Progress in Technology

In a certain way this post is not distinct from the previous one, since I noted there that progress in the truth is mainly the result of improved “technologies” for the learning of truth and for the transmission of truth. In a similar way, improvement in technology in general can be seen as improvement in the knowledge of how to make things, which is the truth of the mechanical arts.

Pope Francis is certainly right to say that “scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history.” Nonetheless, these are related. It is normal that a technological improvement will disrupt some aspect of human life, if only because it is different from what has so far been done, and in this way it is likely to have some bad consequences. But when people notice the bad consequences of the new technology, instead of rejecting the technology, they usually try to look for other adjustments which will remove or reduce the bad consequences. I maintain that over time this results in overall improvement of the world through technological change. It is clear enough that basically everyone recognizes this through their own choices. If someone really believes that a technology makes life worse, we would expect him to refrain from using that technology. Now it is certainly true that some people refrain from using some technologies for this reason, but for most people it is not a general response to new technology. Rather, almost everyone is happy to adopt all sorts of new technologies, implying that they believe that their lives are improved by them. Even with particular groups such as the Amish, they reject only particular technologies, and usually the number of accepted technologies tends to grow over time even with such groups, but at a slower pace than in mainstream society.

We could look at the whole picture of progress in this way: people desire the good. They may not be completely successful, but they have some success in attaining it. And to the degree that they attain the good, they become even more capable of attaining what they seek, which overall leads to progress in attaining the good. Consequently the world overall tends to be successful in the way defined here, although it remains possible for things to become worse locally. The world as a whole may also become worse at times, but this is likely to happen infrequently and for relatively short periods of time.

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