We need a new science of progress

That is the title of my Atlantic piece with Patrick Collison, excerpt:

Progress itself is understudied. By “progress,” we mean the combination of economic, technological, scientific, cultural, and organizational advancement that has transformed our lives and raised standards of living over the past couple of centuries. For a number of reasons, there is no broad-based intellectual movement focused on understanding the dynamics of progress, or targeting the deeper goal of speeding it up. We believe that it deserves a dedicated field of study. We suggest inaugurating the discipline of “Progress Studies.”


Plenty of existing scholarship touches on these topics, but it takes place in a highly fragmented fashion and fails to directly confront some of the most important practical questions.

Imagine you want to know how to most effectively select and train the most talented students. While this is an important challenge facing educators, policy makers, and philanthropists, knowledge about how best to do so is dispersed across a very long list of different fields. Psychometrics literature investigates which tests predict success. Sociologists consider how networks are used to find talent. Anthropologists investigate how talent depends on circumstances, and a historiometric literature studies clusters of artistic creativity. There’s a lively debate about when and whether “10,000 hours of practice” are required for truly excellent performance. The education literature studies talent-search programs such as the Center for Talented Youth. Personality psychologists investigate the extent to which openness or conscientiousness affect earnings. More recently, there’s work in sportometrics, looking at which numerical variables predict athletic success. In economics, Raj Chetty and his co-authors have examined the backgrounds and communities liable to best encourage innovators. Thinkers in these disciplines don’t necessarily attend the same conferences, publish in the same journals, or work together to solve shared problems.

You may have seen there is a small cottage industry on Twitter suggesting that we ignore antecedents to Progress Studies, but of course that is not the case, as evidenced by the paragraph above, not to mention claims like: “Progress Studies has antecedents, both within fields and institutions. The economics of innovation is a critical topic and should assume a much larger place within economics.”  In fact we consider antecedents in at least nine different paragraphs of a relatively short piece.

The piece is interesting throughout, and I can assure you that Patrick is a very productive and diligent co-author.


I can just imagine the vague, dismal, pronouncements by "Progress Studies" researchers.

"Progress Studies"

No. All of my nope. I'll throw in a 'nada'. Nyet. Never.

I think it's a great idea. I'm hoping he gets office space right between the people teaching that all past progress is the fruit of oppression + and the people teaching that all pending progress must be stopped to save the climate.

Plus, PS would be (ala Pre-Columbian Meso-American Lesbian Poetry, gender-bender studies, etc.) another venue for youths to rack up $100,000+ in debt and graduate in an unemployable condition.

Indeed. Marxism famously sold itself as a science of progress, which poisons this particular well for a long time, in my view.

Is that why America stayed away from the moon?

If they exist in 200 years, historians will marvel at how millions of minds (and bodies) could be destroyed by such a dull and illogical system as Marxian socialism.

I read this yesterday and missed that Tyler was one of the authors. Not too surprising in retrospect.

+1 good article

Very interesting article setting some ambitious goals. What I missed in it was acknowledgement of the significant amount of research and thought from many disciplines that has already gone into the study of Progress. For instance, in 1920 J.B. Bury published his magisterial book "The Idea of Progress: An Inquiry Into Its Origin and Growth." Gunther Stent in his 1978 book "Paradoxes of Progress" draws heavily on Bury's framework while developing his own conclusions and insights into this protean concept. Stent also cites the foundational research published in the 60s by Derek J de Solla Price in his book "Little Science, Big Science...and Beyond." At the same time as Stent, Larry Laudan published "Progress and Its Problems: Towards a Theory of Scientific Growth." Then, in 1994, Richard Nisbet's "History of the Idea of Progress" was published.

Taken together, it seems clear that a substantial amount of thought and work took place in the 20th c into Progress, broadly conceived and narrowly defined.

I am skeptical of the notion that academic analysis of "progress" will produce more and better progress, but as long as the work is funded by voluntary donations, I have no objection.

The academic study of progress can progress exponentially without producing any conclusive insight into progress.

How about we set goals and benchmarks for this fledgling discipline.

Low bar: If by year x, the field hasn't produced a single practically testable hypothesis, where the results will convince non-believers, everyone folds their tables and goes home.

