Progress is Counterintuitive

Why it’s so easy to turn the public against progress

J.K. Lund MS

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For billions of people on this planet, life is better than ever. We are better educated, living longer, wealthier, and more free than at any time in human history. Yet critics of progress and their followers would have you believe exactly the opposite. It is easy to understand why so many are being misled; the factors of progress are deeply counterintuitive. Human progress defies our own intuition, and this is exploited by critics and pundits for their own personal agendas.

Appeals to Misleading Narratives

Life was better in the good old days, they say. It may defy our perception, but we cannot trust our own memories on this issue. When critics appeal to the past and the idyllic concept of the “good old days,” it is an appeal to a false version of reality. Our brains have a built-in mechanism that suppresses negative memories over time. Thus, the past will almost always be remembered more fondly than it probably deserves.

The above appeal to nostalgia circulating online serves as a great example. The idea that around 1960 in America, one income could buy a life that requires two incomes today, is false. In 1960, the car ownership rate in America was half what it is today. The average new home was about 25 percent smaller and lacked amenities like garbage disposals, dishwashers, fire alarms…etc. That is for new homes, but many lived in older, smaller homes with no air conditioning or washing machines either. College is certainly a lot more expensive now, but children at the time would likely have not attended anyway.

The fact is, one can certainly live on a single income today…if one were to live like the average family did in 1960. That is, to own only one car, a small home, 1…

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J.K. Lund MS

Risk Manager/Author | I research Human Progress and how to build a better future.