Throughout history, we humans have tried 3 different routes to create a higher standard of living.
You can do a quick view of the above and see that #1 and #2 do…ummm…well…absolutely nothing for the quality of life of humanity. In fact, #1 and #2 breed all kinds of really nasty side effects, promote violence, and generally fail miserably as they collapse on themselves from their sheer lack of an unsustainable foundation of progress wealth.
It is only #3, the Progress Process, that actually succeeds in being the ‘rising tide that lifts all ships.’ And in reality, it is THE ONLY way that wealth is actually created. The other two options just move wealth (which is really only generated through progress technologies) from one hand to the other or actually destroy it in periods of unnecessary chaos. Sound familiar to what you are seeing around you nowadays?
So why is it that the Progress Process is so successful and the others have a track record of zero wins and hundreds of historical losses? Here is the best metaphorical dissertation of exactly what the Progress Process is that we have ever come across. It details why problems, solutions, design, ingenuity, invention, and technology naturally lift everything around us.
“We humans have needs: water, food, shelter, clothing, and ESPN HD. It’s all basic survival.
If it were just you, living by a lake and pulling out a couple of fish a day, things probably wouldn’t be so hard. You fend for yourself the best you can. But as soon as some folks move into the neighborhood, you run into problems. Now you might have to do some work. Maybe you’re not so good at building huts or killing bears for stylish winter coats. You offer to fish for the new folk if they agree to do all the other stuff for you. Voila, civilization is born.
A little bit later, you decide you want a larger hut, with a big bearskin rug. How are you going to pay your fellow villagers for all that work on a couple of fish a day? Hmm. You notice some sinewy tree branches, weave them into a net (man, aren’t you a genius) and you’re pulling in two dozen fish a day out of the lake. Woohoo. You become the world’s first Maker. Your output per day or per hour just went up big time. That’s productivity.
People from all over want to trade you things for all those delicious fish. Eventually you stop fishing altogether, spending your time weaving nets. People from all over flock to your lakeshore palace to buy these newfangled devices. You charge them a third of their yearly “fish catch equivalent.” If only someone would invest money so these Neanderthals would quit dumping dead fish in your house!
You get rich, meaning your standard of living goes up. No more cold winter nights for you with your bearskin rugs and big stone fireplace. But everyone who buys your nets also gets rich at their own lakes. Even the people who ultimately trade for actual fish see an increase in their living standards because they don’t have to sit around all day fishing; they can spend more time designing bear traps and other newfangled innovations.
All productivity, all the time.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, “Labor productivity is a measure of the amount of goods and services that the average worker produces in an hour of work. The level of productivity is the single most important determinant of a country’s standard of living, with faster productivity growth leading to an increasingly better standard of living.”
Increased productivity = better living. Bingo.”**
Pretty easy to see that making new things that improve your life while simultaneously improving the lives of others and increasing the productivity of society as a whole is what drives progress. Imperialism always fails because invariably people don’t like having someone impose their will on them, especially with sticks, stones, guns, or EMPs. Coin clipping, money printing, and redistribution always fails because it has a natural diminishing return sequence that eventually implodes the system that it intended to support.
So “why don’t we focus on the progress process more” you are probably asking? For that, we have no great answer. Probably because it is harder to do than the other two. #1 and #2 only require manipulation of existing structures. Limited creative mental power required. #3…well…creating technological advancements (and we are not just referring to ‘tech’ itself but anything that creates a new product that fosters extreme utility for the masses) requires ingenuity, intelligence, grit, savvy, and persistence – essentially the fostering of creativity – is MUCH HARDER to do. It requires mental desire, persistence, and fortitude.
Periods of history that exhibit large, full scale advancements in the quality of human life are where creators have more opportunity to improve the quality of life than manipulators have the ability to take. Inversely, periods of chaos, tumult, and agony are usually led by manipulators and creativity is stifled and pushed the background. There are prime examples in the last 200 years where creativity and the progress process shined bright and everyone’s quality of life improved:
Will we be able to keep the velocity of the rate of improvement to our quality of life that we have witnessed in the last 50 years or will we slip into a period of control by manipulators in the short run? Our bet is on progress – because the IoT and the utility that is moving to the edge of the network is so powerful and that is not even mentioning the algorithmic programming logic and artificial intelligence movements underway right now. But we don’t have a crystal ball.
There are sure to be periods where manipulation exceeds creativity…we seem to be entering into one here in 2020. Our bet is on progress returning to the forefront again soon and maybe even faster than people think this time around.
Bet on the Progress Process – it has a great track record of creating wealth and lifting humanity’s quality of life...
Don’t bet on manipulation – it has a pretty bad track record of creating wealth and really keeps humanity’s quality of life low and in the control of a small few…
**Andy Kessler. Eat People. (Penquin Group, 2011), 86