Otherwise, it's just more academic masturbation.

Two problems with this.

First, Progress Studies will necessarily be, at the beginning, a historical science. This means that the definition of "practically testable hypothesis" needs to follow that model, not the model of experimental physics. This does not mean that we should accept untestable hypotheses--astronomy, anthropology, geology, and paleontology, among others, certainly do well with natural experiments.

second, nothing will convince true non-believers. There are still people who think the world is flat. We need a reasonable threshold--strict, but reasonable. Otherwise contrarians will necessarily co-opt your metrics and destroy the field regardless of its value.

True. I guess non-believer was a bit much. How about "reasonable people from the other side?" Basically, we need to have hypotheses that are falsifiable.

The "year x" part should take care of the initial growing phase of the field.

My guess is you oppose progress, desiring it be delivered to you for free, a free lunch of progress. Tanstaafl. Thus you want no progress.

Progresss happens only by paying workers.

Paying a thousand workers results in tiny progress.
Paying a million workers results in noticeable progress.
Paying a billion workers will result in astounding progress.

But since the 70s, economists have argued paying workers cost too much.
The high costs of paying workers destroys wealth.
Destroying wealth kills jobs.

Keynes argued for progress by paying workers which destroys wealth, which Friedman opposed, so we have less progress.

For example, clean vehicle transport issimple. Pay huge numbers of workers to build huge quantities of batteries and electric motors.

The breakghroughs come as the huge numbers of workers are organized by some workers to "beat" other organized workers. But the key is paying enough workers.

Elon is a workers with 50 million he was willing to pay workers, and he found workers who wanted to build batteries and electric cars. Almost all the initial group of workers have left to organize paying workers to progressively change how workers are organized, and what aspect of batteries and electric motors going into cars the workers work on.

But in China, where paying more workers is the top priority of the political worker class, workers have been paid to organize to be paid to build everything needed to pay workers to build hundreds of millions of electric cars. But that is simply progress from building electric bikes which progressed from small bikes to cargo bikes and passenger carrying bikes.

Elon is a great promoter of getting people to pay more workers.

The people who think paying workers cost too much, keep saying Elon has cost workers too much by pulling together all sorts of government incentives and lucky very rich workers to pay workers to build $100,000 electric cars. They are outraged by Elon harming workers by paying them $120,000 to build a car that sells for $100,000, aftter various incentives.

The idea is workers are better off not being paid, because that cuts costs.

One group opposed to prigress want the rich to bid up old asset prices, whether real estate, or securities, to create wealth. As well as even buying back old assets and destroying them to create wealth from inflating prices of the now scarcer remaining ones.

Another group wants to destroy wealth by taxing it away to pay workers to not work making progress.

Ironically, both points to Elon as someone who just wants to get rich, but at the same time they point to his history of paying workers far more than mostly rich workers pay for the stuff Elon's costly workers produce.

In other words, the more workers Elon loses money paying to build and sell cars, and other things, that perform things that "everyone" says is imposssible, the richer he gets from failing to deliver the impossible on the schedule he promises.

Its impossible to deliver a high performance electric sports car. Its impossible to deliver a long range passenger sedan anyone will buy. Its impossible to build enough batteries to sell a million electric cars. Its impossible to build an electric truck. Its impossible to move a train with an electric vehicle.

The latter is amusing. The only way to move a train is electric motors. But Tesla had a demonstration of a electric sedan pullling a set of train cars. Recently, Ford or GM demonstrated their prototype electric truck pulling train cars.

The Chinese workers are are building and buying more electric vehicles than the rest of the planet combined. Yet, electric vehicles are considered by many as imposssible without magical breakghroughs from paying maybe as many as a hundred worker to make massive progress in storage or solar or wind or nuclear.

Progress will come only from millions of workers paying paying millions of workers to build something better, and all it requires is a few workers convinced workers can build the impossible, and when built, workers will buy and pay for the impossible.

Since circa 1980, the impossible has been progress by slashing what workers are paid so workers are able to live much better for free, or at lower cost. HW Bush was correct to call it voodoo economics.

