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Alan Lightman’s “Progress” Essay

In Alan Lightman’s Progress; the writer believes that the general idea about advancement in technology being the measuring scale for society’s progress is a logical fallacy; the two ideas mentioned in this paragraph state Lightman’s self contradictory, yet relative and valid points. In the fourth paragraph Lightman states, “If progress is human happiness, has anyone shown that Twentieth- century people are happier than Nineteenth-century people?” Alan Lightman makes it clear that technological advancements are not a true indicator of society’s progress. He hints that a better indicator would be “human happiness”. I agree with the writer because happiness to me is the real measuring scale of progress.

Technology has been evolving ever since man invented the wheel. In any given era or time in history the technology or know-how has always been of the highest level; it is only later on in history that makes technology of the past seem old or “out-dated”. Twenty-five years from now today’s technology will seem obsolete, even though at this present time it is the finest man can manage. Lightman’s second idea comes close to contradicting himself, but it still makes a valid point. The writer states, “Only a fool would claim that new technology rarely improves the quality of life”. Lightman challenges his earlier statement by indicating that technology improves the quality of life. This is a “slight” contradiction because if technology “improves the quality of life”, it aids in human happiness.

It indicates that humans are happy when the quality of life is high. Indirectly, the writer points out that advancement in technology helps make people happy. I disagree with this due to the fact that a high-quality lifestyle is not the sole reason why people are happy. People find happiness in non-covetous things such as religion, family, reading, nature etcetera. Lightman’s contradictory ideas lay out a perfect platform for an obscured meaning of progress. In conclusion, there is no specific dimension (indicator) for progress, as the two issues mentioned indicate. Progress can not be specifically defined. The ideas also show the confusion in which the writer is himself in. As Einstein himself said, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

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