Listening to historians Dan and Daniele, I was struck by their discussion of ‘progress’. They both have a wide-boundary view of the human journey: history is not a story of simple linear progress – things don’t always improve over time. There are ups and downs, and perhaps most crucially, our definition of progress very much depends on where we are standing.
At school, I was taught about the expansion of the British Empire – from the White European perspective, without ever once hearing the other side of that story: the Empire was built on the extraction of resources and persecution of people from the rest of the world. British ‘progress’ rarely [if ever?] resulted in improvement for the indigenous populations.
A very different example is the new Apple Vision Pro, which at first glance seems to be a sign of technological progress. But in a society that is already suffering as a consequence of decreasing human connection and interaction, it’s questionable how much improvement these glass goggles will make to our lives. Do we truly want to spend even more time staring at screens?
It can be easy to get stuck on the treadmill of progress – thinking we have to continually grow: to do more, be more, make more, take more. But whether we’re talking about our personal or work lives, improvements often come from doing less.
What if we step off the treadmill? What if we question our obsession with progress, and ask instead:
What will this improve?