We have made virtually no progress over the vast majority of human history. Our species has existed for 200,000 years and for the vast majority of that time, people were alive, they were thinking, they were suffering, and they wanted things. But nothing ever improved. The improvements that did happen happened so slowly that archaeologists can’t distinguish between artifacts from eras separated by thousands of years.

Then there was slow improvement, and then faster improvement. Then there were attempts to institutionalize a tradition of Criticism, which is the key to rapid progress—that is, progress discernible in a human lifetime—and there was also Error Correction, so that regression was less likely. That happened several times and failed every time except once—in the European Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

For almost the whole of human existence we had the ability to be creative and make progress yet we didn't. Why? Because our culture was wrong. It wasn't our fault. Cultural evolution has a nasty tendency to suppress the growth of what we would consider science or anything important that would improve their lives. But it is entirely possible this static purgatory could happen again. Nothing can prevent it except our working to prevent it.

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The growth of Knowledge consists of correcting misconceptions in our theories. Ever since the Enlightenment this had happened through a tradition of criticism. New explanations are proposed, criticized, and then refined. Since the tradition of Conjecture and criticism has created all Knowledge and Progress it's absolutely imperative that we keep it. Free speech is critical. No idea should be beyond criticism.


The theory that all knowledge is derived from sense-experience (i.e. from experimentation). When empiricism was first introduced it played a positive role for Progress by providing a defence against traditional authorities and dogma. All claims of the supernatural now had to be backed up by hard evidence, which meant that 'provable' science superseded religious mysticism and superstition.


The term has two almost opposite, but often confused, meanings: to provide someone with what they need, and to prevent things from changing. Homo-sapiens was never sustainable. No species is - 99% of them have gone extinct. Eventually the human-race will be, unless we choose otherwise, wiped out by some ice age, a meteor, a supernova, etc.