The Idea of Progress
The Idea of Progress is the theory that the different advances in technology, science, and social organization can produce an improvement in the human condition. That is, people can become happier in terms of quality of life (social progress) through economic development (modernization), and the application of science and technology (scientific progress).
Progress implies change and evolution and throughout history most of the advances have been positive. However the rhythm of progress seems to have accelerated over the last few decades and the technological breakthroughs and scientific developments are causing some people to question this progress. What effect do these « advances » have on our society? Do they always have a positive effect on the way we live?
Do certain new technologies bring people closer together or do they alienate us? What effect does this progress have on our culture?
Here are just a few topics to help you illustrate this notion
1. Scientific Progress
- Medical advances: cures for illnesses such as AIDS and certain cancers
- Performance enhancing drugs
- Genetically modified organisms
- Designer babies
- Space travel
2. Technological Progress:
- Cheap and rapid transportation across the world enabling transport of products all over the world
- Advances in global communications networks facilitating the exchange of information
- Robots, automated production
- The internet – advantages and disadvantages (have we become to dependent on technology, is it isolating us from one another?)
3. Social Progress:
- Women’s rights : obtaining the vote for women, the fight for equality, equal pay
- Increased recognition of minority groups: ethnic, racial or religious minorities
What are the ethical, social and environmental consequences of these developments? What effect do they have on our modern-day world?