Wow, mulp, you out-did yourself this time.

P.S. - I own an electric bicycle, imported from China, and it's awesome.

I see. I hope a fancy bicycle is worth your soul and your freedom!

I'll let you know. ;)

A soft-science university department with "studies" in its name? It will be captured by the usual suspects. Set up a "Progress Institute" thinktank instead.

Then it can tell us that, as long the rich get richer, it is progress.

"By “progress,” we mean... raised standards of living "

quite odd that a professional Economist seeks a new science to figure out how to raise the general standard of living -- since that objective is well within the scope of the "Economics" discipline.

Use of terms like "education policy" in this new science... betray the same old collectivist mindset.
Just who is the "we" that wants to develop this supposed new science?

From the article: "Before digging into what Progress Studies would entail, it’s worth noting that we still need a lot of progress. We haven’t yet cured all diseases; we don’t yet know how to solve climate change; we’re still a very long way from enabling most of the world’s population to live as comfortably as the wealthiest people do today; we don’t yet understand how best to predict or mitigate all kinds of natural disasters; we aren’t yet able to travel as cheaply and quickly as we’d like; we could be far better than we are at educating young people." Is this a problem of progress or of implementation?

From the article (and the excerpt above): "Imagine you want to know how to most effectively select and train the most talented students." This gets to the heart of the challenge: do we focus on the exceptional or the average, the elite (at elite colleges and universities) or the not elite (at second tier colleges and universities)? In the generation of my grandmother and her siblings, the focus was on the exceptional and the elite, my grandmother and her siblings, who produced enormous progress in their chosen fields (from medicine to architecture to academia, writing, and teaching). Democratic it wasn't, progress it was.

My comment is not meant to diminish the importance of progress, but to point out that there are competing considerations and goals; and some considerations and goals do not serve to maximize progress. My godson attends an elite university, and he is the elite of the elite in his class. He is one of the "most talented students", who I am confident will make an enormous contribution to progress. I would stake the future on young people like him; but make no mistake, doing so will have opportunity costs, something economists should understand.

The godless, earthly paradise must be perfected.

My definition of progress would be a good, five-dollar cigar.

you wanna progress?
start by teaching sociologists that correlation doesn't equal causation!

Cntrl + F "genes" or "genetics" or "heritability" = 0 results

Let's look at a few quick easily accessible examples from Silicon Valley:

Robert Noyce's father graduated from Doane College, Oberlin College, and the Chicago Theological Seminary and was also nominated for a Rhodes Scholarship; mother was a graduate of Oberlin College described as "an intelligent woman with a commanding will".

William Shockley's father - mining engineer who speculated in mines for a living and spoke eight languages.

Andy Grove's parents were middle class Hungarian Ashkenazi Jews (it's like winning an IQ lottery)

Bill Gates's father was prominent lawyer; mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and the United Way. Gates' maternal grandfather was J. W. Maxwell, a national bank president.

Jeff Bezos is a maternal grandson of Lawrence Preston Gise, a regional director of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in Albuquerque.

Steve Jobs - biological grandfather was a self-made Syrian millionaire, father (who did not raise Steve): doctoral candidate at U. of Wisconsin

Sergey Brin - father is a mathematics professor at the University of Maryland, and his mother a researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Larry Page - father: PhD in computer science from the University of Michigan; mother, Gloria, was an instructor in computer programming at Lyman Briggs College and at Michigan State University

Sundar Pichai (CEO Google) - father an electrical engineer at GEC, the British conglomerate. His father also had a manufacturing plant that produced electrical components.

Ruth Porat (CFO Alphabet) - father was a research fellow in the physics department at Harvard University. Later relocated the family to Palo Alto, California three years later where he worked at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory for 26 years.

Erich Schmidt's mother had a master's degree in psychology, father a professor of international economics at Virginia Tech and Johns Hopkins University, who worked at the U.S. Treasury Department during the Nixon Administration.

Ah, so the key to human progress is genetic determinism.

And you? Do you come from a long line of people who sat back and said, "Just let the smart people do all the work, there is no point in anyone else trying anything?"

>so the key to human progress is genetic determinism.

