The Progress Forum: A pre-announcement and a call for help

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Roots of Progress

The Progress Forum

A pre-announcement and a call for help

The Roots of Progress is sponsoring the creation of a Progress Forum: an online discussion forum for the progress community, modeled after LessWrong.

The goal of this forum is to provide a place for long-form discussion of progress studies and the philosophy of progress. So far, there hasn’t been a place for this. The Progress Studies Slack is good for sharing links, organizing local meetups, and general chatting, but it doesn’t serve well for long-form essays and comments. Those essays have only been on blogs—but not everyone has a blog, not every blog has a comment section, and there’s no consistent way for the most interesting and relevant content to be highlighted for attention. A forum will solve this. (See also Kris Gulati’s earlier thoughts on this.)

I expect conversations on the Progress Forum to span a variety of topics, including (for example):

  • The definition of “progress”
  • How to measure progress
  • The value of progress: pro, cons, risks, tradeoffs
  • The causes of progress, and which ones are fundamental
  • The intellectual history of the idea of progress
  • Technological stagnation, and its causes and solutions
  • Histories of progress in various fields (as are often featured on this blog)
  • Opportunities and bottlenecks in various fields
  • Visions of the future
  • Progress and safety (including existential risk)
  • Progress-minded approaches to other issues of the day (climate change, poverty/inequality, war, etc.)
  • The philosophy of progress in comparison with other approaches, such as Effective Altruism
  • Research funding (including current efforts in alternative funding models)
  • Progress in science generally
  • Progress in morality, government, and society
  • … and any other relevant topics

For the past few years, I’ve been active on LessWrong, a forum for the rationalist community. I’ve been impressed with the quality of writing and discussion there, and especially with the way a post on the forum can be an initial exploration of a half-baked idea, or can turn into a resource that people are still reading and linking to over a decade later. The forum helps the best content surface, both through community feedback (upvotes and downvotes) and through moderation (such as “featured” or “curated” posts). It’s an existence proof of the ability to create the kind of intellectual community that I’d like to see. So, we plan to use the same forum software to power the Progress Forum.

We could use help building, launching, and running the Forum. Right now we can use software engineering and especially UI/graphic design, and at launch we will need moderators. If you’d like to get involved in any way, or just to hear when the forum is ready, sign up here.

Original post: https://rootsofprogress.org/progress-forum-pre-announcement

Tickets available for Session 9 of The Story of Industrial Civilization: Medicine

Tickets are now available for session 9 of my salon series with Interintellect, “The Story of Industrial Civilization”. Sunday, January 16, 10am Pacific.

Topic: Medicine

Even after humanity had created the steam engine, the railroad, the telegraph, we were still largely helpless against disease. As late as 1850, global average life expectancy at birth was under 30 years—mostly because of very high infant and child mortality. This salon will focus on the story of our conquest of infectious disease, and how we built up our three layers of defense: sanitation, immunization, and pharmaceuticals. What progress was possible even before the germ theory was established? How did that theory come about, and what progress did it unlock? Why did penicillin sit on the shelf for more than a decade after its original discovery, before it was made into an effective treatment? How was smallpox eradicated? We’ll cover all this and more.

Sign up here.

Interview: Boundaryless Conversations with Simone Cicero & Stina Heikkila

I was interviewed by Simone Cicero and Stina Heikkila for the Boundaryless Conversations Podcast. Topics included:

  • The impact of information technology on centralization and decentralization
  • The emergence of a plurality of meanings of progress
  • Removing excess capacity and what it means for supply chain disruptions
  • The potential for cryptocurrencies to automate legal and financial actions
  • Why the pace of progress is slowing down—and how to speed it up

Listen or read the transcript on the show page.

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