Joel Mokyr: Progress Isn’t Natural – The Atlantic

Humans invented it—and not that long ago.

Why might people in the past have been hesitant to embrace the idea of progress? The main argument against it was that it implies a disrespect of previous generations. As the historian Carl Becker noted in a classic work written in the early 1930s, “a Philosopher could not grasp the modern idea of progress … until he was willing to abandon ancestor worship, until he analyzed away his inferiority complex toward the past, and realized that his own generation was superior to any yet known.”

Progress, as was realized early on, inevitably entails risks and costs. But the alternative, then as now, is always worse.

Source: Joel Mokyr: Progress Isn’t Natural – The Atlantic