I'm not completely sure. But i'm confident it's not economist designed institutional/education formulas:

Here's another one for you:

Patrick Collison (Tyler's co-author) - father Denis in electrical engineering, mother Lily in microbiology - then became entrepreneurs.

Just to drive the point home. Partial roster of Manhattan project (a very rapid burst of progress indeed):

Bethe - son of privatdozent of physiology at the University of Strasbourg and grandson of professor at the University of Strasbourg

Dyson - son of a composer and lawyer

Fermi - son of a division head in the Ministry of Railways

McMillan - son of a physician (uncle and 2 aunts from father's and mother's side were also physicians)

Segre - son of a businessman who owned a paper mill (his uncle was a law professor)

Van Vleck - son of a mathematician and grandson of an astronomer

Von Neumann - from a wealthy Hungarian Ashkenazi Jewish family

Oppenheimer - son of a wealthy Jewish textile importer

Bohr - son of a professor of physiology at the University of Copenhagen. Mother came from a wealthy Danish Jewish family prominent in banking and parliamentary circles.

Szilard - son of a civil engineer (Hungarian Ashkenazi Jew)

Lawrence - son of first generation Norwegian immigrants, father was a superindendent of schools, brother a physician and a pioneer in the field of nuclear energy

Ulam - wealthy Polish Jewish family of bankers, industrialists, and other professionals

It would be interesting to hear about the background of Seaborg's family.

I already understood your point the first time. You didn't respond to mine, so here it is again, with emphasis added to hopefully elicit less of the same:

Do you come from a long line of people who sat back and said, "Just let the smart people do all the work, there is no point in anyone else trying anything?"

>there is no point in anyone else trying anything?

It depends. For me it's not point at trying my hand at superconductivity or supersonic glide vehicles. Just too plain dumb. Partial differential equations baffle me. I could probably devise an improved shower curtain mechanism though.

Well, it took a few tries, but we finally got to the point where you're willing to admit that chasing progress beyond genetic determinism is a potentially worthwhile endeavor. I'm glad you agree.

It's not worthwhile when the authors choose to ignore the main biologically determined ingredient. The whole thing reeks of Igon Value Problem. I'll be impressed when this whole nebulous initiative they are proposing results in some tangible progress in, say, Eritrea or Nicaragua. It won't happen.

It's not worthwhile when the authors choose to ignore the main biologically determined ingredient.

This, to me, is a lot like saying, "Your proposed training plan for the Dallas Cowboys fails to account for the fact that professional athletes are genetically gifted!" I mean, are we talking about training plans, or are we talking about how to create a human being worth creating a training plan for?

Actually, it sounds like genetic determinism is just your hobby horse. You injected it into the discussion because you wanted to talk about it, not because it was relevant to the article.

...which makes me the dumbass for giving you a platform to elaborate.

RPLong defeats greg cochran's fan club in this exchange

You are going to have trouble getting Patrick, self-made billionaire from Limerick, Ireland, to put genetics near the top of the list. Few people in the world spend as much time reading as he does, and this started in childhood. While I don't think that he goes 100% to nurture in the nature-nurture debate, he'd focus, as far as parental intervention goes, on how he was encouraged to read and study more.

Patrick Collison (Tyler's co-author) - father Denis in electrical engineering, mother Lily in microbiology - then became entrepreneurs.

"Progress" is the temporal myth sponsored by modernity that we live already in an irrevocable future.

The mythical aspect of "progress" is seen in its partisans' refusal or inability to account properly for anachronisms and atavisms among human populations given naturally to behavioral recurrences and reversions.

Check with astrophysicists, TC, but I think they'll confirm for us that NO baryonic constitution can be attributed to "the future" (otherwise, arguably, all of our financial markets deserve to collapse). "Progress" thus poses no legitimacy, same as any other tawdry or putrid ideal, since its partisans are unwilling to engage in temporal realism: we have NEVER lived in an irrevocable future, just as we do not so live even today.

Whatever deserved death "progress" does not attain soon on its own, Technogenic Climate Change may well murder with extreme prejudice by century's end: Technogenic Climate Change may yet succeed in itself becoming "the face of 'Progress'."

