What is the philosophy behind today’s idea of progress? – Progress Concept Series: Part 4

This article is the fourth part of our Progress Concept Series. This series is our attempt to assist our readers in attaining a clearer perspective on the contemporary concepts and issues regarding the nature of progress. You can read the rest of the series through these links: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

How could the same thing signify progress for one group of people, while the exact opposite for another? Urbanization, for instance, is often referred to as a sign of progress by most of the world’s mainstream media outlets and judging by the trend where millions of residents are choosing to reside in urbanized spaces, this view probably is indeed getting even more prominence lately. But again, it’s not too hard to observe masses that choose to leave their urban properties for better living conditions in less populated areas in search for a healthier alternative. Based on several instances like the above, the philosophy surrounding most concepts of progress could actually be considered pretty subjective.

Homogeneity and dominance in ideas of progress
Economic prosperity and socio-political stability are presented  as the two central pillars upon which the current ideologies surrounding progress are set upon. The dawn of colonialism in the around 1500AD is considered to have ensured the dominance of a particular set of economic agendas over many other competing ideas of progress. Until people from different regions could interact with each other with the progression and expansion of the colonies, communities either had their own set of ideas regarding progress or they subscribed to a static concept that would be feasible for their community’s sustenance. However, with European colonialism reaching most corners of the globe with their highly sophisticated military power, the communities in the colonies would come to have no other option but to directly or indirectly participate in the ideas promoted by their colony leaders. This point in history is often put as the period when different philosophies of progress converged and presented societies across the world with relatively homogenous aspirations and concepts regarding development and progress.

Over the past five centuries, European ideas have dominated the major discourses regarding progress throughout the world. For example, the concepts of modern democracy firstly emerged in Europe and North America. These values later were adopted in many cases and forced in some cases to a lot of societies throughout the world. Yet, while the concept is thriving and bettering the lives of many in the Western world, the very concept had even led to corruption and civil wars in several economically less privileged nations across different continent. With different societies in the world being more connected than ever before, the Western concepts that dominated the discourses for the past two centuries of progress are popularly subscribed in the majority of the communities in the world. Following the devastating two World Wars in the 20th century, the emphasis on socio-political stability also found its place in the dominant doctrine of progress, although the dominance of the winning parties in those wars was also acknowledged in the same. Ultimately, the homogeneity in the ideas of progress could thus be considered to be a consequence of the dominance of specific social systems that were economically and militarily more powerful than others.

Is there enough room to accommodate other concepts regarding progress?
While the dominance of certain ideas of progress was imposed primarily by the use of violent methods on noncomplying communities, the concepts have evolved sufficiently in the modern era to incorporate other ideas that are beneficial to certain local contexts and hence are now willingly adopted by communities in the world. Yet, what also is true is that any concept that is not compliant with the principles and goals of the dominant discourses of progress ultimately will be opposed or even overthrown. The end of the communist government in East-European nations in the 1990s and the radical transformation in the economic governance principles around countries in East Asia was representative of this fact as well.

Industrialization is now considered to be synonymous with progress in the modern era throughout the world. The challenges brought forward by rapid industrial growth in the past five decades also has become a serious global issue and thus the principles regarding the modification of industrial practices to minimize the negative impact is also being discussed in global forums. Yet, challenges such as these can only be addressed when local contexts find their balance with global contexts. However, history has taught us that global contexts will ultimately dominate local contexts or to put it more clearly, local interests certainly will need to align with global interests, as per the philosophy that’s guides today’s idea of progress.

Estimating the impact
The above debate thus may incite readers to ponder primarily upon two questions:

1. Is a homogeneous global philosophical concept dominating the discourses on progress?
2. Is the application of the dominant philosophies of progress actually generating fair results globally?

The answer to the first question is a cautious yes! Globalization and global technological networks are the direct result of the dominant global philosophies guiding progress over the period of decades and even centuries. Yet, we should also not ignore the competing regional concepts that are constantly clashing with each other to synthesize a common concept of global progress. However, it can also be considered that most societies of today agree upon more points and have more common aspirations than ever before. This has only been possible because of the common interactions between societies, and if the current trends of inter-connectivity will persist, it won’t be hard to imagine that the future philosophies governing progress will come out to be ever more homogenous and globally accepted.

