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Startup Founder, Writer: "The Roots of Progress"

Jason Crawford writes about the history of technology and the philosophy of progress at The Roots of Progress. He is also the creator of Progress Studies for Young Scholars, an online learning program for high schoolers; and a part-time adviser and technical consultant to Our World in Data, an Oxford-based non-profit for research and data on global development.

Previously, he spent 18 years as a software engineer, engineering manager, and startup founder. From 2013–2018, he was co-founder & CEO of Fieldbook, a hybrid spreadsheet-database. He has also been an engineering manager at Flexport, Amazon, and Groupon, and a co-founder or early employee at other startups. Before that, he was a research engineer at D. E. Shaw Research, working on a new supercomputing architecture for computational biochemistry.

He has a B.S. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University.


The Philosophy of Progress: Why & How to Teach It


Every area of life has been transformed by technology in the last few hundred years. We've gone from poor, hungry, tired, isolated, and sick; to rich, fed, comfortable, connected, and healthy. But is progress good? Can it continue? And what should we do about it? These are the basic questions of a *philosophy of progress*. The 19th century gave very pro-progress answers to these questions, but the 20th century became more negative: progress is now called an “addiction”, a “fetish”, or a “fairy tale.” We need a new philosophy of progress for the 21st century. This will depend on a new telling of the story of progress, taking a historical approach to understand industrial civilization using a problem-solution framework. By teaching progress, we can give our students a deeper understanding of the world around them, a bit of awe and gratitude for the accomplishments of those who came before us, and a new lens on the world: the progress lens.

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