Roots of Progress: On Technological Progress and How Innovation and Invention Happens | Jason Crawford, Founder

Jason Crawford is Founder and CEO of The Roots of Progress, a nonprofit dedicated to establishing a new philosophy of progress for the 21st century. In this episode, Jason and Daniel discuss the great stagnation, the speed of innovation, and progress studies.
Last updated
December 5, 2022
Min Read
Jason Crawford is currently writing his first book, The Story of Industrial Civilization.
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“We can pay it forward to future generations by making sure that progress continues and by making sure that future generations are living as well off compared to us today, as we are compared to the past. So let's have that ambition for the future.” – Jason Crawford

Jason Crawford (@jasoncrawford) is Founder and CEO of The Roots of Progress, a nonprofit dedicated to establishing a new philosophy of progress for the 21st century. He created Progress Studies for Young Scholars and is a technical consultant and adviser to Our World in Data. He previously co-founded Fieldbook and Kima Labs, and was an engineering manager at Flexport, Amazon and Groupon.

To listen to Jason's quick interview on habits, routines, and inspirations, click here.

For more, explore the transcript of this episode.


  • 00:00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:02:09 – About Jason’s work with The Roots of Progress
  • 00:04:30 – Nurturing progress is a moral imperative
  • 00:06:24 – On Louis Pasteur
  • 00:14:20 – What is progress? What is technology?
  • 00:21:06 – On starting The Roots of Progress 
  • 00:25:18 – The growth of progress studies
  • 00:30:30 – Is progress really stagnating?
  • 00:37:38 – How bureaucracy can slow progress
  • 00:42:18 – The speed of innovation
  • 00:48:26 – Advancements in biotech, artificial intelligence, energy technologies, and nanotech
  • 00:56:00 – Appreciating the progress we see on a daily basis


Books Recommended by Jason Crawford

Learn More About This Topic

How Does Progress Happen? – Vox

This interview with Jason Crawford focuses on Progress Studies and is a great next step for learning more about the field.

We Need a New Science of Progress – The Atlantic

Written by Jason Crawford’s industry peers, Patrick Collison and Tyler Cowen, this piece gives clear reasoning for spending time and energy on progress studies.

Jaw-dropping Science Breakthroughs – TED

This collection of talks features inspiring progress in science, including a presentation on CRISPR, which Jason mentions in his interview.

The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better by Tyler Cowen

For an in-depth look at the stagnation hypothesis, check out this thought-provoking book.

Why did we wait so long for the bicycle?

One of Jason’s early essays that led to the growth of his progress studies, this piece provides a great view into his thought processes and research.

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