Daniel Schmachtenberger: "A Vision for Betterment" | The Great Simplification 126

In this episode, Nate welcomes back Daniel Schmachtenberger to unpack a new paper, which he co-authored, entitled Development in Progress, an analysis on the history of progress and the consequences of ‘advancement’.

Current mainstream narratives sell the story that progress is synonymous with betterment, and that the world becomes better for everyone as GDP and economies continue to grow. Yet, this is an incomplete portrayal that leaves out the dark sides of advancement. What are the implications when only the victors of history write the narratives of progress and define societal values? What are the value systems embedded in our institutions and policies, and how do they reinforce the need for ongoing growth at the expense of the natural world and human well-being? Finally, how do we change these dynamics to form a new, holistic definition of progress that accounts for the connectedness of our planet to the health of our minds, bodies, and communities?

The full paper discussed in this episode will be available on The Consilience Project website in the near future.

About Daniel Schmachtenberger:

Daniel Schmachtenberger is a founding member of The Consilience Project, aimed at improving public sensemaking and dialogue.

The throughline of his interests has to do with ways of improving the health and development of individuals and society, with a virtuous relationship between the two as a goal.

Towards these ends, he’s had a particular interest in catastrophic and existential risk, with focuses on civilization collapse and institutional decay. His work also includes an analysis of progress narratives, collective action problems, and social organization theories. These themes are all connected through close study of the relevant domains in philosophy and science.

0:00 – Introduction

0:46 – Guest Introduction: Daniel Schmachtenberger

2:24 – Personal Catch-Up and Observations

3:55 – Paper on Development and Progress

6:19 – Definition and Importance of Progress

11:03 – Critique of Technological Advancement

14:05 – Historical Context of Progress Narratives

18:53 – Social Structures and Restraint

21:21 – Technological Efficiency and Wisdom

27:41 – Climate Change and Technological Solutions

30:32 – Historical Analysis of Conquerors

35:30 – Multipolar Traps and Progress

45:01 – Asymmetry and Power in Evolution

46:29 – Definitions of Progress

47:15 – Ecological and Economic Risks

52:54 – Case Studies of Externalities

56:14 – Corporate Personhood and Sociopathy

1:02:22 – Influence of Dominant Narratives

1:09:09 – Global Coordination and AI

1:11:51 – Self-Terminating Path of Winning

1:13:45 – Addressing Systemic Ecological Issues

1:20:17 – Human Wisdom and Restraint

1:23:27 – Jevons Paradox and Energy Efficiency

1:30:07 – Historical Analysis of Warfare

1:35:30 – Cancer and Industrial Toxins

1:39:03 – Influence of Dark Triad Traits

1:45:01 – Environmental Impact of Corporations

1:52:54 – Long-Term Ecological Solutions

2:00:27 – Role of Education in Progress

2:07:02 – Ethical Considerations in Technology

2:13:45 – Philosophical Foundations of Progress

2:20:17 – Addressing Social Inequality

2:23:27 – Integrating Traditional Knowledge

2:30:07 – Future Prospects and Challenges

2:35:30 – Personal Reflections and Closing Thoughts