On to the second question, perhaps the answer is an unmistakable no. The current philosophies guiding progress began with the premise of dominance (often violent) over competing principles and despite many modifications over the past decades, the current political and economic systems clearly exert their dominance over other emerging philosophies. Although democratic systems and liberal principles have indeed added some tolerance and accomodation of competing ideas, the real world results indeed show that the dominance of these philosophies massively benefited certain minority segments while alienating a significant majority from the actual process of progress. It’s indeed true that the process of social mobility from low-economic strata to the middle-economic strata has simplified, yet what also is true is the influence and power of the upper-economy strata is globally more powerful than ever before and with it the wealth gaps are becoming alarmingly wide. Many consider that the current system has actually facilitated global elitism instead of global progress.

It’s indeed true that the dominating ideologies regarding progress have brought some positive developments to the lives of billions of people throughout the world. However, the results certainly haven’t been fair, indicating that maybe the philosophical elements behind the idea of progress may need to be rethought and modified globally, in order to make it really beneficial for people who haven’t been able to feel the effects of progress in their lives to this day.

The progress of not smoking

Making progress with something as serious as smoking is sometimes terrifyingly difficult. Smoking can be extremely difficult to stop. Considering it has been calculated that every cigarette you smoke can reduce your lifespan on average by as much as eleven minutes it is no wonder that a person can get extremely worried if they are not able to give up the habit. The cost of smoking is also crippling for some people the average person in the United States spends between $1500 and $3300 dollar a year on cigarettes. Even the exposure to second-hand smoke is a dramatic killer, second-hand smoke in the United States alone kills nearly 50,000 people a year. Therefore smokers can feel very guilty that their smoking is having a terrible effect on their loved ones around them. The problem is massive, roughly fifteen billion cigarettes are smoked worldwide everyday. The desire to quit is there, sixty nine percent of smokers say they would like to quit. Many feel trapped by this horrendous habit, living with both the psychological guilt of smoking or the horrendous physical symptoms caused by smoking.

On a personal level I have struggled to quit smoking for nearly eight years, the longest time I have been able to quit smoking for was three months. Other attempts have lasted around a month. For myself without cigarettes I seem to have miserable moods, I have previously been overcome this by  substituting the smoking with exercise. This is usually effect, as the exercise levels my mood. The craving for cigarettes however does not seem to pass. I am aiming to try quitting again tomorrow Thursday 25th of May. I hope I am able to master it this time. I do not smoke in front of my family. This is because smoking to me is almost like death itself.

My Dad used to smoke though he was able to quit around twenty two years old as he found something else he loved to do more than smoking, he took up gliding. I have been unable to as yet find such a substitute. The coughing in a morning is awful, sometimes it is that bad that I am physically sick. I find it horrible, but I can’t seem to break away from it completely, I sometimes take half a day away from cigarettes but then find myself smoking again. Smoking also killed both of my grandfather’s one with heart conditions and the other with emphysema.

Smoking also can make it difficult to lose weight as when you smoke you don’t always feel like exercising. Smoking and exercising are not complementary. It limits you breathing ability and makes exercise seem a burden. I have run the Great North Run before in north east England though I had a cigar after it. To quit smoking for me would be a great feeling, to be smoke free would be brilliant. I look forward to the day’s I am smoke free as I know I can do it, it just for how long I will be able to keep it up I don’t know as I cannot comprehend yet that I would not have another cigarette.

My brother recently stopped smoking which is frankly inspirational to me. He is a few years my senior, thirteen to be precise. He just finished a pack one day and didn’t pick up another cigarette after that. He must of had it firmly in his mind that he didn’t want to touch a cigarette again. Perhaps it was his new family that gave him this strength. It shows to me that it can be done and that is encouraging.

Monthly Progress Summary – April 2016

 

The monthly progress summary is a special section of Stable Global Progress to summarize several issues and challenges to progress and development. This month too, we have some really interesting topics compiled from the internet for all our readers.

