The Roots of Progress


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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

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

We need a new philosophy of progress

The 19th century believed in progress; the 20th century grew skeptical. We need a new way forward

Progress, humanism, agency

An intellectual core for the progress movement

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 articles

Notes and essays on progress:

Talks and interviews

Audio and video recordings—mostly me being interviewed, some talks or me interviewing others:

See also the list of all talks and interviews.

Links, quotes, charts, and other highlights from social media: