I was interviewed for the Hear this Idea podcast by Fin Moorhouse and Luca Righetti. We had a long, fun, in-depth conversation.

In our conversation, we discuss:

  • What progress is, and why it matters (maybe more than you think)
  • How to think about resource constraints — why they are sometimes both real and surmountable
  • The ‘low-hanging fruit’ explanation for stagnation, and prospects for speeding up innovation
  • Tradeoffs between progress and (existential) safety
  • Differences between the Progress Studies and Effective Altruism communities

Listen and find links/resources on the show page. Also on Apple and Spotify.

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I enjoyed this interview. I found it particularly interesting to hear how you were originally skeptical of the stagnation view and only came around to it later.

I've found this interview fun and enlightening to listen to. Coming from the EA movement, I was initially skeptical of the progress studies movement because I thought it was pretty much only about human prosperity or economic growth. But it's more general: it's the belief that for any problem we face, we can use our minds to come up with solutions, and that we need to preserve and improve the institutions that drive innovation so that we can solve these problems. As you said in the interview, advancements in safety (whether in AI, biotechnology, etc.) are a form of progress.

One concern I've had is that progress so far has only benefited humans, and come at the expense of other sentient beings and the natural environment. As the human population has grown, so has the population of farmed animals, the vast majority of which live in cruel conditions. (And we're just beginning to address wild animal suffering.) But animal suffering on factory farms is another problem that humanity can solve, whether it be through new technologies (e.g. meat and dairy substitutes) or new institutions and laws to protect farmed animals. And moral progress is part of progress too. 🙂

P.S. It would be nice if we could embed Our World In Data charts, as on the EA Forum 🙂📈


It would be interesting to have a discussion about animal welfare on this forum. Might be worth a short post to frame the issue and invite people to share thoughts in the comments.

Re charts, we are using the same forum platform as EA and LessWrong, so we should have all the same features? Let me know if there's something you're seeing in the EA Forum editor that's not here.