Jason Crawford, entrepreneur and author of the Roots of Progress blog, discusses what progress is, where it comes from, and how it vastly betters our lives. In the process, he highlights key industrial and technological innovations, explains the errors of Malthus, and discusses how we can keep progress alive. This episode also is available at YouTube (audio only).
0:34 The key importance of progress
3:32 What is progress?
7:23 Progress as exponential
10:03 The intellectual roots of progress
13:07 The relationship between theoretical and applied science
18:37 Crawford’s journey of discovery
19:03 Why there are no “natural resources”
24:30 How some waste products became valuable
26:22 Malthus’s failure of imagination
28:12 The limits to growth outside an industrial context
31:22 Has progress now slowed?
33:37 The possibility of major technological breakthroughs
35:37 The significance of the steam engine
37:35 Turning air into bread: chemical fertilizer
39:56 Liquid rock: concrete
41:32 Cotton cloth
43:46 Amazing plastic
46:11 The problem of plastic pollution
47:50 Why the bicycle was hard
57:02 Crawford’s hand at artisan work
57:50 Threats to progress
1:11:22 Advice for young people seeking a career in tech
1:15:45 Free Objectivist books for students
1:18:54 Wrap-up: Crawford’s plans
See Crawford’s main web page and his Roots of Progress blog. Also check out his bibliography page.
Support Roots of Progress via Patreon.
Crawford wrote a first and second post about his startup, Fieldbook. He also reviewed the career advice of Marc Andreessen.
Crawford started Free Objectivist Books for Students.
Crawford mentioned the article by Scott Alexander (Slate Star Codex), “Is Science Slowing Down?“
The Primitive Technology YouTube channel features video of someone creating charcoal: