WHAT IS PROGRESS?
1-Watch and report (say what you understand) en Français.
2. What does progress mean to you? (in English)
The idea of progress
The idea of progress is the idea that advances in technology, science and social organisation can bring about a positive change to our society. These advances help improve our daily lives and give us a better quality of life. Social progress, scientific progress and economic development are usually considered as having a positive effect on our society however there are some cases where this change can have a negative effect too. Very often progress is also accompanied by opposition because society isn’t comfortable with the changes being made (same sex marriage, women’s rights, minority rights to name but a few). We can ask ourselves whether progress is always positive? There are many kinds of progress and they can be divided in diverse areas.
- Technological progress
The technological advances of the last decades have totally changed the world we know today. If we take the example of the arrival of internet and access to computers and smartphones it is easy to see to what extent our lives and our relationships with others have been completely transformed. On the one hand we have access to far more information than before, we can easily communicate across borders, buy new products, be informed about the latest news events, share our opinions about different topics but on the negative side many people have become addicted to social media and this creates new problems such as depression, isolation, bullying, cybercriminality….. Of course there are other types of technological progress that have a more positive impact on society – means of transport, robots, means of communication, energy production, protection of the environment.
- Scientific progress
Scientific progress has had a direct impact on the improvement of human life. Thanks to advances in medicine we can cure illnesses that could never have been cured in the past. Vaccinations protect millions of children from disease. Antibiotics, painkillers and other medical treatments have helped to improve our general state of health and survival rates. But could there be a point were progress come too far? What should be the importance given to ethics? What about scientific progress in the area of cures for illnesses, cloning, performance enhancing drugs, genetically modified organisms etc?
- Social progress
Social progress most often comes about when members of a population feel unhappy with their living conditions or their social rights. Change most often comes about following a fight for rights and this change sometimes accompanied by severe opposition.
Examples that can be used to illustrate this notion:
- easy communication across the world via internet and the impact this information has on our daily lives
- information from satellites warning us about severe weather conditions
- robots and automation in the workplace
- addiction to smartphones and video games
- cyberbullying or cybercriminality
- facebook and twitter and how quickly rumours can spread
- the pros and cons of medical advances
- performance enhancing drugs in the sports world
- « designer » babies
- the Space race
- Industrial pollution
- Ocean pollution
- the ethics of progress: tests on animals/abortion/cloning/genetically modified organisms
- the «Suffragettes», an organisation set up by women in Britain to fight for the right to vote at the beginning of the 20th Century
- the Civil Rights Movement in the US characterized by acts of non violent protest and civil disobedience
- same-sex marriage in several countries across the world
- access to education for women
- the end to apartheid in South Africa
2) Answer the following questions.
a. What is the most important form of progress for you? (except the internet)
b. Do you consider the Internet and new technologies represent progress? Why?
c. Do you think that progress is always positive? Can there be a negative side to progress?