This is post 12 of 12 in the series: The Cost of Progress

Since the industrial revolution began in England 250 years ago, humanity has backed itself into a corner, a technology trap of its own making, and the walls are closing in:

Humanwine — Rivolta Silenziosa

The technological world order threatens to bring humanity to the brink of destruction. There is the environmental cost of enabling an unsustainable rate of resource consumption. There is the social cost of destroying the fabric of society. There is the human cost of challenging traditional definitions of what it means to be human…


This is post 11 of 12 in the series: The Cost of Progress

What is the end goal of progress? Is there even an end to it? Often times in science fiction, there is a logical end point after which progress becomes incomprehensible — when a character transcends humanity and becomes (practically) a god, and more often than not, American gods.

ONR — American Gods

Here are some examples of transcendence:

- In Babylon 5, Jason Ironheart transcended into a being of pure energy after being subject to genetic editing experiments by Psi Corp.
- In Star Trek (TOS), Gary Mitchel…


This is post 10 of 12 in the series: The Cost of Progress

The opposite of progress would be stagnation. If history is any guide, the cost of stagnation is perhaps even greater than the costs of progress. Propelled by the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and then the Industrial Revolution, five centuries of progress (technological superiority) enabled European empires to build colonies throughout literally the entire rest of the planet.

The full extent of European colonies¹

Driven by Christianity, imperialism, Manifest Destiny, and the “White Man’s Burden,” the effects of colonization are still felt today. Maliciously drawn borders by European colonizers were used to foment chaos…


This is post 9 of 12 in the series: The Cost of Progress

Efence — Spaceflight

Space… The final frontier. There’s no shortage of romanticism of space in popular entertainment. Everyone loves astronomy pictures since they are so beautiful, even though they are highly processed¹.

While in the past, the desire to go to space was due to either utopian romanticism or the Cold War, nowadays, it is considered a serious backup plan for the survival of the human species. The human race is potentially just one asteroid, one supervolcano eruption, or one nuclear war away from extinction. …


This is post 8 of 12 in the series: The Cost of Progress

In 2020, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was jointly awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for developing the revolutionary CRISPR/Cas9 system for genome editing. While genome editing is not new, the ease, precision, and effectiveness of CRISPR/Cas9 is¹.

With the advent of CRISPR/Cas9, technology has finally caught up with the age-old debate over the morality of genetic editing. Unnatural selection is now within human reach.

Netflix — Unnatural Selection

The environmental cost of CRISPR/Cas9 could potentially be devastating if not properly managed, as this technology enables…


This is post 7 of 12 in the series: The Cost of Progress

The pursuit of immortality, or the elixir of life, has been a consistent theme throughout human history all over the world. Immortality was sought out for in the Epic of Gilgamesh in Mesopotamia. It was described in Hindu scriptures in India¹. It was said to be one of the powers conferred to those who are successful in their quest for the Holy Grail².

It is not hard to see the allure of immortality. Death is terrifying. It is a permanent state of oblivion, a sleep one does…


This is post 6 of 12 in the series: The Cost of Progress

In the previous two posts, I talked about the environmental cost of progress on the planetary scale, and the social cost of progress on the interpersonal scale. This post will go deeper into the human cost of progress on the (quite literally) intrapersonal scale.

Technology has progressed to the point of threatening the definition of what it means to be human itself. What makes someone human enough? Is it the ability to pass the Turing test? Is it the ability to feel? …


This is post 5 of 12 in the series: The Cost of Progress

There is a much bigger focus on the social cost of technology nowadays, especially due to events in the past few years.

The unfettered growth of social media companies has collected so much data on voters, that it was used to manipulate the 2016 election in Trump’s favor as we’re all familiar by now from the Cambridge Analytica scandal¹.

The reach and data collected by social networks, on top of being exploited for political purposes, are used to manipulate consumer habits by advertisers, spread misinformation and conspiracy…


This is post 4 of 12 in the series: The Cost of Progress

When technology threatens the physical existence of human civilization, I think it’s safe to say that it’s bad. Really bad. What’s more horrifying, is that such technology already exists, and has existed for hundreds of years! The invention of the steam engine and internal combustion engine, which consumes fossil fuels, has catapulted humanity out of the Holocene into the Anthropocene.

UN Rio+20 Summit — Welcome to the Anthropocene

The Holocene provided stable conditions for human societies to develop for the past 10,000 years, which is being disrupted…


This is post 3 of 12 in the series: The Cost of Progress

Technophobes that reject progress are known as “Luddites” in common parlance. The term originated from 18th century English textile workers who protested against automated textile machinery that replaced skilled textile workers with less-skilled operators¹. The origin of the word “Luddite” shows that the fear of automation due to technological progress is not a particularly recent phenomenon, and has in fact existed for at least 200 years!

The threat of automation is a real and valid concern in a world where people’s incomes are tied to the amount…

Edward Gao

Exploring cyberspaces and vector spaces

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store