Is there such thing as "progress"?

So I was reading an article last night in National Geographic about stem cells which was immediately followed by an article on Zheng He the not-so-famous-but-should-be Chinese explorer in early 15th century.

I got to thinking that there really is no such thing as progress. We in the glorious 21st century tend to think we’re so much better of than everyone before us, but are we? We have the internet, and that makes it really easy to buy plane tickets and communicate with people (not to mention fight ignorance), but it also makes it easier for people to steal our identities, to organize “terrorist” attacks (NOTE: I put it in quotes because no matter who your talking about, someone’s terrorist is someone else’s hero, it applies to NO specific group), or to minimize human contact.

We have so much “technology,” but we also, unfortunately, have found a way to ameliorate human nature.

So is there such thing as progress? Are we moving foward in any way or we just exaggerating simulateously our ability to help and to hurt?

You’ll have to tell us what the goal is before we consider whether we’re getting closer to it.

I presume the idea of progress is that of getting closer to some sort of perfection. It seems that a lot of people see “progress” by the amount of new technology people create, and how much it helps (usually neglecting the new problems it creates).

What made me think of it was, while I was reading the stem cells article, “What would happen if we cured all diseases?” I thought, would that be progress? It would certainly seen as such by most, but the big problem would be that, more than ever, we’d still have to all live together. So, we’d still be killing, cheating, etc.etc. Do you see what I’m getting at? Is this a stupid question?

Derrida said, essentially, “I have one language, and at the same time it’s not clear to me.” (je n’ai qu’une langue, et en même temps cette langue ne m’appartient pas. ) I’m definitely feeling that today. I can’t find a way to explain the exact question I’m asking.

Such as a perfect hell, perhaps?

It sounds like you are expressing disatisfaction with the lack of progress human nature has made.

Perhaps a concurrent question could be: when, if ever, was a generation of human beings ever making “real progress” (assuming such a thing does have a universally acceptable definition)?

Any age has its inhabitants strapped with the fate of having to live in that age, regardless of its overall historic significance. And to top it off, each generation defines the quality of past generations in light of its own values.

So in ages past, it’s highly likely that the thinkers of that age, by comparing to what they knew (or suspected) about previous generations, might have felt that they were indeed “making progress.” From what I have read, I suspect the Late Victorian Era was one of those.

I think our own generation is jaded by too much technology and too little real wisdom. There are a few real thinkers and contributors to the “progress of mankind” but they seem to be drowned out by the trivial and mundane. Watching Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segment convinces me that this is not a Golden Age.

I think we’ve made progress in at least one respect: In Western countries, people have a lot more choices than we’ve ever had before. Educations is more universally available, there is no slavery, and women have far more options than they ever had before. In past generations, most people spent their lives doing menial chores, and the question of personal “happiness” wasn’t even thought of. Plus, we’re living longer, enabling us to spend more time pursuing our long-term goals.