Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Progress: how, what, when, where, who and Why

Progress can be summarized by the 2001 Daft Punk song: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. Many of us expect progress, else we get disappointed. However, older people may complain that everything used to be better, while young people rejoice the latest version of their gaming console. The pace of Change is quite relevant.

We expect progress in the following areas: (i) prosperity, (ii) technology, (iii) well-being (a.k.a., health, happiness, and contentment). Two out of these three will often be expressed as New Year’s wishes. In general, the third one (ie, technology) facilitates the other two.

Progress is a need (eg, more mouth to feed), a want (eg, better future for our children), and also a belief (eg, standing still is moving backwards and sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labour wears). See my blogs on Needs, Wants & Beliefs. However, this begs the question: Why is progress a (philosophical) belief?

Let’s start with some philosophical quotes on progress:

  • Confucius: It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
  • Lao-Tzu or Laozi in the Tao Te Ching: The progress of the Way seems to be retreating (source)
  • George Bernard Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” (source)
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt: “There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.” (source)

Clearly, all quotes have an explicit or implicit relation to the Arrow of Time, a concept “developed in 1927 by the British astrophysicist Arthur Eddington, and is an unsolved general physics question.” This “one-way direction” of time may explain the negative connotation in the word backward (eg, stupidity).

Progress can also imply that we have a goal in mind, and that reducing the “distance” towards that goal, implies literal and figurative progress. I suppose that is what Ayn Rand meant in this quote:

“Well, I always know what I want. And when you know what you want–you go toward it. Sometimes you go very fast, and sometimes only an inch a year. Perhaps you feel happier when you go fast. I don’t know. I’ve forgotten the difference long ago, because it really doesn’t matter, so long as you move.”

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) from We the living

I suppose it’s fair to say that progress is directly related to the spacetime dimension: there’s a location / space (eg, goal) that needs to be bridged in (due) time in order to realise. That “bridging” (in space and time) is called progress. Hence, moving backwards (rather than forward) is seldom an option.

Progress (2020) by Great Good Fine Ok
artists, lyrics, video, Wiki

I wanna make it up to you
I think that’s progress

Note: all markings (bold, italic, underlining) by LO unless stated otherwise.

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