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Cross post: https://open.substack.com/pub/benyeoh/p/progress-summit-unconference 

This summarizes my substack post on the conference with a focus on the UnConference section (It was equally a summit on Progress and a conference on the "Great Stagnation"). There were a handful of EAs, and EA-adjacent folk I met at the summit

Short notes on Tyler Cowen's remarks 

Tyler argued that among 17 other factors he would highlight fossil fuels and machines as a driver of growth historically.  Looking forward today he see three areas of very promising progress (and that stagnation for his next period may be over) 

  • Bio-medicine (obesity, mRNA)
  • Computational power (AI)
  • Green Energy (solar, wind, other bets like mini-nuclear)

He urges Brits to be more optimistic. South England is still one of the only areas in the world where you can start ideas and get things done. 

In reply to the panel he also noted that the revealed preferences of immigrants still places the UK as a top 5 destination. 

UnConference section on Progress

In short, unlike traditional conferences with pre-set agendas and passive listeners, an UnConference invites all attendees to participate actively. Everyone is encouraged to propose topics, lead discussions, and contribute to conversations in a meaningful way.

While a conventional conference treats attendees like a passive audience to be entertained by the organizers, the unconference format gives everyone a say.

I’m strongly in favour of the format. 

These are the sessions that were suggested at our (short section) for UnConference:

  • A capsule of forecasting (against doomster forecasts)
  • More an employment puzzle than a productivity puzzle 
  • Demand side policies for innovation. An under utilised tool? 
  • Supply side reforms under a Labour government 
  • A pro-baby culture / how do we have sex equality / sufficient investment in babies and care of the elderly 
  • Enlightenment 2.0.  What I learned running an enlightenment salon for the last 8 months. 
  • How to do a coup etat (peacefully) 
  • Intergenerational inequality 
  • How to raise the status of domestic sphere / GDP + Well being. 
  • State Capacity 
  • Why sacrifice human capital ?
  • Explicit culture changes and how do we make them ? 
  • Is the problem innovation or how to scale it 
  • Did Meritocracy cause the great stagnation ?
  • Britain should be more religious. 
  • Is the answer undemocractic?
  • Progress and effects on the “nuclear family”
  • How do we develop the study of progress and share our work ?

These are some bullets on other conversations I had (the conference are the people!)

  • Effects of GLP-1 (obesity) and what it mean for progress. 
  • Why lawns are bad
  • In praise of voluntary abstinence of alcohol, evangelical Protestant thinking; and a magazine on Ireland, Fitzwilliam; transubstantiation 
  • Climate, AI resilience;  Centre for Long-Term Resilience (CLTR); also the fun of Real Tennis 
  • Reporting on Russia in the 1990s, why UK companies list in the US; what is happening with big Tech
  • Housing policy, planning and permitting unlocks 
  • Regional bus transportation 
  • Advanced market commitments m, economic pull mechanism for development. 
  • Fringe theatre; when to leave a play; comedy is under rated and power of story 
  • When do we defend bodily autonomy, when drugs should be legal; disability rights; why Britney Spears case is applicable or not; externality harms 
  • When you want to be friends with someone who wants to eat only mackerel for a week
  • How to answer the job interview question of what your best attribute is 
  • Whether NHS charge at point of care misunderstands the intangibles cost; under investment in health and whether data can make a difference 
  • What cultural behaviors we might delate (the onus to bring gifts when house visiting, whether to choose different items on a menu). 
  • Intransitivity of moral choices (cf Temkin) 
  • Why the UK or nowhere else has replicated the VC of Y-combinator 
  • Net Zero; sea grass farming; CRO start-up business model
  • What innovation agencies  should be aspire to be
  • Fellowships; how to choose and live a good life. 

Final thoughts on the summit. There is now a slightly more Co-ordinated movement thinking about Progress studies and it’s various pillars compared to a few years ago 

It’s a good time for the young and enthused to look at this. Frontier areas of progress seems to naturally attract certain kinds of people. If you are interested in potential public life do check out Civic Future and all of the various speakers are a good point to step off into this area.  Many of the people work in frontier areas: climate, AI, and biotech. 

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