Archive of posts with tag 'progress'

The Techno-Optimist Manifesto, Annotated

October 16, 2023 • #

Whether intentional or not, Marc Andreessen’s latest piece is the canon of the e/acc (effective accelerationist) movement. The visual that comes to mind for me is “the world if” meme made real. The desire to build, to expand energy production, increase population growth, and generally innovate our way out of problems (which has been the story of human civilization since we first stood on two legs).

To help readers less fluent in the language of human technological progress and the broader “accelerationist” movement, I put together an annotated list of clips with references to...

Outcomes Don't Look Like We Predict

October 12, 2023 • #

Just because we set an objective doesn’t mean we’ll reach it. At least not in the specific form we imagine.

When we do finally reach a destination that’s descriptively similar to the objective we thought we were after (artificial intelligence, augmented reality, flight, fusion, et al), it will look wildly different in practice than we thought.

Once we achieve a breakthrough innovation, along the path of stepping stones — the series of building blocks we must pass through to get us there — we’ve made hundreds of additional observations on the journey that change what...

Weekend Reading: Non-Experts, Non-Linear Innovation, and We Were Builders

October 24, 2020 • #

👨‍💻 The Rise of the Non-Expert Expert

Vicki Boykis on the impossibility of true breadth and depth of technical expertise:

What used to distinguish senior people from junior people was the depth of knowledge they had about any given programming language and operating system.

What distinguishes them now is breadth and, I think, the ability to discern patterns and carry them across multiple parts of a stack, multiple stacks, and multiple jobs working in multiple industries. We are all junior, now, in some part of the software stack. The real trick...

Progress is Not Automatic

September 23, 2020 • #

One of the key insights coming out of the progress studies movement seems like a simple idea on the surface, but it’s an important core thesis: that progress is not an inevitability. We don’t see new inventions, innovations, and improvements to quality of life by accident. It’s the result of deliberate effort by people in searching for new life improvements. Using names like “Moore’s Law” perhaps makes it sound like computer chip improvements “just happen,” but researchers at Intel or TSMC would beg to differ on how automatic those developments were.

Innovation is...

    <div class=

Weekend Reading: Looking Glass Politics, Enrichment, and OSM Datasets

July 18, 2020 • #

🐇 Looking-Glass Politics

On private emotions being thrown into the public sphere:

People escape the Dunbar world for obvious reasons: life there appears prosaic and uninspiring. They find a digital interface and, like Alice in Through the Looking-Glass, enter a new realm that glitters with infinite possibilities. Suddenly, you can flicker like a spark between the digital and the real. The exhilarating sensation is that you have been taken to a high place and shown all the kingdoms of the world: “These can be yours, if. . . .” If your video goes viral. If...

The Torch of Progress with Tyler Cowen

June 11, 2020 • #

This is the second episode of the “Torch of Progress” series that the Progress Studies for Young Scholars program is putting on, hosted by Jason Crawford. Tyler Cowen is unbelievably prolific in projects he’s got going on, so it’s great to see him making the time for things like this.

Read more here from last year on the progress studies movement.

Innovation and Human Nature

May 10, 2020 • #

In this piece from a few years ago, historian Anton Howes wrote about about what drives innovation. Is it part of human nature to pursue innovation? Or is it not a naturally occurring phenomenon? He makes the case that innovation is not inevitable:

The more I study the lives of British innovators, the more convinced I am that innovation is not in human nature, but is instead received. People innovate because they are inspired to do so — it is an idea that is transmitted. And when people do not...

Weekend Reading: American Production, On Bikeshedding, and Glyphfinder

May 9, 2020 • #

🏭️ Why America Can Make Semiconductors But Not Swabs

Dan Wang on American industrial production:

Learning to build again will take more than a resurgence of will, as Andreessen would have it. And the U.S. should think of bolder proposals than sensible but long-proposed tweaks to R&D policies, re-training programs and STEM education.

What the U.S. really needs to do is reconstitute its communities of engineering practice. That will require treating manufacturing work, even in low-margin goods, as fundamentally valuable. Technological sophisticates in Silicon Valley would be wise to...

Microgravity Will Change How We Make Everything

December 4, 2019 • #

Bloomberg has been publishing this video series on future technologies called “Giant Leap.” It’s well-done and a nice use of YouTube as a medium.

This one explores a number of new companies doing R&D in microgravity manufacturing — from biological organ “printing” to creation of high-quality fiber optic materials. There are still some challenges ahead to unlock growth of space as a manufacturing environment, but it feels like we’re on the cusp of a new platform for industrial growth in the near future.


Weekend Reading: Baseball Graphics, the Mind Illuminated, and the Crucial Century

October 19, 2019 • #

⚾️ How Many Outs? Baseball Graphics Compared

Some top-notch baseball geekery, with Jason Snell comparing the graphics overlays from Fox, MLB Network, and ESPN’s telecasts. I’ve thought about this, too, but have to give it to the ESPN one, with Fox right up there.

🧘🏽‍♀️ Book Review: The Mind Illuminated

Scott Alexander’s review is an excellent in-depth look at this book on meditation. I’m still making my way through it, but it’s definitely a fantastic soup-to-nuts guide so far.

🇬🇧 The Crucial Century


Progress Studies

September 16, 2019 • #

A few weeks back, Tyler Cowen and Patrick Collison co-authored this piece for The Atlantic calling for research into the study of progress1. From the thesis of the piece:

Progress itself is understudied. By “progress,” we mean the combination of economic, technological, scientific, cultural, and organizational advancement that has transformed our lives and raised standards of living over the past couple of centuries. For a number of reasons, there is no broad-based intellectual movement focused on understanding the dynamics of progress, or targeting the deeper goal...

Weekend Reading: nvUltra, Progress, and

August 10, 2019 • #


This is a new notes app from Brett Terpstra (creator of nvALT) and Fletcher Penney (creator of MultiMarkdown). I used nvALT for years for note taking on my Mac. This new version looks like a slick reboot of that with some more power features. In private beta right now, but hopefully dropping soon.

⚗️ We Need a New Science of Progress

Progress itself is understudied. By “progress,” we mean the combination of economic, technological, scientific, cultural, and organizational advancement that has transformed...