Progress and modernity


Latest Popular


Animals and humans Anthropology Archaeology Automation and robotics Cities Demography and migration Economic history Economics Education Environmental history Fairness and equality Future of technology Gender Global history History History of technology Human rights and justice Information and communication Making Nations and empires Politics and government Poverty and development Progress and modernity Public health Race and ethnicity Religion The ancient world The environment The future War and peace Work

Photo courtesy Dick Swanson/U.S. National Archives

Essay/
Future of technology
The golden quarter

Some of our greatest cultural and technological achievements took place between 1945 and 1971. Why has progress stalled?

Michael Hanlon

A resident of the 6th floor of an apartment block gazes at the damage after the balcony fell from his 13 year old apartment in Shenyang, China. Photo by Stringer/Reuters

Essay/
Making
Chabuduo! Close enough …

Your balcony fell off? Chabuduo. Vaccines are overheated? Chabuduo. How China became the land of disastrous corner-cutting

James Palmer

Aerial view of salt ponds, Walvis Bay, Namibia. Photo by Frans Lanting/National Geographic

Essay/
Ecology and environmental sciences
Anthropocene fever

The Anthropocene idea has been embraced by Earth scientists and English professors alike. But how useful is it?

Jedediah Purdy

Photo by Marianne Gunderson

Essay/
Physics
Parallel worlds

If human history turns on the tilt of the multiverse, can we still trust our ideas of achievement, progress and morality?

Andrew Crumey

Cards not accepted. A man counts his money at a floating vegetable market in Srinagar. Photo by Fredrik Naumann/Panos

Essay/
Economics
In praise of cash

Cash might be grungy, unfashionable and corruptible, but it is still a great public good, important for rich and poor alike

Brett Scott

Artwork by G Clausen. Photo by SSPL/NRM/Pictorial Collection/Getty

Essay/
Education
Classics for the people

A Classical education was never just for the elite, but was a precious and inspiring part of working-class British life

Edith Hall

New York, 1982. Photo by Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos
Essay/
Economics
The small business myth

Small businesses enjoy an iconic status in modern capitalism, but what do they really contribute to the economy?

Benjamin C Waterhouse

The wise man built his house upon the rock, in the middle of the Drina river in Serbia. Photo by Marko Djurica/Reuters
Essay/
Home
Nobody is home

From the footloose networker to the exiled migrant, home has been displaced by an idea that’s both elusive and contested

Charles Leadbeater

Saint George and the Dragon (c1909-10), by Odilon Redon. Courtesy the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

Essay/
History of ideas
Against disenchantment

The move away from myth and toward reason is an ancient human impulse. But must enchantment be the enemy of enlightenment?

Jason Josephson Storm

Newly built Volkswagen Beetles ready for shipping from Hamburg in 1972. Photo by Thomas Hoepker/Magnum

Essay/
Economic history
End of a golden age

Unprecedented growth marked the era from 1948 to 1973. Economists might study it forever, but it can never be repeated. Why?

Marc Levinson

Photo by Gozooma/Gallery Stock

Essay/
Engineering
A fault in our design

We tend to think that technological progress is making us more resilient, but it might be making us more vulnerable

Colin Dickey

Farmfield II by Doug Landreth. Photo by Doug Landreth/Corbis

Essay/
Ecology and environmental sciences
Farming the apocalypse

When my life came crashing down I took shelter on my farm, surviving with 11th-century tools like the sickle and scythe

Keith Ferrell

Macbook x ray. Photo courtesy Jason De Villa
Essay/
Computing and artificial intelligence
Get under the hood

Our laptops are sleek and polished. Our operating systems are fluid and intuitive. Computing is easy and that’s a problem

Samuel Arbesman

‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing’. Photo by Gallery Stock

Essay/
Social psychology
The crisis of expertise

Experts are either derided or held up as all-seeing gurus. Time to reboot the relationship between expertise and democracy

Tom Nichols

Essay/
History of technology
Into the mystic

From Stonehenge to Silicon Valley: how technology nurtured New Age ideas in a world supposedly stripped of its magic

Benjamin Breen

The United Nations General Assembly, October 2012. Photo courtesy Wikimedia

Essay/
Cosmopolitanism
All for one

World government is back, in geopolitics and in the academy, but what does the future hold for it?

Luis Cabrera

Buckminster Fuller explaining principles of dymaxion building in 1959. Photo by Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty
Essay/
History of technology
Buck to the future

He’s a forgotten hippie idol, a sage of 1960s counterculture. What can we learn from Bucky Fuller’s faith in technology?

Samanth Subramanian

BABEL IID Arcology, elevation, population 550,000. From "Arcology: City in the Image of Man", original publication 1970. Photo courtesy Cosanti Foundation
Essay/
Architecture
Desert utopia

It might be pleasing to dream of arcologies, mega-cities, and space colonies – but no one can design the perfect human community

Jared Keller

Photo by Annie Engel/Getty
Essay/
Progress and modernity
The makeover trap

From transgender celebrities to fitness fads, pop culture loves reinvention. But the drive to ‘find yourself’ has a dark side

Michael Lovelock

Corn follies: a protest in front of the European Union headquarters in Brussels over genetically modified maize crops. Photo by Thierry Roge/Reuters
Essay/
Biotechnology
Beyond belief

Unreason, like the poor, will always be with us. But why does quackery survive when science is making life better?

Michael Hanlon

A broader humanity: a volunteer from a French rescue team carries an injured girl during an evacuation from Tacloban, a city devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, November 16, 2013. Photo by Bobby Yip/Reuters

Essay/
Ethics
Beyond the paleo

Our morality may be a product of natural selection, but that doesn’t mean it’s set in stone

Allen Buchanan & Russell Powell