I arrived at this article somewhat backwards. I saw a fisking on Twitter, then noticed they were talking about Tyler (and Patrick), then read the article itself.

I have to say it leaves me somewhat confused. I was born at the start of the space race. Big rocket launches, and moon landings, punctuated my childhood. I read Toffler's Future Shock and The Third Wave. I watched PBS Connections, and Nova. I remember science taught as a progression of understanding, from Newton and Lavoisier onward. Even computer science. Well, they started us on punch cards and FORTRAN. Part of that might have been that a CDC mainframe was just what they had. But certainly since then we have been submerged in waves of change, with genuine new computing paradigms every 10 years or so.

So who hasn't been focused on progress? Academia? Is this a suggestion that there should be a School of Progress Studies on campus somewhere?

I suppose, why not. But you could incorporate a lot of meta thinking already done on the discovery lifecycle, and the engineering lifecycle. Maybe even bring in Clay Christensen on broader technology lifecycles.

Maybe something useful could be done, translating what STEM does to what the non-STEM uni knows.

McCormick's twitter thread is a good rant.

I don't understand why he said "historiography of science and technology"--- doesn't he mean plain old "history of science and technology"?

I guess to include both the history and the history of history.

The name "____ studies" causes an immediate devastating loss of credibility.

That mistake reminds me of an old commercial where a guy named Freddy Krueger opened up a day care and named it after himself.

By the way, I nominate this slide on The Knowledge Discovery Life Cycle Model for worst graphics. Still, it shows people are out there. Hire him. No wait! He's already a George Mason dude.

(But a George Mason STEM dude.)

Okay, I just noticed that this was a 1998 paper and graphics. Good work, and acceptable graphics, for that period.

Apparently, all the low-hanging fruit in science really has been picked.

How about we deal with nuclear fusion, repair of neural tissue, and metastatic cancer. Then we can create Progress Studies sinecures for Tyler's friends.

"Progress" in TC's chosen context does sound remarkably like another fine strategy with which academics can hide themselves from reality and vice versa.

Far worse, TC shows remarkable unconcern with the prospect of science ideologists fashioning nothing less than or other than a MYTH ABOUT TIME for academic aspirants to cling to.

Why is Holy Science NOT conducting its discourse purely in the scientific terms it wields? Why are TC, et al., coaching us to BELIEVE in Holy Science?

"Applied technology giveth and applied technology taketh away: blessed be the name of Applied Technology."

Progress towards what? To specify an answer to this question requires an account of Intrinsic Value, which is a messy, contentious, "philosophical" matter.

An incrementalist-solutionist avoids that :-)

No kidding. I think Progress Studies can be safely confined to a particular sub-strain of thinking in the Philosophy Department.

Have Tyler or Alex ever addressed over-production and perverse incentives in academics? Seems like a fertile topic for economists.

There was recently a similar controversy over an Atlantic article (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/04/erisology-the-science-of-arguing-about-everything/586534/) calling for new attention to the study of why people disagree. There was a flurry of controversy on Twitter with claims that "disagreement studies" already existed, but, amusingly, I did not see anyone attempt to use the tools of their profession (old or new discipline) to analyze this disagreement over that claim itself.

"By progress we mean the combination of economic, technological, scientific, cultural, and organizational advancement..."

I would think this is best summarized as "quality of life", which is quite a subjective thing. Not every individual has the same preferences. I believe it is best left to the individual to decide for him or herself how to maximize one's quality of life. This is best ensured by by a liberal democracy which grants each individual the liberty to pursue his or her own happiness and a voice in deciding what is in the collective interest. Isn't that the role of politics? I'm surprised that a libertarian would think that academics should not only direct the economy but decide for the rest of us what is in our best interests.

Maybe a libertarian should stay off the internet then, keeping to general principles.

Many years ago there was a company whose catchline was "we don't make the products you use, we make the products you use better". That describes so-called tech. Is it "progress" not to make new products but to make old products we already have better? I suppose so.

Down here in the low country it's hot in the summer, so air conditioning is really important. "Progress" to us would be a new product that cooled the air efficiently and cheaply and without doing damage to the environment. It's true that tech has created software that improves the efficiency of the thermostat (Trane purchased the tech company that created it several years ago), but it's still mostly the same old air conditioner, but with a better thermostat. My monthly cooling bills aren't much affected.

