The Archbridge Institute is excited to welcome Tony Morley as a new Progress Studies Fellow.

Tony Morley is a progress studies writer and communicator who specializes in historical trends in global living standards and the forces that drive human progress and flourishing. His written work has appeared in TIME, Big Think, Freethink, Foundation for Economic Education (FEE),, and Quilette, among other publications. He is currently working on “Human Progress for Beginners,” the world’s first children’s book on progress. It is scheduled to be published with Pantera Press at the end of 2023.

On welcoming Tony as a Progress Studies Fellow, Archbridge President and CEO Gonzalo Schwarz said:

I’m very excited to partner with Tony. I’ve been following his work for a few years and believe he’s a master researcher, communicator, and evangelist on the role progress plays in our lives. We share an optimistic, positive, and solutions-oriented view of the world.

As I have mentioned elsewhere: “Increasing human flourishing and reaching our fullest human potential will be achieved when we’re able to reach a rigorous multidisciplinary consensus on what drives progress, understand how people and nations escape poverty, and what the main barriers to social mobility consist of. The synergies among these areas are key to building a robust, antifragile policy agenda for the 21st century and centuries to come. Progress and mobility studies share similar challenges but also potential. Both are keys to solving some of the world’s biggest challenges.”

I think Tony’s addition to the team is key and expands our toolkit to discuss and enable more human progress and flourishing.

You can follow Tony on Twitter @tonymorley.

Upon joining the Archbridge Institute as Progress Studies Fellow, he spoke with the team about the emerging field of progress studies and his vision for human flourishing.

To kick things off, why did you decide to join an organization with lifting barriers to human flourishing as its central mission?

We’re living today in the most abundant and prosperous time in human history; never before have so many people had access to such a high standard of living as they do today. Travel back just 200 years, however, and life was much different. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the year 1800, every country on earth, including the richest (with the exclusion of just Iceland), had an average life expectancy of under 40 years, and child mortality was roughly 43%; neither of these conditions was aided by literacy rates of just 12% and an extreme poverty rate of roughly 90%.

Where 200 years ago, virtually no country had a life expectancy over 40, the world’s lowest life expectancy today can be found in the Central African Republic at just 53.4 years. As for global child mortality, it turns out there’s never been a better time to be born, as I wrote for Big Think in an op-ed entitled “How child mortality fell from 40% to 3.7% in 200 years.” When I began pursuing progress studies five years ago, I was astonished by how few had any knowledge of the incredible progress and growth that had taken place over the last two centuries; however, someone who did was Dr. Clay Routledge, Vice President of Research and Director of the Human Flourishing Lab of the Archbridge Institute. Back in 2022, Clay reached out, noting that our mission for the past and future of human flourishing was remarkably similar. He introduced me to Archbridge — and I’m certainly thankful for that serendipitous introduction — one that would provide an opportunity to work with an incredible team, helping shape the narrative and tell the story of human progress and flourishing and inspire a brighter future.

What do you think is the importance of progress studies and having a more positive vision of the future for human flourishing?

A global zeitgeist of doomerism is an existential risk that’s little spoke of; a culture that’s ready to throw in the towel on civilization could threaten progress toward solutions for many of the challenges facing humanity, from poverty to climate change. Many young minds are growing up in a world awash with news of doom and coming away with a disproportionately negative view of the current state of civilization. Why study to be an engineer, work hard to become a teacher, or invest in learning a trade if the future is a write-off? We can’t let the narrative of culture continue to be hijacked by the doom-mongering of an unapologetically pessimistic media.

Progress studies seeks to research, understand, communicate, and apply those forces which push humanity forward, and to tell the stories of human flourishing that show our incredible resolve as a species to innovate and improve our lives and the greater civilization.

Over the last five years, the progress studies movement — the term largely coined by Patrick Collison and Tyler Cowen in an op-ed in The Atlantic titled “We Need a New Science of Progress” — has gained considerable traction. Now with momentum growing, many bright thinkers within this new movement are leveraging that growth to begin to make a difference, and that includes the work being undertaken by the Archbridge Institute.

Midjourney render, inspired by the "We Need a New Science of Progress", by Patrick Collison and Tyler Cowen for The Atlantic, July 31st, 2019.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about progress and human flourishing?

The most immediate and perhaps the most significant misconception about progress studies and human flourishing is the nature of the mission. It’s tempting but wrong to see progress proponents as cheering “mission accomplished” or to see them as propaganda engines of panacea. When we hear progress studies communicators speak of progress, we instinctively hear that the past was worse and the present is great, and then subsequently feel that our struggles and the struggles of others are being marginalized. But nothing could be further from the truth; progress forward isn’t progress completed.

I think it’s worth quoting at some length Hans Rosling in Factfulness, Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World — And Why Things Are Better Than You Think:

It seems that when we hear someone say things are getting better, we think they are also saying ‘don’t worry, relax’ or even ‘look away.’ But when I say things are getting better, I am not saying those things at all. I am certainly not advocating looking away from the terrible problems in the world.

I am saying that things can be both bad and better. Think of the world as a premature baby in an incubator. The baby’s health status is extremely bad, and her breathing, heart rate, and other important signs are tracked constantly so that changes for better or worse can quickly be seen. After a week, she is getting a lot better. On all the main measures, she is improving, but she still has to stay in the incubator because her health is still critical. Does it make sense to say that the infant’s situation is improving? Yes. Absolutely. Does it make sense to say it is bad? Yes, absolutely. Does saying ‘things are improving’ imply that everything is fine, and we should all relax and not worry? No, not at all. Is it helpful to have to choose between bad and improving? Definitely not. It’s both. It’s both bad and better. Better, and bad, at the same time. That is how we must think about the current state of the world.

What do you think are the key challenges and opportunities in advancing a progress studies agenda?

I think it’s important to remember that progress studies is still an emerging field of research and communication; there’s still a great deal of room for improvement regarding how the message is communicated and what shapes the movement. The movement is at the bottom of the s-curve of innovation and growth, which is both a major challenge and a major opportunity. Very few people understand the incredible progress humanity has made over the last 200 years, and still, fewer are aware that there are dozens of people who are dedicating their lives to understanding and communicating that progress with the hope of inspiring a better future. The progress studies movement is poised, over the next decade, to work toward helping guide culture and policy with a mission to improve human flourishing still further. The great thing about being at the bottom of the s-curve is that you haven’t exhausted all the low-hanging fruit, nor have you run out of steam to innovate and improve the mission delivery. In the coming two years, we’re going to see more books, more Youtube channels, more podcasts, and more thinkers working on progress communications. While it’s still too early to say what those innovations will look like, what can be said with unequivocal confidence is that the best is yet to come.

What are you hoping to achieve in your new role with the Archbridge Institute?

Within the scope of this current role, I’m looking forward to writing and speaking on progress studies and human flourishing. Through 2023, I’ll be bringing original work to the Archbridge Institute that helps shape the progress studies movement and influence, albeit modestly, the current zeitgeist toward a more solutionist and abundant future.


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