The World Progress On Rate

Can we improve the efficiency and speed of progress in solving important problems?

If we look at the world development progress by history, we’ll find some interesting facts. The rate of progress by any major metrics, in terms of population growth, life expectancy, child mortality, all those numbers are growing at a very slow rate or basically constant before the industrial revolution.

And then the enlightenment began to spread on a large scale for humanity. We began to understand the basic knowledge of our world, we began to invent new tools and technologies, we were curious and driven to explore the truth. In Carl Sagan’s words: “we began as wanderers.”

In this incredible transition where we weren’t making much progress to where we have been making much more, there comes a question: is this the best progress we are making now? Well, to answer, we have to see the question in two different ways.

On one hand, we see the tremendous importance of the progress we are generating. In less than a generation, the value of the yearly global economic production has doubled. The expansion of the global population went together with progress in reducing global poverty. Primary school enrollment around the world increased drastically in the last century.

On the other hand, there’s a consideration that maybe we aren’t as effective at generating progress today as we have been in the past. Can we win the battle sooner on the fight against diseases in their eradication? In theory, many diseases could be eradicated, in practice, only a handful of diseases meet the criteria that make them eradicable with current knowledge, institutions, and technology. 

DiseasesWays to eradicate
PoliomielitisVaccination
Guinea worm diseaseHygiene, water decontamination and health education
MeaslesVaccination
MumpsVaccination
RubellaVaccination
Lymphatic filariasisPreventive chemotherapy
CysticercosisSanitation and health education. Vaccination of pigs
Infectious diseases that could be eradicated in the future. Link.

So how do we mitigate and solve those problems? No matter the rate at which we make progress or figure things out today, it would be much better if we do it more effectively. For instant, we will be able to solve the most important problems that face us today in 50 years rather than 500 years.