Where else has tech accomplished "progress"? In (digital) advertising for sure, but it's not a product. And in ways to pay for products purchased on the internet - same products, different medium for payment. Mercifully I won't go on. I admire Patrick Collison for his success in creating Stripe, the payments plus company, but I'd be more impressed with a better air conditioner. Or what about transit? I'm not so sure the folks in tech are the folks that will be creating the kinds of products I'd call "progress". But maybe they can help find the folks who will create the kinds of products I'd call "progress". I'm confident they can create the software for the job.

My point is that "progress" is defined in America in tech terms not industrial terms in part because manufacturing has been shifted to East Asia. If business in America is to be based not on the products we make but the products we make better (through software), is that really "progress".

Software is a workflow or business process that you can buy. If it improves your way of doing things 10-fold, 100-fold, 1000-fold, that absolutely is progress. What used to require a weekend trip to the library I can search for free in a split second using Google. That's easily a millionfold progress for me personally. There are only a handful of countries that can produce decent software and even fewer companies that do it right. It is a mindboggling complex endeavor.

The business of America is services. That absolutely cannot be offshored nor does it arrive in large ship. Products have their place in the US economy but considering that almost any country can make plastic bobbles, textiles, or electronics very cheaply the US should mostly stick to the most demanding and precise forms of manufacturing.

Progress is that which raises the "Standard of Living"? I wonder if TC ever met a circular argument he found fault with. It seems to me that Progress should reflect increase in per capita happiness rather than, oh, say per capita wealth, income, education, health, or longevity. I doubt if we understand the human animal sufficiently to create a good measure of happiness. One question to ask people who talk about measuring progress is: is the metric's definition stable over decades and centuries? That is, would a social observer of 50, 100, or 200 years ago agree with the composition of the metric? (and is it likely that a sociologist of 2070, 2120 or 2220 C.E. will agree with the current composition?) Color me dubious. Seems to me until we adequately understand (and can model) the human animal in its context, our "progress" metrics will suffer from survivorship bias. (or something similar...is there a word for it? IDK)

Disappointing article but not uncommon: CNTRL + F + "patent" yields not a single hit, on an article about how to increase progress in science and tech!

Since most of you reading this probably don't know the difference between a patent and a trademark, and I've met distinguished scientists who don't have a single patent (on purpose, they are anti-patent), I'll leave you with this: I've seen maybe 10 minutes of "Shark Tank" pseudo-reality TV, but both times the VC asked "is there a patent on this?" It's actually a question on the one page preliminary 'term sheet' checklist that business people use when deciding whether or not to buy a business. No patent = lower valuation to the business. Not a deal breaker (first mover advantage is usually more important in many businesses) but it's a factor.

So Ray's idea of "progress" is "shark tank", better yet a patent on "shark tank", because it makes money for somebody (the holder of the patent)? We are doomed. Progress is defined as forward progress toward a destination. What destination does Ray have in mind? Mindless viewers of shark tank?

I was joking a little with "incrementalist-solutionist" above, but I think that is the way most progress is made, for better or worse. Sometimes those incrementalist-solutionists take out patents, but not always.

The good part is that someone gets tired of nailing things and invents the nail gun (OMG a finish nailer makes rebuilding kitchen cabinets easy), but possibly the bad part is that this kind of progress is not directed. Nail gun guy was not worrying about Philo's Intrinsic Value.

And so maybe someone should.

Patents are government enforced monopolies that give lawyers license to go after competing businesses. They made sense for a certain time but now they just stifle innovation. 19th century America and Germany, 20th century Japan and 21 century China all ignored patents to national prosperity. It is just simply better to let businesses compete than to let quasi-rent-seekers bend the nature of the economy using excessive legalities. I'm not calling for full abolition (it still makes sense for medical research) but it is time to rethink patents.

