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Progress Studies

Progress Stud­ies is the study of the causes of civ­i­liza­tional progress, e.g., the com­bi­na­tion of eco­nomic, tech­nolog­i­cal, sci­en­tific, and cul­tural ad­vance­ments that have trans­formed hu­man life and raised stan­dards of liv­ing over the past cou­ple of cen­turies.

The bi­cy­cle, as we know it to­day, was not in­vented un­til the late 1800s. Yet it was a sim­ple me­chan­i­cal in­ven­tion. It would seem to re­quire no brilli­ant in­ven­tive in­sight, and cer­tainly no sci­en­tific back­ground.
Why, then, wasn’t it in­vented much ear­lier? – Why did we wait so long for the bi­cy­cle?

See also:

Ori­gin of the Name

Progress Stud­ies was pro­posed as an aca­demic field by Tyler Cowen and Pa­trick Col­li­son [1] af­ter they no­ticed that there’s no in­tel­lec­tual move­ment fo­cused on un­der­stand­ing the dy­nam­ics of progress, or on try­ing to speed it up.

Ex­ter­nal Resources

Dis­con­tin­u­ous progress in his­tory: an update

KatjaGrace
14 Apr 2020 0:00 UTC
162 points
20 comments31 min readLW link
(aiimpacts.org)

Epistemic stan­dards for “Why did it take so long to in­vent X?”

jasoncrawford
2 Mar 2020 18:58 UTC
87 points
11 comments6 min readLW link
(rootsofprogress.org)

Tech­nol­ogy Changes Constraints

johnswentworth
25 Jan 2020 23:13 UTC
84 points
6 comments4 min readLW link

Why did ev­ery­thing take so long?

KatjaGrace
29 Dec 2017 1:00 UTC
62 points
17 comments1 min readLW link
(meteuphoric.wordpress.com)

[An­swer] Why wasn’t sci­ence in­vented in China?

Ruby
23 Apr 2019 21:47 UTC
81 points
39 comments21 min readLW link

Study­ing Early Stage Science: Re­search Pro­gram Introduction

habryka
17 Jan 2020 22:12 UTC
34 points
1 comment15 min readLW link
(medium.com)

Some ex­am­ples of tech­nol­ogy timelines

NunoSempere
27 Mar 2020 18:13 UTC
23 points
0 comments16 min readLW link

Two Kinds of Tech­nol­ogy Change

johnswentworth
11 Oct 2018 4:54 UTC
61 points
19 comments3 min readLW link

Is Science Slow­ing Down?

Scott Alexander
27 Nov 2018 3:30 UTC
113 points
77 comments9 min readLW link2 nominations1 review
(slatestarcodex.com)

The Coper­ni­can Revolu­tion from the Inside

jacobjacob
1 Nov 2017 10:51 UTC
146 points
45 comments19 min readLW link

Why did we wait so long for the bi­cy­cle?

Ruby
17 Jul 2019 18:45 UTC
49 points
10 comments3 min readLW link
(rootsofprogress.org)

An­nounc­ing Progress Stud­ies for Young Schol­ars, an on­line sum­mer pro­gram in the his­tory of technology

jasoncrawford
20 May 2020 0:52 UTC
19 points
0 comments1 min readLW link
(rootsofprogress.org)

[Question] Why didn’t Agoric Com­put­ing be­come pop­u­lar?

Wei_Dai
16 Feb 2019 6:19 UTC
54 points
22 comments2 min readLW link

Turn­ing air into bread

jasoncrawford
21 Oct 2019 17:50 UTC
88 points
9 comments6 min readLW link
(rootsofprogress.org)

On the Loss and Preser­va­tion of Knowledge

Samo Burja
8 Mar 2018 18:40 UTC
110 points
20 comments7 min readLW link2 nominations
(medium.com)

Why Science is slow­ing down, Univer­si­ties and Maslow’s hi­er­ar­chy of needs

George
15 Feb 2020 20:39 UTC
19 points
24 comments10 min readLW link

“Is Science Bro­ken?” is underspecified

NancyLebovitz
12 Aug 2016 11:59 UTC
8 points
11 comments1 min readLW link

Why any­thing that can be for-profit, should be

jasoncrawford
29 Apr 2020 20:00 UTC
50 points
39 comments6 min readLW link
(rootsofprogress.org)

