|Lecture handout: Progress*
|Activity: Transformative Breakthrough Worksheet|
⭐ Required readings:
- Thierer, Adam, “How Many Lives Are Lost Due to the Precautionary Principle?” The Bridge, expert commentary, October 2019
- “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 is Aubrey De Grey claiming that the first person to live to the age of 1,000 has already been born:
For a survey of potential breakthrough technologies see:
- Weinersmith, K., and Weiner, Z., 2017, Soonish, Penguin
Or this Wikipedia article:
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
- 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
— 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.
Here is a video showing how the pill accelerated female participation in the workforce:
And, if you are blessed with children, don’t beat yourself up about having to breastfeed. The evidence in favour is fairly weak:
- Episode 2: Breastfeeding, The Studies Show, July 2023
For more on Permissionless Innovation:
A good, uplifting account of how creativity can result from not asking permission:
The importance of ideas:
“Comfort is the enemy of progress” P.T. Barnum:
Here is a good Economist article surveying “the new tech worldview” exhibited by the likes of Peter Thiel and Patrick Collison.
- Ep. 76: Steve Horwitz — What Drives Progress?, The Curious Task, Jan 13th 2021 – this interview touches on several themes from my teaching, including rising living standards, permissionless innovation, and the great stagnation. I also find it poingnet to listen to – I knew Steve personally and he passed away just 6 months after this recording.
|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.