@Reasonable Rob - totally unreasonable. All the countries you cited simply copied the production possibilities frontier leader (UK, USA, USA, for the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries), that is, they stole their patents. The USA did the same with the UK. Doesn't make it right. That China is also doing it to the USA doesn't make it right. World performance has been hindered over the years by simply relying on altruistic nerd "Good Samaritans" to invent, gratis. That's got to change in order for humanity to make further progress, given, as TC has written, we have a Great Stagnation.

"All mankind’s progress has been achieved as a result of the initiative of a small minority that began to deviate from the ideas and customs of the majority until their example finally moved the others to accept the innovation themselves. To give the majority the right to dictate to the minority what it is to think, to read, and to do is to put a stop to progress once and for all."
--Mises, Ludwig von (1927). Liberalism

If you want progress, you can't have enforced conformity. There is a reason that the steam engine came not from Oxford or Cambridge, or the gentlemen "scientists" but rather arose from those who due to religious bias attended alternate academies or came up through the skilled trades. Forcing everyone into the "college experience" while denigrating those in the skilled trades is what is killing progress.

Another factor is regulation. Innovative minds can work on many, many things. The one thing they are most unlikely to work on is completing their TPS report or "mother may I" permit application. Most regulation is evolves, regardless of the good reason for its start, to impede progress through fines and injunctions against new ideas.

But as every schoolchild doesn't know, Watt's steam engine was perfected by...gentleman scientists and engineers. While Watt did separate the hot piston from the cold condenser, unlike the Newcomen steam engine, it barely produced adequate power given its weight until engineers increased the metal alloys used and greatly increased the working pressures. Same with the Wright brothers "Flyer", which barely flew. Learned engineers again rescued the airplane from being a mere toy or novelty item.

50 years ago the field of economic development was widespread and considered to be a fundamental leg of international economics. While it did not focus on the other fields as your proposal does it did spend some time on early European development before focusing on the Marshall plan and Japanese economic history. Taiwan, North Korean and other East Asian economies were just starting their grow miracles and the field focused very heavily on the lessons to be learned from them. It was a key field for both academic and government foreign affairs studies. But as the lessons learned from these early examples did not seem to work in Africa and Latin America the entire field of study lost its luster. But now, maybe it is time to bring it back and incorporate some of your suggestions.

We first need a philosophy of progress.

I have been studying the topic of progress for over two decades, and (OK, obviously) agree that this topic deserves more attention. Assuming progress is possible, and it is, then it is almost certainly the most important topic for every human alive today and from this point forward. Indeed, whether there is or is not progress determines whether there will be humans alive in the future.

The key to the topic is to first define the term. This is easier said than done, because it is conventionally used in a range from personal advance to technological and scientific advance to evolutionary development to widespread human flourishing. These are not the same thing, despite being used interchangeably, and in some cases they are outright contradictory (technology can lead to extinction). 99% of all serious discussions on the topic talk past each other due to failure to define the issue.

The next step is to list out what has to occur for progress to occur. From this one can design an algorithm or recipe for progress. This is an open ended process like fishing or the scientific method which explains what is necessary to increase the likelihood (with no guarantee of success) of our efforts.

Progress is possible, though not likely, and it is extremely important. It deserves much, much more serious attention. Honestly I suspect the topic is somewhat taboo today because once the topic is fleshed out and understood it directly contradicts so much of current academic thought.

[Verse 1]
And progress is not intelligently planned;
It's the facade of our heritage, the odor of our land
They speak of Progress, in red, white and blue
It's the structure of the future as demise comes seething through
It's progress, 'til there's nothing left to gain
As the dearth of new ideas makes us wallow in our shame
So before you go contribute more
To the destruction of this world you adore
Remember life on Earth is but a flash of dawn
We're all part of it as the day rolls on

[Verse 2]
And progress is a message that we send
One step closer to the future, one inch closer to the end
I say That progress is a synonym of time
We are all aware of it but it's nothing we refine
And progress is a debt we all must pay
Its convenience we all cherish, its pollution we disdain
And the cutting edge is dulling
Too many people to plow through
Just keep your fucking distance
And it can't include you

It's progress, 'til there's nothing left to gain
It's progress, it's a message that we send
And progress is a debt we all must pay

A prominent punk band from the 80s summed it all up back in the day, and well, tonight on tour.

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