The common Idea of Progress is that as human species evolves through evolutionary stages, we will become better species through various means such as scientific and technological innovations, better political, economical, educational and social system without causing any or little negative effects to other aspects of society and environment.
The Idea of Progress itself is very attractive to government and corporations. These two entities usually are working hand-to-hand with each others to promote the Idea of Progress. As common people work for corporation who promotes products that promise better life, significant part of profit generated by corporation will go to:
– CEO’s pocket (who will claim that he deserves all credits because he think hard to manage big corporation to ‘create innovation’ and ‘make a better life for everyone’).
– Government officials’ pocket who can extract tax, both from corporation and individual (But usually corporations can avoid tax by lobbying govt to create tax exceptions and in return they will pay gift money to auditors or person-in-charge, which is form of bribery).
The proponent of Idea of Progress will mention about various technological inventions throughout history which made life easier for everyone, such as modern medicine science, antibiotics, air-conditioner, telephone, television, car, aeroplane, microchip, computer, and so on. For social realms, the believers will point out to democratic system which they believe are better than totalitarian or monarchic system in old days. Free market system and globalization will replace mostly self-sufficient and local economy system. Civil right movement and Woman right’s movement has erased all forms of racism and imbalance patriarchal system which result in woman oppression.
So far so good….Look like nobody in the right mind will object to such things. But as most product advertisements, the proponents will never tell you about the dark sides of Progress. I considered continuous, unlimited Progress in all aspects of society are fairytales that are not only dangerous but potentially doing more harm than good. But that does not mean that no progress can be made in anything. I believe that there are the things that can be improved and there are things that cannot be improved. And I also believe that most benefits mentioned in above examples are either illusory, exaggerated, or made in expense of more important things.
First, we will take a look at technological progress. The popular claim is that technological progress started since invention of steam engine in 17th century has resulted in faster transportation, communication and good distribution to average people.
I have no disagreement that all these technologies have resulted in better life for people who are able to buy them. However, if you take a look more detail, these technologies are not created out of nothing. Take for example, a car. To build a car, you need aluminium, steel, gasoline, manpower, and so on. Aluminium, steel and gasoline are not renewable resources. Normal cars will not be manufactured anymore after all oils have been used or if not enough new buyers to purchase cars to cover the cost. The progress will stop when no more oil found.
In addition to non renewable resource problem, more technologies mean we need more manpower to maintain, repair, modify, and enhance these technologies. Hence, it means that more human resources are needed. However, the normal trend when human has become prosper, they tend to have less children. They have already get used to all technologies that make everything easier and faster. They also tend to spend their money for entertainment instead of having more children. Hence, the technological progress will inevitably collapse when there is not enough manpower to maintain all these structures.
Furthermore, these technologies are not making thing easier without any side effects. These technologies require energy to work and the more energy conversion take place, the more residue and waste will be generated. The waste will pollute air, water, soil, and so on. The recycling rate for this waste cannot match consumption rate. All environmental problems will start to pop up, such as water contamination, air pollution, disruption of ozone layer, global warming, respiratory problems, cancer, rapid deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and so on.
Although I am environmentalist, I am very skeptical that human will be concerned of this problem and try to consume less resources. The reason is that most humans are greedy and selfish people. They prioritize themselves more than other people, especially if they don’t see the effect of what they have done to other people.
To sum up, I don’t think that technological progress represent real progress. Human has created better life by technology but at the expense of their environment and earth resource, and other species.
I will come out with the second series to debunk social progress.