The Paradox Of Progress: Are We Really Getting Ahead?

Edy Zoo
3 min readJan 31, 2023
“Small steps are still progress” is etched on the surface of a burgandy wall.
Photo by Hayley Murray on Unsplash

Progress is often touted as a universally positive concept. We strive to improve ourselves and our societies to make the world better for future generations. But as we move forward, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on whether or not we are genuinely getting ahead.

On the surface, it is hard to argue with the many ways our lives have been made more accessible and more comfortable by advancements in technology, medicine, and industry. As a result, we have access to more information, resources, and opportunities than ever before.

However, as we progress, we face a growing list of problems that seem to accompany our advancements. Climate change, overpopulation, inequality, and political polarization are just a few of the issues threatening our progress.

This is the paradox of progress: as we progress in one area, we also create new problems that must be addressed. And as we work to solve these problems, we often face difficult trade-offs. For example, as we work to reduce our environmental impact, we may give up some of the convenience and comfort we have grown accustomed to. As we strive to improve the lives of future generations, we may have to make sacrifices in the present.

The question is, are we getting ahead if we constantly have to make these trade-offs? But, on the other hand, are we making progress if we constantly have to solve new problems arising from our advancements? Or are we simply running on a treadmill, never really getting anywhere?

One could argue that progress is not linear and that we should not expect it to be. We will always face challenges and obstacles, but that does not mean we are not making progress. In fact, facing and overcoming these challenges is a form of progress in and of itself.

Another perspective would be that the concept of progress is subjective. What one person may consider progress, another may not. For example, some may see using renewable energy sources as progress.

In contrast, others may see it as a hindrance to economic growth. Similarly, some may see the increasing diversity and acceptance of different lifestyles as progress. Still, others may see it as a threat to traditional values.

Moreover, looking at the bigger picture, our understanding of progress has evolved. What was once considered progress, such as colonialism and imperialism, is now considered harmful and unjust. In this sense, progress is not a destination but an ongoing journey.

Furthermore, progress is measured not only by material wealth but also by the well-being of society. In this sense, progress is not only about creating a better future but also about creating a better present. This means addressing poverty, inequality, and social injustice, protecting the environment, promoting health and happiness, and fostering a sense of community and connection.

In conclusion, progress is a complex and multifaceted concept. It is not always clear if we are genuinely getting ahead, but that does not mean we should give up on the idea of progress altogether. On the contrary, we must continue to strive for a better future and be mindful of the trade-offs and challenges that come with it.

And we must also remember that progress is not just about material wealth and advancements but also about creating a better present for all people. By keeping this in mind, we can better navigate the paradox of progress and truly move forward.

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Edy Zoo

Edy Zoo is an author who writes about social subjects. He contributes to the ever-growing library of social critics.