When Cowen & Collison coined the term “progress studies” in 2019, some questioned why such a concept was needed, given the existence of economics, history, etc. They argued that an interdisciplinary approach was still useful: “Plenty of existing scholarship touches on these topics, but it takes place in a highly fragmented fashion….”

Recently I’ve been researching and outlining a chapter for my book on the topic of “Can Progress Continue?” I think the full answer to this question is an integration of history, philosophy, and economics. In particular, I’ve found it useful to incorporate:

I think integrating all of these puzzle pieces and perspectives results in the clearest possible answer to this important question, and I think this is true for many other questions of interest to the progress community.

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I am noticing some interdisciplinary additions perhaps on the history/sociology side:

Theories of cultural progress and the sociology of scientific/innovative community.

The education of excellent people.

The history of innovative communities.

I'm curious, Jason, what the best arguments you have found so far about the relationship between long-term trends in population growth and progress.

I'm curious, Jason, what the best arguments you have found so far about the relationship between long-term trends in population growth and progress.

Very briefly: In some of the growth models in which “ideas get harder to find” over time, the only thing that can sustain economic growth is an increasing population of researchers, and ultimately that requires an increasing human population. In fact, in some models the long-term growth rate of the economy is the population growth rate. From that standpoint, the world population growth slowdown is concerning. However, it's conceivable that some technology, such as AI, could make researchers vastly more productive, allowing growth to continue faster than population.

I also think that political science and organizational behavior are also key. Politics and the structure of organizations can both enable progress, at least at the margins, and they definitely seem to be able to constrain it or even reverse it (North Korea).

I agree. I don't address issues of governance/institutions in this chapter, but they're highly relevant to the bigger progress picture.