 

Solar energy costs already cheaper than coal in India

In what could be considered a significant victory for renewable energy enthusiasts, Indian energy minister Piyush Goyal declared that the net cost of energy produced by the use of solar panels had come below that produced using coal plants. Even more surprising was his declaration that the costs hadn’t even included any kind of subsidies. The Indian Government initially had planned to put the total installed capacity of solar energy to 100GW by 2022, which could be reached as soon as 2020.

 

Netherlands wants to ban sales of all fossil fuel running cars by 2025

The government of the Netherlands has proposed its lawmakers to pass a bill that will put an outright ban on the sale of private cars using petrol or diesel by 2025. If successful, Netherlands will be only the second country in the world after Sweden to implement such a ban. With the view to promote electric cars as well as other sustainable fuel alternatives, as a means of tackling with the effects of climate change, the government of the Netherlands is considered to have backed the plans. Netherlands is believed to be one of the countries at the biggest risk due to the effects of climate change, with rising sea levels believed to be a genuine threat to the existence of most of its land area lying below sea level.

 

San Francisco makes solar panels on buildings compulsory

San Franciso became the first major city in the US to make it mandatory for buildings lower than 10 stories to install solar panels on their building for either electricity or heating. As per the law, homeowners will be required to designate a minimum of 15% of their rooftop area for installing solar panels. The move is expected to reduce the city’s consumption of energy produced by the use of fossil fuel. Although San Francisco certainly isn’t the first city in the US (or California for that matter) to implement the ruling, the fact that it’s the first major metropolitan city to do so makes it a significant development.

 

Brain implant enables paralyzed man to make use of limbs again

Last month, a major breakthrough in the field of paralysis research was reported in the US, as scientists managed to restore the movement capabilities of a 24-year old paralyzed Ian Burkhart to a significant level by implanting a chip inside the brain. The chip works by reading brain signals, which is then interpreted by the computer and then stimulates the muscles with electricity to restore movement. This was the first time Ian could use his limbs after being paralysed from a diving accident six years ago. The innovation could help millions of patients suffering from some degree of paralysis. It’s estimated that the US alone has around 500,000 patients with serious paralysis injuries.

 

Climate change could make the Middle East and North Africa uninhabitable by the middle of the century

The Middle East and North Africa could be rendered uninhabitable by as early as 2050, with climate change and increased occurrences of drought projected to make conditions, warned researchers in a report released in April. The report, released following research by the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia warned that temperatures could get so hot that conditions would be unfit for human habitation in the region. The research further projected that heat waves could become at least 10 times more common that it is today, further contributing to the already worsening droughts around the region.

 

Research on mobile phone users in Australia finds no significant link between use of the device and cancer

Mobile phones have become an important part of the current human civilization. However, voices had been raised for a long while about the potential side-effects of the use of the device over decades, contributing to a lot of concerned customers. Yet, a report released in April determined that the possibility of mobile phones contributing to brain cancer was insignificant. The study by the University of Sydney analyzed over 35,000 people using the devices for up to 29 years to come to the conclusion.

 

Monthly Progress Summary: February 2016

 

Several optimistic news on progress emerged during February 2016. Ranging from the discovery of gravity waves to the opening of the biggest solar electricity plant in the world, a lot happened last month. The Stable Global Progress team has attempted to summarize a few major happenings from last month in the Monthly Progress Summary.

 

Gravitational Waves discovered

Scientists associated with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo) announced on February 10 that they had found evidence regarding the existence of Gravitational Waves, which was first theorized by Albert Einstein. By detecting and observing the collision of two black holes with the use of the world’s most sophisticated detector, the scientists listened for 20 thousandths of a second as the two giant black holes circled around each other. “This is transformational,” said Prof Alberto Vecchio a researcher at Ligo. “We have observed the universe through light so far. But we can only see part of what happens in the universe. Gravitational waves carry completely different information about phenomena in the universe. So we have opened a new way of listening to a broadcasting channel which will allow us to discover phenomena we have never seen before,” he said.

 

The world’s largest solar powered electricity plant operational

On February 8, it was announced that the world’s largest solar plant ever, the Noor Concentrated Solar Power had begun operations at Morocco. Capitalizing on the intense heat of the Sahara Desert, the plant began producing 160MW of electricity. However, the plant further aims to increase that capacity to 500MW by 2018. With an ambitious target to produce 42% of the country’s electricity through renewable energy by 2020, the government of Morocco plans to reduce its fossil fuel dependency and help it’s economy grow further.

