I wrote a 4k word feature on Progress Studies for BBC Future that just went up. (Tweet here). I explore:

  • the stagnation hypothesis
  • the origins of progress studies
  • what PS believes
  • will economic growth make us happier
  • frontier vs. catch-up growth, and how PS’s focus on the former reveals its biases
  • progress and existential risk
  • the future of the community

I think of PS as like EA circa ~2012. They have billionaire support and are quickly professionalizing. The community seems very interested in learning from EA and has responded to critiques that they are not focused enough on x-risk. 

But they are different in important ways. Compared to EA, I think PS is:

  • more entrepreneurial, with a strong bias to action
  • less academic
  • more American, tech-y, and rooted in the Bay Area
  • less defined - PS is not nearly as rigorous or philosophically oriented
  • less demanding - PS doesn't really ask much, if anything, from its followers. I think this may be a huge force multiplier for the community, as it will better appeal to wealthy tech people, but probably makes any individual member less effective
  • more neoliberal and libertarian (though, compared to these groups PS is quicker to recognize market failures and call for govt intervention)
  • more speciesist - the focus is just on human progress, and tech has clearly been net-bad for farmed animals IMO
  • more growth-oriented

For an interesting look at what the intersection of PS and EA looks like, check out the Institute for Progress, a new think tank funded by PS co-founder Patrick Collison, Open Phil, SBF, and others. 

Timeline

  • March 2017 - Roots of Progress blog starts
  • July 2018 - Stripe Press launches 
  • July 2019 - “We Need a New Science of Progress” essay published in Atlantic
  • August 2019 - PS Slack channel launches
  • Oct 2019 - Roots of Progress becomes a nonprofit
  • Aug 2020 - Works in Progress online magazine starts
  • January 2022 - Institute for Progress think tank launches
  • Feb 2022 - Works in Progress acquired by Stripe Press
  • April 2022 - Progress Forum launches (sponsored by Roots of Progress)
  • May 2022 - The Atlantic Progress series launches

65

New Comment