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Progress

On Progress

The Social Progress Index argues, that to truly advance social progress, we must learn to measure it comprehensively and rigorously. When everyone uses the same vocabulary to describe challenges, it's that much easier to overcome them.

Halcyon's own emerging Ethical Development Goals (EDGs) are being developed in a similar spirit.

On what mattered in the past

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Asking which shifts, in which centuries, really shaped the modern world. a historian identified 10 leading drivers of change, century by century (see below).

Meanwhile, Prospect believes that reflecting on the past can give great in sight into the present and has published accordingly The past in perspective e-book.

See also:

On Scientific Progress

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Imagining scientific concepts that could improve everyone's cognitive abilities. This is the challenge that some of the world's leading scientific thinkers tackled in answer to the 2011 Edge question.

The responses were various and imaginative. One good example came from author Michael Shermer, who wished we would understand that almost everything important in nature and society...

"...happens from the bottom up, not the top down. Water is a bottom-up, self-organised emergent property of hydrogen and oxygen. Life is a bottom-up, self-organised emergent property of organic molecules."

Adding this to their cognitive toolkit might e.g. let religious conservatives recognise the reality of evolution, says Shermer, and let political liberals see that "too much top-down design can interfere with market efficiency".

On the Singularity

Many are imagining, some even planning for, the coming of the "singularity". Some are for, some against, many others sceptical that it could ever arrive.

Ray Kurzweil, who inter alia works on Google's machine learning project, predicts that by 2029, humans will be extending their lives considerably or even indefinitely. He also believes the human brain could be enhanced by tiny robotic implants that connect to cloud-based computer networks to give us 'God-like' abilities.

On Development

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To Oxford Martin School to see Ian Goldin, former Vice President of the World Bank and former economic advisor to Nelson Mandela.

Goldin believes development is the no.1 issue facing humanity - why do some societies and some individuals develop, get richer, get rights etc....while others don't? Why is GDP so pre-dominant, meaning that destructive practices (e.g. environmental harm) are counted as economic acticity - in short, "why are the bads of economies counted as goods?"

Goldin traced the trajectory of development over recent decades. Dependency theory led to uneven development which countries tried to address through import substitution, but countries are generally not very good at state-controlled production and then the oil price rises of the 1970s led to a vicious cycle of debts and bail-outs.

To be continued...

Quote 2743

We are an exceptional model of the human race. We no longer know how to produce food. We no longer can heal ourselves. We no longer raise our young. We have forgotten the names of the stars, fail to notice the phases of the moon. We do not know the plants and they no longer protect us. We tell ourselves we are the most powerful specimens of our kind who have ever lived. But when the lights are off we are helpless. We cannot move without traffic signals. We must attend classes in order to learn by rote numbered steps toward love or how to breast-feed our baby. We justify anything, anything at all by the need to maintain our way of life. And then we go to the doctor and tell the professionals we have no life. We have a simple test for making decisions: our way of life, which we cleverly call our standard of living, must not change except to grow yet more grand. We have a simple reality we live with each and every day: our way of life is killing us - Charles Bowden in Blood Orchid