The Roots of Progress

We need a new philosophy of progress

We live in an age that has lost its optimism. The 19th century believed in the power of technology and industry to better humanity. In the 20th century, this belief gave way to skepticism and distrust. We need a new way forward. Read the essay »

Now a nonprofit organization

The Roots of Progress started as a blog in 2017, and was launched as a nonprofit organization in August 2021. The mission of the organization is to establish a new philosophy of progress for the 21st century. Read the announcement »

What is “progress studies”?

“Progress studies” is an intellectual movement to understand the causes of human progress, so that we can keep it going and even accelerate it. Read more »

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The Story of Industrial Civilization

I’m writing a book about the history of technology and the philosophy of progress, and I’m hosting a series of monthly talks based on it. Sign up here.

Iron: From mythical to mundane

Until a few thousand years ago, iron was virtually unknown. Now, high-quality steel is everywhere around us

Instant stone (just add water!)

If cement weren't 10,000 years old, it would seem like a futuristic technology: liquid rock!

Turning air into bread

What is the Haber-Bosch process? It's what keeps billions of people in the modern world from starving to death

Why AC won the Electricity Wars

DC was doomed from the start—not for lack of backers, since it was favored by the world-renowned Thomas Edison, but by physics and economics

Navigating the high seas

The hazards of the sea are many. But of all the challenges facing the sailor, the biggest was simply knowing where you are

The history of smallpox & the origins of vaccines

Smallpox was one of the worst diseases in history. This is the story of how we killed it

Why did we wait so long for the bicycle?

The bicycle, as we know it today, was not invented until the late 1800s. Here are some theories about why

All posts »

Progress studies as a moral imperative

Progress is real and important, but it is not automatic or inevitable. We must understand its causes, so that we can protect them and reinforce them

Progress studies as a civic duty

We have a responsibility to learn the underpinnings of the standard of living we all enjoy. To understand and appreciate how we got here, and what it took. And ultimately, to keep it going

Why I'm a proud solutionist (MIT Tech Review)

A third way that avoids both complacency and defeatism

Industrial literacy

When you know these facts of history, you understand what “industrial civilization” is and why it is the benefactor of everyone who is lucky enough to live in it

All posts »

Talks & interviews

Vox

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How Does Progress Happen?

The discipline of ‘progress studies’ wants to figure out what drives discoveries and inventions so we can supercharge human flourishing

The progress studies movement is very small — mostly a handful of bloggers and researchers — but it’s one of the more intriguing intellectual movements out there. One of its leading figures is Jason Crawford, the author of a blog called The Roots of Progress that explores the history of important inventions and discoveries…. I sat down with Crawford to talk about what progress is, what the progress studies movement brings to the table, and what he thinks is missing from our national conversation about inventions, discoveries, and the societies that succeed at encouraging them.

Read the interview »

Titans of Nuclear

Ignite Long Now

Slate Star Codex Meetup

All talks & interviews »

Community

Join the Progress Studies Slack, or r/rootsofprogress on Reddit.

For live discussion on Clubhouse, follow me and Progress Club.

In-person meetups have been slow since covid, but there is a San Francisco Progress Studies Meetup Group. For other areas, join the Slack (above) and look for a local channel: we already have Austin, Berlin, Boston, China, DC, LA, Montreal, NYC, Phillippines, Singapore, SF, and UK.

Support

Our 2021 fundraising goal is $500,000, and even though we just launched in August, we’re already more than halfway there. You can support us monthly through Patreon:

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For a one-time donation, we take PayPal. Or get in touch to talk about a larger contribution or other payment methods.

We’ve filed for IRS recognition of our status as a 501(c)(3) public educational charity. In the US, donations to such organizations are tax-deductible. The recognition is expected later in 2021, and will be retroactive to our incorporation in May.