Key Questions That Progress Studies Must Answer

I founded this website partly to help give structure to the emerging field of Progress Studies. Today Progress Studies is more of an idea than a reality. It consists of a very loose grouping of people who are interested in the concept of progress and think that it is important. We come from a wide variety of fields including digital technology, history, economics and politics. Many of us enjoy reading about progress. A few of us also write about progress, whether in the form of a book or a blog. To get an idea of some of the people involved, check out my Resources page on this site.

This is a great start, but if we want other people to take us seriously, we must do better. We need to develop an overlapping viewpoint with common terminology that answers questions that researchers and common people care about. Currently, I do not believe that we are doing that.

If Progress Studies is going to move past this early phase of intellectual development and become a real field of inquiry, we must start to compile what beliefs that we currently hold in common and what key questions related to progress need to be answered.

Below is a list of key questions that I believe the field of Progress Studies must answer. Also included are links to blog posts that I have written that present my answers to those questions. I plan to write future posts that address some of the other questions:

  • What is progress?
  • What are the causes of progress?
  • How do we measure progress?
  • When and where did progress start?
  • Why did it start at that time and place?
  • Why are so many people skeptical of the concept?
  • What is the future of progress?
  • Is progress currently accelerating, slowing or continuing at the same rate?
  • What can governments do to accelerate progress?
  • What can individuals do to accelerate progress?
  • How can we ensure that lower-income people and developing nations enjoy the benefits of progress?
  • Does progress promote happiness?
  • What are the psychological effects of progress?

In addition, I have written a book, “From Poverty to Progress,” that addresses many of these questions.

Of course, all fields of inquiry have multiple perspectives. If Progress studies becomes a dogma with impenetrable terminology and one viewpoint, it will fail. I highly value a diversity of opinions, knowledge, methods and perspectives. I think that Progress Studies should do so as well. But the field will fail if we have such different viewpoints, terminology and focus of interest that we have difficulty resolving any questions that people care about.

Perhaps it is best to think of it as developing a syllabus for “Progress 101.” All respected disciplines such as philosophy, economics, chemistry, political science, pyschology, etc. have an introductory course that teaches the fundamentals of the discipline. Those fundamentals include common terminology, common perspectives, methods used, important questions within the field and how various researchers within the field answer those questions. These introductory courses may vary slightly from instructor to instructor and from university to university, but overall they cover the same fundamentals. Every student new to the discipline knows that they must master the basic fundamentals of the field before making contributions of their own.

Right now I do not think the field of Progress Studies is ready to teach that course. Or more accurately, the content of that course would vary radically depending upon which of us is teaching the course. I believe that this is because we have still not developed a common set of fundamentals within the field.

So let’s get started with building the fundamentals that the rest of Progress studies rests upon. My hope is that my books and this blog will play a role in establishing those fundamentals.


Michael Magoon is the author of the “From Poverty to Progress” series of books. The first book in the series is already published with many more to follow.

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