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We Need a New Science of Progress

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/07/we-need-new-science-progress/594946/

theatlantic.com

We Need a New Science of Progress
Humanity needs to get better at knowing how to get better.

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Why progress studies are important

Why progress studies are important
  • We still need a lot of progress for major challenges. We haven't yet cured all diseases; we don't yet know how to solve climate change; we don't yet understand how best to predict or mitigate natural disasters.
  • A lot of progress can also come from smaller advances that build upon one another and represent an enormous advance for society. The list of opportunities for improvement is very long.

Progress studies would consider the problem widely. They would study successful people, organizations, institutions, policies, and cultures, and attempt to create policies and prescriptions to help improve our ability to generate useful progress in the future.

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Benefiting from an organized effort

The world would benefit from an organized effort from various disciplines to understand:

  • How we should identify and train brilliant young people.
  • How the most effective small groups exchange and share ideas.
  • Which incentives should exist for participants in innovative ecosystems (scientists, entrepreneurs, managers, and engineers)
  • How much organizations differ in productivity. One recent study found that teaching better management practices to firms in Italy improved productivity by 49 percent over 15 years compared with peer firms that didn’t receive the training.
  • How scientists should be selected and funded. A recent paper concluded that long-term grants to high-potential scientists made those scientists 96 percent more likely to produce breakthrough work.

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Progress Studies antecedents

  • The Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University tried to encourage optimistic thinking about the future through fiction and narrative.
  • An applied history movement is needed to help draw lessons from history and apply them to real-world problems.
  • In a world with Progress Studies, a new focus on progress belongs to a school of thought that would encourage a decentralized shift in priorities among academics, philanthropists, and funding agencies. This has already happened in climate-science research and the designation of Keynesian economics, which helped economists focus on fiscal policy as a tool for recession fighting.

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The goal of Progress Studies

In effect, the goal of Progress Studies is to treat, not merely to understand.

The success of Progress Studies will lie in the following:

  • its ability to identify effective progress-increasing interventions
  • the extent to which they are adopted by universities, funding agencies, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and other institutions.

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Honesty As A Blind Spot

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Since man started observing human behaviour, our focus has been on the studies done on deception, morality, and lying. In the last fifty years, almost no study or research has been carried out on

Lying Is Becoming Mainstream

As lies morph into a common, accepted standard, our attention (and obsession) is with guilt, fakeness, deceit and manipulation.

Human beings, according to countless behavioural studies, lie when they know they can get away with it, or when they see other people lie, and even when we are in groups, where we tend to mimic the others(herd mentality).

Dishonesty As a Global Currency

In any social setting, lies keep the world from falling apart, becoming the real global currency:

  • Organizations and their employees routinely lie to preserve identity, protect the reputation of an individual or group
  • In relationships, one lies to spare the other from feeling bad, or to avoid an awkward situation.
  • We lie to ourselves and consistently believe we are smarter or better looking that we really are.
  • We lie on social media.

The real master has no tools

He/She has a endless power to improvise with what is to hand.

The more fields of knowledge he/she covers, the greater his/her resources for improvisation.

Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville

"Nothing tends to materialise man, and to deprive his work of the faintest trace of mind, more than extreme division of labour."

Invention fights specialization

To come up with new ideas, you need to know things outside your field.

The further afield your knowledge extends, the greater potential you have for innovation.

one more idea

Statistics Inaccuracies

Most studies that involve statistical research remain largely inaccurate, and a large number of hypotheses use data samples which are inadequate.

Beliefs and Statistics

  • Researchers extract a lot of false certainty from data which is used to study a particular hypothesis, due to their myopic thinking, confirmation bias, and other cognitive assumptions that they aren't even aware of.
  • Many researchers believe in small samples of data as if they stand for the whole of the population, and this can lead to unpredictable consequences.

The Eye Poster Experiment

It points out our irrational bias and behavior towards our surroundings. How people succumb to irrational beliefs was demonstrated in an experiment at a University Kitchen.

It found out that if there was a poster with eyes put up near the kitchen counter, then people were more likely to pay for the food, subconsciously taking those eyes in the poster as someone looking at them.