 

Endangered corals protected in labs successfully reproduce in the wild

Depletion of coral reefs around the world has been a serious issue. Climate change and pollution have been contributing to the depletion of coral reefs around the Caribbean seas by almost 80%. However, an optimistic news emerged from Netherlands around early February, where it was announced that species of endangered elkhorn corals that were initially grown inside a lab had managed to not just thrive in the sea but reproduce with other species of corals as well. The news provides hope that coral reefs could indeed be revived in the areas that they are threatened.

 

 

New immune cell based cancer treatment trial shows very promising signs

An overwhelming majority of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma participating in a trial were reportedly responding positively to a breakthrough cancer treatment method, which uses modified blood cells called T-cells. The treatment involved the removal of the T-cells from patients, tagging them with receptor molecules to target cancer and putting them back into the body in an infusion.The targeting molecules, known as chimeric antigen receptors or Cars, came from specially bred genetically engineered mice. Once attached to the T-cells, they reduce the ability of the cancer to shield itself from the body’s natural immune system.

 

 

Extra charges on the use plastic bags in Scotland reduces it’s demand by 80%

The widespread use of plastic bags have proven to be a big nuisance for the environment, with thousands of plastic bags ending up in water-bodies and oceans throughout the world. With the aim to reduce it’s usage, the government of Scotland introduced a policy to charge 50p extra from stores for new plastic bags in 2015 resulting in an 80% reduction in it’s use. It was observed that customers not just used less bags after the charges but even brought their own bags with them. The program also raised a revenue of £6.7m for use in some good causes. The success should serve as an example for governments all around the world to implement their own rulings for addressing the environmental problems caused by plastics.

Stable Global Progress: Monthly Progress Summary- January 2016

Stable Global Progress attempts to bring you some of the top news related to progress or the challenges to it every month. Here is the monthly progress summary for January 2016.

 

2015 was the hottest year ever

If there was any doubt what so every about the existence of Global Warming, then the temperature records of 2014 and 2015 should prove to be adequate enough to cancel such doubts. According to the latest annual temperature record report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the average temperature recorded across global land and ocean surfaces was 0.90 Celsius above the 20th century average. The rising temperature has also been attributed to the rise in irregular weather patterns across the world with noticeable surge in the number of sea storms and ice storms.

 

Cancer deaths at the lowest level in several decades

Attributed to the rise in cancer treatment as well as the awareness about cancer, it was observed that the deaths by cancer had dramatically declined in the last five years. In fact, the records show that the deaths by cancer had reduced by up to 25% compared to the levels in 1991. With the treatment procedures becoming more effective against cancer, the rate is further expected to lower in the next decades.

 

Captured carbon dioxide can be used as fuel

By successfully using carbon dioxide captured from the air to produce Methanol (CH3OH), a team of researchers from the University of Southern California have demonstrated that Carbon capture could indeed be a feasible method. The researchers have argued that the process provides a two-fold benefit by removing harmful CO2 from the atmosphere and allowing us to use methanol as an alternative fuel to gasoline. By treating CO2 with H2 the team successfully managed to create Methanol from the process.

 

Germany acknowledges that solar & wind energy have won the technology race

The German minister of state Rainer Baake confirmed in an international meeting at Abu Dhabi that solar & wind energy costs have now come on par with coal and petroleum. “We have learned how to produce electricity with wind and large-scale solar at the same cost level as new coal or gas generators,” said Baake. He also revealed that there was no other method compared to solar & wind energy through which output growth could be done in an incremental rate.

 

Wind turbines already supply 97% of Scotland’s electricity

Scotland’s target of being a 100% by renewable energy country by 2020 may not be a very distant imagination at all. A report by Cleantechnica has confirmed that 97% of all electricity needs of Scotland in 2015 were met by the power generated by wind turbines. The figure was up 16% from just a year earlier. The rapid transition towards renewable energy is expected to further help grow jobs as well as the overall economy in the near and long term. Thus, this progress in Scotland should perhaps serve as an inspiration for governments all over the world to transition towards a greener economy.