|Lecture handout: Progress*
|Activity: Transformative Breakthrough Worksheet|
- “We Need a New Science of Progress” by Patrick Collison and Tyler Cowen, The Atlantic, July 30th 2019
- “Do we need a better understanding of ‘progress’?” by Garrison Lovely, BBC, June 16th 2022
- Dourado, Eli, “Notes on technology in the 2020s“, December 31st 2020
- Southwood, Ben, “Scientific slowdown is not inevitable“, Works in Progress, April 21st 2022
- Shariatmadari, David, “An optimist’s guide to the future: the economist who believes that human ingenuity will save the world” The Guardian, April 30th 2022
- “Jason Crawford: What is progress and how to we get more of it?“, Matt Clifford’s Thoughts in Between, October 11th 2021
- “Are you a Booster or a Doomster?” CapX Podcast, August 12th 2022
Here’s a concerning thought: “Half of all scientific papers were published in the last 12 years, but much less than half of all scientific progress has happened in that time” (link).
For more on Operation Warp Speed see ‘A Shot to Save the World‘. For a fascinating (but very long) account of Vaccinate CA see The Story of VaccinateCA.
For a survey of potential breakthrough technologies see:
- Weinersmith, K., and Weiner, Z., 2017, Soonish, Penguin
Or this collaborative slide deck:
In September 2019 Eli Dourado provided a detailed and illuminating look at the sectors most likely to contribute to higher future economic growth, with specific examples of technological possibilities.
In December 2020 Tyler Cowen provided a list of new technologies that may mark the end of the great stagnation. He included:
- Apple’s M1, GPT-3
- DeepMind’s application of AI to protein folding
- phase III for a credible malaria vaccine
- a CRISPR/sickle cell cure
- the possibility of a universal flu vaccine
- mRNA vaccines
- ongoing solar power progress
- new batteries for electric vehicles
- a possibly new method for Chinese fusion
In February 2022 MIT Technology Review listed their 10 biggest technology breakthroughs in 2022. They are:
- Moving away from passwords
- Coronavirus variant tracking
- A long-lasting grid battery
- Artificial intelligence for protein folding
- GlaxoSmithKline’s malaria vaccine
- Proof of stake
- COVID-19 antiviral pills
- Practical fusion reactors
- Synthetic data for training AI
- The world’s largest carbon removal factory in Iceland
Here is an explanation of nuclear fusion:
Here is a podcast with Eli Dourado:
My conversation with @elidourado on what may drive an increase in economic productivity in the 2020s:
– energy (geothermal)
– information technology
This made me damn excitedhttps://t.co/djiHPcHP4w pic.twitter.com/NufFqfoYOW
— Patrick OShaughnessy (@patrick_oshag) May 11, 2021
Some of my favourite “no brainer” growth drivers include:
I suspect that future growth requires a cultural shift toward the principle of progress, and this involves a shift to longer term thinking. This post by Max Roser nicely presents the importance of “Longtermism”.
Here is a powerful and fascinating account of why advances in artificial wombs are so important, and I encourage all students to read it and reflect carefully on whether we should:
- Alter the 14 day rule on keeping embryos in labs.
- Invest more in Femtech.
For more on Permissionless Innovation:
A good, uplifting account of how creativity can result from not asking permission:
Here is a short quiz activity on the difference between the Precautionary principles and Permissionless innovation.
The importance of ideas:
“Comfort is the enemy of progress” P.T. Barnum:
Key think tanks:
Here is a good Economist article surveying “the new tech worldview” exhibited by the likes of Peter Thiel and Patrick Collison.
|Learning Objectives: Link technological innovation to growth theory and a broader reflection on the importance of the humanities
Cutting edge theory: A survey of potentially transformative breakthrough technologies.
Focus on diversity: Virginia Postrel’s book, The Future and it’s Enemies, encapsulates the distinctions made at the end of the lecture.