Perspectives on Progress

I have thought about progress for a long time and learned much. For one, I learned the business of forecasting is littered with fake experts and real experts that are easily separable when you put aside most authority and other logical fallacies and simply figure out who can demonstrate their abilities under measurable conditions. In fact, it turns out super forecasters are real and use many reliable techniques to get the job done. I read a book on it called Superforecasting and I thought it was somewhat interesting.

However, what I am interested in is not short term prediction or forecasting in this case. I have been searching for the perspectives on technological progress and how it will play out in the next 100 years. What are the majors areas of change that we should be expecting?

The One Off Event Scenario

This one has plenty of basis in reality from climate change, nuclear war, and many mounting threats. This camp is made up of potentially prominent figures including people from the early retirement community. How will this likely play out? Mounting ecological disasters and threats from the first world. Is this century of rapid progress just a footnote in history and the actual reality is progress will typically be slow and steady or flat?

Linear Progress Camp

Although the exponential camp has many graphs, this group has many as well to illustrate the simple thesis:

Things are getting better but exponentially harder to solve as we pick all the
low hanging fruits of progress.

The strongest argument I have heard for this camp comes from the Artificial General Intelligence Podcast by Lex Fridman. Additional resources link 13.

Only the Software is Improving Rapidly Camp

This camp sees progress in software as the final frontier given the other areas of scientific and technological progress has slowed down. It has many strong arguments including but not limited to Space flight slowing down, electric cars and green technologies not improving at the rate of technological destruction.

Within this camp, we can see that this technological trend has many benefits including our progress no longer causes as much ecological damage to the environment.

Resource link 17.

The Exponential Progress Folks

People in this camp believe progress will be exponential in all fields, especially once the super intelligent artificial general intelligence comes online to save us… or destroy us. Progress appears slow until it takes off.

Notable figures: Ray Kurzweil and Ben Goertzel

Many counter arguments to the nerd rapture can be found, but the most notable to me were from [AGI podcast], Richard Stallman [singularityNet video]. Most of the counter arguments are knee jerk so it is, frankly, hard to find good arguments against this perspective unless it is from the above camps mentioned.

The Questioning Progress as a Good Camp

Other arguments exist against progress as a tautological good (true no matter what).

Anywhere from the Brave New World argument that simply eliminating undesirable things does not, ultimately, make life better. Is the pursuit of happiness the goal?

Another perspective I truly enjoyed was Derek Sivers view, similar to the mexican fisherman story, is more really better? Those that constantly struggle for more often forget the one thing they will never have is enough.

Additional Resources

  1. The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil

  2. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner

  3. Myths and The Future

  4. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

  5. How I Stopped Worrying

  6. More from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources―and What Happens Next by Andrew McAfee

  7. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker

  8. Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life by Jack C. Bogle

  9. The Story of the Mexican Fisherman by Courtney Carver

  10. Richard Stallman on the Singularity

  11. Marooned in Realtime by Vernor Vinge

  12. François Chollet: Scientific Progress is Not Exponential | AI Podcast Clips. This is probably the best argument I have found so far against the singularity exponential growth argument.

  13. A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy - by William Irvine

  14. The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd.

  15. Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark

  16. Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke

  17. Universal story of progress is so fast

  18. A Protectionist Moment?

  19. We need a new Science of Progress

  20. https://worksinprogress.co/

  21. https://patrickcollison.com/progress

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