Measuring The Wrong Thing

An otherwise wonderful blog made a post that had some valid concerns that could have been stated in two sentences, and the rest of the post is fluffy red herring.  Since comments there are closed, I’ll post my little thoughts here (and I’ll assume you’ve read the post I’m responding to).

Cutting to the chase:  people in 1950 already had tons and tons of science fiction visions of the future (go read about The Golden Age Of Science Fiction), so even if we had achieved complete technological utopia, someone from 1950 would not think any of this was magic or a particular surprise.  The real surprise might be that we haven’t achieved such things yet!

And since when is the number of brand new types of technology what matters in anyone’s life?  No scientist measuring quality of life would care about such a thing, nor would any of the people being asked.  I can’t see it being relevant to economy either.  And surely any measurement of technological progress should actually be looking at the difference in technological capabilities, efficiency, and that sort of thing.

So the post employs some very strange measurement criteria.  It would be much better to measure so many other things.

I’m not even saying progress isn’t slowing in many areas, it might be (the musing about ‘all the easy problems in medicine already being solved’ could be an example).  The point is that you have to convincingly measure something relevant before your opinion is worth much.  And while the article sometimes made points apart from these red herrings, I wanted to debunk them specifically.

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