to achieve results. 

Learning Implication: Future orientation

One of the truly marvelous capacities of the human brain is to imagine the future and share this imagination with others to get their buy-in. With this understanding, the smart could then evolve into more complex and multifaceted. 


This stage is the progress of smart from being subjective and inexact to being objective and definitive. A natural outcome of this replication is the ability to carefully isolate the value-adds and challenges and constantly evolve the solutions to deliver higher productivity and scale. 

Insight: Productivity

The industrial revolution has its roots in the smart 3.0 ability to deconstruct the socio-economic aspects into the factors of production – energy, labor, raw material, demand and supply, logistics, trade and commerce, and governance. 

Action: Optimization

As the multiplicity of contributing factors emerged, it was soon understood that the problem was not of maximization but one of optimization. This led to deterministic models of optimization and identification factors that didn’t need human intervention or control. This was the basis of the next evolution in the smart journey – automation.

Evolve: Automation

Automation is truly the first fully developed form of smart as we typically understand it. As we begin to harness the power of automation in the non-physical realm, we open the Pandora’s box of unimaginable disruptions that leads to the next level of smart.


Smart 4.0 is truly intelligent. It can communicate with other systems using digital interfaces sharing data, logic, possibilities, utility algorithms and dynamic contingencies to go way beyond the smart 3.0 automation. 

Insight: Awareness

The value of Smart 4.0 level awareness is that this awareness is automated and comes with prequalified associations and meanings making the basic interpretations obvious. 

Action: Real-time insights

As the information dissemination gets automated, classified, and instantaneous, it becomes artificially intelligent. The smart bots built into devices like Google Home are a prime example of this action. 

Evolve: Shared senses

As synthesized awareness becomes possible and smart systematically breaches all boundaries, it makes a case for shared awareness/senses with humans. 


The future of smart our imagination plus the “imagination” of billions of smart devices creatively shaping it. Presence – a well-known concept in spirituality, is the center of the future of smart.

Insight: Unbounded Presence

We could be limited by our own cognitive bandwidth to truly immerse and act upon each of those insights productively. The challenge could be averted by singularity, the panacea, as popularised by Ray Kurzweil, where the human transcends the physical boundary by integrating with the digital world. 

Action: Singularity

Traces of singularity is already visible in our day-to-day life. We already are a witness to astonishing results spanning synthesized organs, near-perpetual machines, computing and connectivity, and countless other wonders. One of the early manifestations of smart – the physical form, is already becoming a bottleneck for smart, and it is sure to breach it soon. 

Evolve: Formless eternity?

Imagining an all-knowing and capable smart is still a work in progress for most of us. The accelerated speed of changes aided by the speed of the news of these developments reaching us assures me that we will be able to articulate the future of smart more tangibly soon.

Smart Journey – Insights, Actions and Implications

At a basic level, we could see our own maturity of self-development journey and draw parallels for ourselves to evolve the same. At a broader level, this journey could throw light to an organization’s capability building and guide it in an informed and objective way. 

Insights: Experimentation

As we progress it is important to look for opportunities to collaborate and leverage the ecosystem around us. Eventually, we could reach a level of zen where every experience we have is automatically connected to our past and yields invaluable insights to make accelerated progress.

Action: Outward orientation

As the insights accumulate, it is natural to start looking inwards to enjoy those eureka and search deeper for more of them. As we learn to add more factors into our consideration, we would be rewarded by the higher value our insights can deliver. 

Evolve: Generalizations

It is a critical part of our smart maturity process that we can generalize and draw deeper learning out of our insights and actions. 

(Originally published in LinkedIn)

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