Is “progress” net helping or hurting?

April 6, 2022 by Joshua
in Nature

Technology builds hospitals, raises the GDP, and does other things people consider progress, improving their lives.

It also creates pollution, displaces people from their lands, and is lowering Earth’s ability to sustain life.

Between the two effects, is what we call progress net improving or deteriorating our quality of life?

I’d say it’s a judgment call that depends on your values. I’d guess someone in Silicon Valley would answer differently than someone in a favela. I figure from post-WWII to 2000, most people would say progress and technology improved life. The pollution, displacing people from their lands, extinctions, and so on were there to be seen, but I think most people chose not to see them, and who can blame them? Who could expect we could fill the Pacific with more plastic than fish?

Today, I think the majority opinion in the world, if not Silicon Valley, is that “progress” is net deteriorating human quality of life. Do you feel otherwise?

I’m not saying you can’t enjoy life, but I do believe humans overall would enjoy life more had we taken our foot off the pedal a few decades ago, and that we’d consider it an improvement to take our foot off the gas now. I think we’d appreciate life more not getting everything we want whenever we want, no matter who suffers for it. People tell me they can’t see how to avoid getting a disposable coffee cup in the morning. They’re in a hurry and don’t have time to make their own coffee or sit and drink it in the store. What else can they do but buy the disposable cup someone five hundred years from now will have to deal with?

Overflowing trash can

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