A let­ter on op­ti­mism about hu­man progress

jasoncrawford
4 Dec 2019 4:21 UTC
34 points
3 comments3 min readLW link
(letter.wiki)

In­stant stone (just add wa­ter!)

jasoncrawford
13 Nov 2019 22:33 UTC
75 points
9 comments4 min readLW link
(rootsofprogress.org)

Book re­view: The Sleep­walk­ers by Arthur Koestler

Richard_Ngo
23 Apr 2019 0:10 UTC
75 points
26 comments9 min readLW link
(thinkingcomplete.blogspot.com)

In­tel­lec­tual Progress In­side and Out­side Academia

Ben Pace
2 Sep 2017 23:08 UTC
51 points
5 comments14 min readLW link

Shut­tling be­tween sci­ence and invention

jasoncrawford
27 May 2020 21:25 UTC
34 points
0 comments6 min readLW link
(rootsofprogress.org)

Pas­teur’s quadrant

jasoncrawford
5 Jun 2020 17:47 UTC
33 points
2 comments5 min readLW link
(rootsofprogress.org)

Book re­view: The Tech­nol­ogy Trap

Richard_Ngo
20 Jul 2019 12:40 UTC
30 points
1 comment5 min readLW link
(thinkingcomplete.blogspot.com)

Why ev­ery­thing might have taken so long

KatjaGrace
1 Jan 2018 1:00 UTC
145 points
15 comments3 min readLW link2 nominations1 review
(meteuphoric.wordpress.com)

Thiel on Progress and Stagnation

Richard_Ngo
20 Jul 2020 20:27 UTC
112 points
24 comments11 min readLW link
(docs.google.com)

The Fu­ture of Science

Richard_Ngo
28 Jul 2020 2:43 UTC
12 points
2 comments7 min readLW link

Tra­di­tion is Smarter Than You Are

Kaj_Sotala
19 Sep 2018 17:54 UTC
68 points
10 comments1 min readLW link1 nomination
(scholars-stage.blogspot.com)

The Era Of Un­limited Every­thing: Un­limited Ma­te­ri­als & Un­limited Money

jdampolargo
1 Aug 2020 3:01 UTC
4 points
6 comments10 min readLW link

The YouTube Revolu­tion in Knowl­edge Transfer

Samo Burja
17 Sep 2019 20:10 UTC
54 points
7 comments4 min readLW link
(medium.com)

Jan Bloch’s Im­pos­si­ble War

Hivewired
17 Feb 2020 16:14 UTC
102 points
30 comments5 min readLW link
(hivewired.wordpress.com)

The abrupt­ness of nu­clear weapons

paulfchristiano
25 Feb 2018 17:40 UTC
105 points
35 comments2 min readLW link

Can the Chain Still Hold You?

lukeprog
13 Jan 2012 1:28 UTC
127 points
360 comments4 min readLW link

Drain­ing the swamp

jasoncrawford
28 Jan 2020 21:37 UTC
91 points
0 comments11 min readLW link
(rootsofprogress.org)

For progress to be by ac­cu­mu­la­tion and not by ran­dom walk, read great books

MichaelVassar
2 Mar 2010 8:11 UTC
55 points
115 comments3 min readLW link

[Question] Which sci­en­tific dis­cov­ery was most ahead of its time?

Richard_Ngo
16 May 2019 12:58 UTC
40 points
14 comments1 min readLW link

Is the rate of sci­en­tific progress slow­ing down? (by Tyler Cowen and Ben South­wood)

Ben Pace
2 Dec 2019 3:45 UTC
41 points
6 comments1 min readLW link
(docs.google.com)

Why safety is not safe

rwallace
14 Jun 2009 5:20 UTC
51 points
118 comments5 min readLW link

Is the World Get­ting Bet­ter? A brief sum­mary of re­cent debate

ErickBall
6 Feb 2019 17:38 UTC
35 points
7 comments2 min readLW link
(capx.co)