Differential progress is the hastening of risk-reducing progress and the delaying of risk-increasing progress.

Differential progress can be regarded as a generalization of the proposal, first made by Nick Bostrom, to accelerate risk-reducing technological progress and retard risk-increasing technological progress.[1] This proposal, which Bostrom calls differential technological development, was originally offered as an alternative to the view that technological progress as a whole should be slowed down in response to concerns about existential risk. As Bostrom argued, since technology has the potential to both increase and decrease risk, the appropriate response is to handle technologies with different effects on risk differently, rather than having a general policy of technological retardation. In more recent publications, Bostrom understands "technology" in a very broad sense, to include "not only gadgets but also methods, techniques and institution design principles"[2] and "scientific ideas, institutional designs, organizational techniques, ideologies, concepts, and memes".[3] When the notion of differential technological development is combined with this expansive understanding of technology, it becomes roughly equivalent to differential progress, rather than a special case of it.

The term "differential intellectual progress" is sometimes used as a synonym for "differential progress", though it may also be used more restrictively to exclude non-intellectual forms of progress.[4][5]

Further reading

Aird, Michael (2020) Collection of all prior work I found that explicitly uses the terms differential progress / intellectual progress / technological development, Effective Altruism Forum, February 24.
Many additional resources on this topic.

Beckstead, Nick (2015) Differential technological development: some early thinking, The GiveWell Blog, September 30 (updated 26 July 2016).
An application of the concept of differential progress to artificial intelligence research.

Christiano, Paul (2014) On progress and prosperity, Effective Altruism Forum, October 15.
Argues that differential progress is extremely important from an altruistic perspective.

accidental harm | anthropogenic existential risk | cultural lag | economic growth | scientific progress | speeding up development | vulnerable world hypothesis

  1. ^

    Bostrom, Nick (2002) Existential risks: Analyzing human extinction scenarios and related hazards, Journal of evolution and technology, vol. 9., section 9.4.

  2. ^

    Bostrom, Nick (2009) The future of humanity, in Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen, Stig Andur Pedersen & Vincent F. Hendricks (eds.) A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 551–557, p. 551.

  3. ^

    Bostrom, Nick (2019) The vulnerable world hypothesis, Global Policy, vol. 10, pp. 455–476, p. 458.

  4. ^

    Muehlhauser, Luke & Anna Salamon (2012) Intelligence explosion: evidence and import, in Amnon Eden et al. (eds.) Singularity Hypotheses: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment, Berlin: Springer, pp. 15–40.

  5. ^

    Tomasik, Brian (2015) Differential intellectual progress as a positive-sum project, Center on Long-Term Risk, December 21.